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Girls Basketball: North Linn Rebounds To Win Regional Semi

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TROY MILLS Down 15 points, North Linn reached a fork in the road.

"We were at the point we could have gone two ways," Lynx coach Brian Wheatley said. "We could have gotten blown out, or we could fight our way back."

They fought their way back.

Fourth-ranked North Linn made it manageable with a second-quarter run, then pushed past West Branch, 54-50, in a Class 2A regional semifinal girls' basketball game Friday night at North Linn High School.

"We wanted it. We wanted it really bad," said junior post Libby Falconer, who made 7 of 8 shots from the floor and registered 15 points and nine rebounds. "This is a team that fights, so I knew we could get the 'W.' "

North Linn (22-1) matched its school record for wins (established last year). The Lynx will face Iowa City Regina (18-4) in a regional final at 7 p.m. Monday at Iowa City West. The winner advances to the state tournament.

Regina hammered Highland, 69-43, Friday.

The Cedar Valley Conference co-champion, West Branch retired at 17-6. The Bears can blame free-throw shooting they made just 8 of 21 from the line.

West Branch led through the first 23 minutes; the Bears' high-water mark was 27-12 when Heather Poula converted a steal into a three-point play with 6:03 left in the second quarter.

"The girls were loose before the game, and that's a good thing," said Bears Coach Jarod Tylee. "We needed to make shots early, and we did.

"Then they made that run."

North Linn stormed back with a 14-2 surge, but Poula banked home a half-court shot at the buzzer to give West Branch a 32-26 halftime lead.

"Early in the game, we might have been too excited," said North Linn's Brenna Winn. "We forgot to just play ball."

Eventually, the Lynx remembered. After failing on three straight possessions to take the lead, the Lynx finally broke through on Nicole Miller's steal and coast-to-coast journey for a layup with 51 seconds left in the third quarter.

That gave the Lynx a 38-37 edge, and they didn't trail again.

West Branch tied it at 40-40 and 42-42, but Miller's baseline shot highlighted a 5-0 mini-run that put North Linn in the driver's seat at 47-42.

A four-point Bears possession made it 50-48, but the Lynx got a free throw from Winn, a back-door cut for a basket by Maddie Boer, then a free throw from Boer to ice it.

Miller, an all-state sophomore, led all scorers with 16 points. Falconer added 15 and Haley Dudley scored 13.

Poula paced West Branch with 14 points all in the first half. Ashley Finnegan chipped in 13.

North Linn prevailed despite taking 25 fewer shots from the floor. The Lynx held the Bears to 6-of-29 shooting in the second half.

Now, they've reached the same level as last year the regional finals. West Marshall denied them in 2012.

"We won't be satisfied until we reach our goal," Winn said.

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