STATE CENTER - It was a backyard brawl on somebody else's property, but it seems the location didn't matter.
At home, on the road or on a neutral court, the Grundy Center girls' basketball team just has Gladbrook-Reinbeck's number.
The Spartans stymied 'The System' for the third time in as many meetings, though this clash between arch-rivals meant more than the previous two pairings combined. It meant a spot in the Class 2A Region 4 semifinals, and Grundy Center got it.
Gladbrook-Reinbeck's torrid scoring pace was brought to a halt by the last team to beat the Rebels - neighbor and nemesis Grundy Center - in Tuesday's regional quarterfinal pairing played a long way from home for both teams. The Spartans (14-9) staved off widespread foul trouble and shot better from the free-throw line to advance with a 73-63 victory inside West Marshall High School.
Gladbrook-Reinbeck (15-8), which entered with nine straight wins, could not match its high-scoring ways and fell to the wayside as the Spartans continued along the postseason trail. Grundy Center will face Iowa City Regina (19-3) at 7 p.m. Friday night at the Meskwaki Settlement School in hopes of reaching Monday's regional final.
"We're not afraid to get in G-R's face and play man-to-man defense, and we don't want to give up the three-point shot," Grundy Center head coach Al Jones said. "I think we gave up two (three-pointers) tonight and I think the other night they had 14 against West Marshall. We want to be in their face 84 feet and our kids are pretty good athletes to be able to do that so I credit them."
Grundy Center's 6-foot post players Heather Hook and Sam Meyers both saw plenty of the first half from the bench with four fouls apiece, but the Spartans still snuck into the halftime locker room with a 32-31 lead.
"You don't want to know what I wanted to say to the girls at half because I chewed tail," Jones said, "because we were doing things that we did not want to do. We practiced (Monday) on things and it did not take to the floor here.
"We let their press up-tempo us, and that caused a lot of turnovers. We got kids in foul trouble, but I praise the bench. We had kids come off the bench tonight in Lara Neher and Madison Bowen, and we had kids with foul trouble and only one fouled out. I credit them for coming in and playing hard and not being afraid to do what they had to do."
The Rebels trailed 32-25 before scoring the last six points of the first half to close the gap, but Grundy Center was up to the task in the second half - no matter which five players were on the court.
Reserve forwards Bowen and Neher finished the night with 10 and eight points, respectively, and played key parts as the Spartans stretched their 39-38 lead with a 9-0 run.
Gladbrook-Reinbeck's 3-minute scoring drought ended in a flurry as the Rebels rattled off their own 10-4 run to get back within four, 52-48, entering the final frame.
The Spartans' starters returned to the court in time to carry the team home from the free-throw line, and Gladbrook-Reinbeck's days of winning behind triple-digit scoring totals had long since been dashed.
"Give Grundy Center credit, they play great defense," said Rebel head coach Bruce Bailey, whose installation of 'The System' this season produced 12 more wins than last year's traditional ways. "Because of the athletes they have, the number of people they can throw at us, their overall team quickness is really good.
"They're just a hard team to beat in the style that we play, they're the one team probably that can go up and down with us as well as anybody."
Abby Graves finished with a team-leading 14 points for the Spartans, followed by a balanced group. Meyers had 12 points, Sarah Frisch added 11, Bowen 10, Hook nine, Neher eight and Jessica Ackerson seven.
The Rebels entered Tuesday's game having scored an average of 91.6 points per game since their last loss - a 69-64 setback in Grundy Center. But Saturday's 57-53 win over West Marshall, also in State Center, showed the potential for a scoring slowdown for G-R's juggernaut offense. That and a Spartan defense intent on limiting the Rebels' long-range chances and putback opportunities too.
Grundy Center also shot 31-for-45 (69 percent) from the free-throw line while Gladbrook-Reinbeck went 21-for-37 (57 percent), sputtering when these seemingly too-hot-to-stop Rebels needed those points the most.
"It might be (unbelievable) to the kids, but I've been around long enough to know that on an off-night anybody can beat you," Bailey said. "But these kids have just come so far this year. From where we were at the beginning of the season to how we finished, this is as good a group as I've ever had in improvement in 22-23 ballgames.
"Fifteen wins, eight losses, from the same team that was 3-19 last year, so we'll go with that and build on that."
Lauren Bengen, the lone senior on G-R's roster, led with 14 points. Emily Stoakes added 13 points, five rebounds and three steals, and Addi Kickbush finished with 11 points.
Jenna Roeding tallied nine points, 11 rebounds, three blocked shots and three steals for the Rebels, while Emily Dinsdale added eight points.