Regional Preview: Trojans aim to turn Oskaloosa into ‘Fairfield Northwest’
Oskaloosa handed the Fairfield girls’ basketball team its first loss of the season in late November.
The Trojans don’t expect Oskaloosa to hand them their last when they face off Saturday.
Fairfield advanced to the Class 4A Region 5 semifinal round Wednesday with a five-point win over Southeast Conference rival Mount Pleasant in the regional opener. The semifinal matchup is scheduled Saturday in Oskaloosa.
For the Trojans to have better success against the 10th-ranked Indians (18-4) than in their first meeting, they’ll need to slow down senior guard Kena Veldhuizen. The all-state player is the unmistakable leader of Oskaloosa and scored 15 points against the Trojans in their first matchup — a 44-26 win for Oskaloosa.
“Veldhuizen is a good 3-point shooter, and we can’t let her go off on us,” said Fairfield head coach Mick Flattery. “She also does a good job getting her teammates involved, and they have a few good post players.”
Veldhuizen enters the postseason as the top scorer in Class 4A with 19.6 points per game. She has made nearly 44 percent of her shots.
Fairfield will also need to watch out for Oskaloosa’s Taylor Crawford, who has scored 10 points per game in her senior season, as well as Katelyn Hasselman in the paint.
The Trojans (10-12), meanwhile, have been riding the hot hand of their own senior guard and enter Oskaloosa on a three-game winning streak. Sidney Baumann has averaged 27 points per game over her last six games, and the Trojans will need more of her excellent play if they hope to crash the state tournament party.
Fairfield has also received more than eight points per game from juniors Hanna Greiner and Marisa Repp this season.
A few additional things have to fall into place for the Trojans to emerge with a victory.
“We need to limit Oskaloosa’s shot attempts and get the offensive rebound,” said Flattery. “We can’t let them have second chances, and we can’t afford to turn the ball over.”
Flattery said the difference between Fairfield three months ago and today is tremendous.
“I think we’ve matured on both the offensive and defensive ends. I think our shot selection has been much better over the past three weeks, and we’re knowing our roles better,” said Flattery. “I really respect how tough the girls have been playing.”
The winner of Saturday’s game will earn the right to advance to the regional final in Marengo next Tuesday and be one win away from the “Elite 8” state tournament. Oskaloosa bounced Fairfield in the regional opener last season.
“The girls are focused and we’re going to get some good practice in today and Friday,” Flattery said. “We told the girls to move on from this big win, and let’s go be regional champions.”
Flattery also said he hopes to see a Fairfield crowd in Oskaloosa similar to the traveling fan base that came to cheer on the Trojans in Mount Pleasant Wednesday.
“There was a great crowd helping us out last night. We hope they and any new fans will join us Saturday at Osky,” said Flattery. “We want to turn their gym into ‘Fairfield Northwest.’ We’ll take bandwagon fans. We’ll take anybody.”
Tip-off time is 7 p.m. at Oskaloosa High School.