Defense propels Spartans back to Des Moines

Exira-EHK girls outlast Nodaway Valley 41-35; will face defending champion on Monday

 RED OAK -- Throughout another season-long journey to the Girls State Basketball Tournament, two constants have existed for Exira-Elk Horn-Kimballton.
 Defense and winning.
 It’s only fitting that those two things went hand-in-hand again Monday night as the unbeaten, 2nd-ranked Spartans survived a major test from Nodaway Valley to win 41-35 in a Class 1-A, Region 7 final at Red Oak.
 After trailing for much of the first half, Exira-EHK sped to a 31-21 third-quarter lead, only to see the Wolverines rally and tie the score (33-33) with about five and a half minutes remaining.
 The Spartans would score the next six points, however, four on converted steals by Mara Burmeister and Sophia Peppers, and overcame seven fourth-quarter turnovers by forcing nine.
 The victory puts Exira-EHK (23-0) back in the state tournament with a spotless record for the second straight year. The Spartans will face last year’s 1-A champion, 7th-ranked Newell-Fonda (18-6), in a quarterfinal game Monday afternoon (3:15) inside Wells Fargo Arena.



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