The second-ranked Spartans ran their record to 25-0 with a 63-48 victory over No. 14 Bedford in a first-round Class 1A game. Rachel Smith, the only senior on either team, hit a 3-pointer just 10 seconds into the game and Exira/EHK led the rest of the way.
This is the first state tournament trip for the combined Exira/EHK district, though both schools enjoyed success in the past. Exira made it state six times and won the 1A title in 2011 behind Hallie Christofferson, who went on to star at Iowa State. Elk Horn-Kimballton qualified eight times and in Jan Jensen, had one of the state’s best ever in the six-player era.
Smith finished with 22 points to lead all scorers. She shot 8-for-16 from the field, grabbed seven rebounds and handed out four assists.
Freshman Sophia Peppers added 17 points and 10 rebounds for the Spartans and Rose Anderson turned in a solid game with seven points, eight assists and six rebounds.
Bedford, which made it to Des Moines for the fourth time in five years, was led by Fallyn Beemer’s 15 points. McKenzie Jackson scored 10 for the Bulldogs, while Callie Calfee and Emily Weed each had nine. Weed also grabbed eight rebounds.
Exira/EHK led 24-18 at halftime, then dominated the third quarter behind Smith, who scored 10 points in the period and fed Sadie Schultes for a jumper that made it 44-30. Bedford never got closer than nine points the rest of the way.
Exira/EHK, which had 13 steals, will play its semifinal game at 10 a.m. Thursday. Bedford finishes 19-5.