Three-peat in sight as Cyclone girls return to state

Youthful first-round opponent features tall lineup; Class 4-A field appears up for grabs

 DES MOINES -- Three wins away from a three-peat, Harlan Community is poised to make history in its fourth consecutive trip to the Girls State Basketball Tournament.
 Ranked third in Class 4-A, the two-time defending state champion Cyclones (20-2) will open defense of their titles on Wednesday morning against 7th-ranked Marion (19-4). The state quarterfinal game will tip off at 11:45 a.m. inside Wells Fargo Arena.
 HCHS is attempting to become just the fifth Iowa girls basketball program in the 2000s to win at least three straight titles, joining the likes of Ankeny (four straight), Rock Valley, Assumption and Western Christian. The Cyclones also finished as 4-A’s state runner-up in 2013.
 The task of “three-peating” won’t be easy as this year’s 4-A field appears to be a balanced group. Top-ranked Western Dubuque (24-0), which has lost the last two state title games vs. Harlan, is the only unbeaten in 4-A but will open against a dangerous Mason City team (15-8) that started the year ranked No. 1 and has played a very tough schedule.
 Ballard (22-1) is making its 10th state appearance in 11 years and will face Keokuk (21-2) in the first round.
 The winner of HCHS vs. Marion will take on either 2nd-ranked Lewis Central (20-1) or No. 8 Pella (21-2) in Friday’s semifinal round. LC split its season series with HCHS, handing the Cyclones their most recent loss, 43-42, on February 12.



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