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East Mills advances to Corner Conference quarterfinals with win

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By Joel Stevens, Associate Editor

     The East Mills girls overcame a slow start to out-score Clarinda Academy 35-4 in the second half of a 67-30 victory in the opening round of the Corner Conference Girls Basketball Tournament.
    “We started out a little sluggish, but were able to open things up in the second half,” said East Mills coach Jeff Laughlin. “I thought that we played excellent defense all night. We limited them to four second half points.” 
    The Wolverines (3-11 overall, 1-6 in the conference) did a nice job containing Eagle point guard Endia Denton, who Laughlin called “probably the best ball-handler” his team has faced all season.
“We did a good job of keeping her in front of us most of the time,” he said. “She still made some shots, but they were contested and that’s all that I can ask.”
    Offensively, the Wolverines built a 31-18 at the half, but never seemed to get into a good rhythm until the second half, Laughlin said.
    “We kind of looked tentative starting out, but we had good ball movement and did a good job of finding the open shooters,” he said. “We did an excellent job of rebounding, and we shot the ball from the perimeter very well.”
    East Mills finished 26-of-66 shooting from the field (39.3 percent) and had three players score in double-figures, led by Jessie Doyle’s 20. Brianna Weak added 16 and Devin Laughlin recorded a triple double with 12 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists.

Heartland Christian 45,
East Mills 34
    Sisters Steffi and Molly Cunard combined for 31 points for Heartland Christian in a 45-34 Corner Conference victory over East Mills on Friday.
    The Wolverines led most of three quarters until getting down six points in the fourth. But the Eagles hit 8-of-11 free throws down the stretch to seal the win.
    “We played very well defensively, especially in the first half,” said East Mills coach Jeff Laughlin. “We did a good job of limiting the open looks for the Cunard sisters and tried to make the other girls beat us. The Cunards are maybe the best perimeter shooters in the conference this year.”
    Sophomore Steffi Cunard led all scorers with 16 points. Junior Molly Cunard added 15 points and a game-high 14 rebounds.
    Heartland Christian out-scored East Mills 33-13 in the second half.
    “We battled some foul trouble in the second half, that forced us to change our defense some, and I think that hurt our continuity somewhat,” Laughlin said. “We just struggled offensively in the second half. We had several excellent scoring opportunities that we weren’t able to convert, and that let them get back in the lead.”
Devin Laughlin paced East Mills with 14 points. Katie Sowers added 10.   

Villisca 54,
East Mills 36
    Villisca jumped out a 12-0 lead to open the game and never looked back in a 54-36 Corner Conference girls basketball victory over East Mills last Tuesday.
“We got off to a rough start and couldn’t get anything to fall in the first quarter,” said East Mills coach Jeff Laughlin.
The Wolverines (2-10 overall, 1-6 in the conference) trailed 19-3 after a quarter but they responded with a 16-12 second quarter to trail 31-19 at the half.
“We handled their full-court pressure very well most of the night, and were able to score off of it a few times,” Laughlin said. We did a much better job of limiting our turnovers, especially since we faced that full-court press for four quarters. I thought that we were able to get good looks in our half-court offense, and our ball movement was good.”
East Mills was able to trim an 18-point deficit to just nine in the second half, but they weren’t able to make enough of the open looks they had to get over the hump.
“Our energy on both ends was probably as good as it has been all season,” Laughlin said. “Defensively, we struggled early with their size and movement away from the ball, but I thought that we made the necessary adjustments and we were able to contest their shots.”
 The Wolverines were outrebounded 39-34 but not because of lack of effort, Laughlin said.
Our girls battled all night, and played as a team on both ends of the court,” Laughlin said. “Villisca is a very good team and a tough match-up for us, but I was very proud of our effort.”
Devin Laughlin scored 11 points to lead East Mills. Amanda Hatcher added 10 points and seven rebounds.
Morganne Haer and Amanda Focht paced Villisca with 16 points each. Jill Vanderhoof chipped in 13.