Exira-EHK seniors Sophia Peppers (41) and Kealey Nelson hold the Spartans’ Class 1A state semi-finalist trophy following Friday’s 57-41 loss to Springville at Wells Fargo Arena. Also pictured for Exira-EHK are Lauren Hansen (21), Leslie Caniglia (43) and Ellie Schultes (23). Sophia Peppers embraces head coach Tom Petersen near the conclusion of Friday’s game. (Photos by Mike Oeffner) Exira-EHK sophomore Kamryn Waymire tries to drive baseline around Springville’s Madi Wagaman during Friday’s state semifinal. Exira-EHK sophomore Ellie Schultes (23) defends Springville senior Rylee Menster on the perimeter. Spartan senior Sophia Peppers dives after a loose ball during Friday’s second half as Rylee Menster of Springville also reaches for the basketball and Spartan sophomore Ellie Schultes looks on. Spartan junior Leslie Caniglia attempts a shot in traffic.

Reigning champs end Spartan title hopes

Exira-EHK turnovers compound cold shooting in 57-41 state semifinal loss to top-ranked Springville

 DES MOINES (March 2) -- The Springville girls basketball team is already a formidable outfit when seniors Mikayla Nachazel and Rylee Menster shoulder the scoring load and everyone else contributes to a great defense.
 When the role players and subs start knocking down shots as well, the top-ranked Orioles are downright unbeatable.
 It was that kind of afternoon for Exira-Elk Horn-Kimballton Friday as the seventh-ranked and fourth-seeded Spartans suffered a season-ending 57-41 defeat in a Class 1A girls state tournament semifinal at Wells Fargo Arena.
 Exira-EHK committed 20 turnovers, leading to 33 Springville points, and also shot just 28.6 percent from the field. The Orioles, meanwhile, shot 47 percent and got bonus scoring contributions from three different girls in advancing to their fourth consecutive state title game.
 Springville (24-3) beat third-seeded Newell-Fonda, 60-49, for the 1A championship Saturday night, becoming just the eighth team in state history to win three straight titles and avenging a two-point title game loss to the Mustangs in 2015.
 Exira-EHK finished 24-2, capping a four-year run for seniors Sophia Peppers and Kealey Nelson in which the Spartans went 96-6, played in four state tournaments and reached the semifinal round three times.
 “We need to keep our heads up,” Peppers said. “We finished our season where a lot of girls wish they could finish their season... 96-6 is awesome and coming here four times is awesome. A lot of girls don’t experience it once, so being part of a program like this leaves me speechless. I can’t thank these girls enough for what they do and how hard they worked.”
 The Spartans needed a lot of things to go right to beat Springville - one of those being a good start. They accomplished step one by taking an 8-2 lead in the opening four and a half minutes, but the Orioles quickly shook off some cold shooting and hit three 3-pointers in the final 3:17 of the period to go up 13-11.
 The Orioles finished the first half on a 14-1 run to lead 29-18 at the break, then closed the third with an 11-2 flurry to take complete control at 48-29.

Exira-EHK Leading Scorers: Sophia Peppers 13 (7 rebounds, 6 steals), Ellie Schultes 8, Kealey Nelson 6 (7 rebounds, 3 assists).

Springville Leading Scorers: Mikayla Nachazel 15, Madi Wagaman 13, Rylee Menster 12 (5 steals, 4 assists).

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