The similarities stand out. That observation was shared among Council Bluffs Lewis Central players and coaches during preparation for Pella, the Titans' firstround opponent at 10 a.m. Wednesday at the Class 4-A state tournament.
After a 2-2 start, the No. 8 Dutch (21-2) enter as winners of 19 straight largely because of their defense, which allows 42.1 points per game.
No. 2 Lewis Central (20-1) has won 13 in a row since its only loss of the season to fellow 4-A qualifier Harlan on Dec. 18. Opposing offenses have had even more difficulty scoring against the Titans, who allow 33 points a game.
"From what we've seen, they're exactly like us," Lewis Central coach Derek Archer said. "They're athletic, they play pressure defense, they like to press, they like to play fast. Everything they do, seemingly, we do as well.
"It'll be a battle from start to finish." Wednesday will mark the Titans' fifth state trip overall and first since 2013, Archer's first year as coach. He is 75-17 in four years at Lewis Central, and he's eager for a second opportunity on the state stage.
Archer said that with the excitement of qualifying behind them, preparation has been on point.
"The last two days of practices, the girls have been incredibly focused," he said. "They've been two of the better practices we've had all year. They're locked in on what we want to do.
"This has been a goal of ours all season. We've talked about it since last spring. We knew our potential. If we could be lucky enough to make it to state, it wasn't going to be satisfying enough just to say, 'Hey, we made it down there again.' Our goal all year long has been to go down and make some noise."
A blend of young talent and seasoned leadership has guided the Titans. Kye Madsen, a 5-foot-7 senior and four-year starting point guard, leads the team in assists (4.5 per game) and is third in scoring (7.4). Maegan Holt, a 5-foot-11 sophomore, leads the team in scoring (15.7) and is second in rebounding (5.3). Lewis Central's other starters are Alissa Pomrenke (9.1 points per game), Madison Paulsen (7.4) and Kassie Larsen (3.1).
"We're going to go in a lot more competitive, knowing we can compete with anyone we play," Madsen said.
Making its ninth state trip overall and first since 2009, Pella, too, boasts a relatively young roster. Each of the Dutch's top seven scorers is in her junior year or younger.
Katie Vander Molen, a 5-9 junior, leads the team with 14.1 points per game, and 5-10 junior Kiara Bradley is second in scoring (12.6) and leads the squad in rebounding (7.1).
"One of the keys we're looking at is who turns the ball over less," Archer said.
"Both teams want turnovers and to get into transition with some easy baskets. The key is whether or not we can force more turnovers than we give up."
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