Levi Jungling settled into the press area underneath Wells Fargo Arena completely out of breath. The Pella Christian senior took his complementary water bottle and downed it in under four minutes.
Scoring 31 points in a state semifinal game will wear you out, of course.
Pella Christian beat Kuemper Catholic, 64-61, in Thursday’s Class 2A state semifinal game. The Eagles advance to Friday night’s championship game against top-seed Western Christian (Hull), their first finals appearance since 2009. Tipoff is set for 8:05 p.m.
“What a game,” Pella Christian coach Larry Hessing said. “I told the guys beforehand that it wasn’t going to be perfect. That’s kind of my mantra. Then you go from up 10 to down one, we just kept battling, and they did that.”
The game itself was a doozy, the first all week in any class where both sides scored 60 or more points. The Eagles (22-4) did most of their damage from both the charity stripe and beyond the arc, and their main contributor was Jungling.
Jungling totaled a game-high 31 points on 8 of 13 shooting, including a 6 of 9 mark from deep. He also went 9 of 9 from the free-throw line, part of a 21 of 23 team effort. Jungling began his onslaught early in the first half, when his running mate David Kacmarynski had three fouls.
“He obviously creates a lot for our offense,” he said, “so when he’s not on the floor, I feel like there’s a little bit of a burden on me to get our offense going a little bit. Tonight, that meant scoring.”
With Kacmarynski and fellow big man Kenden Veenstra on the bench for chunks of the opening two quarters, Jungling took over in the form of 13 points behind three 3-pointers. His effort helped keep the Eagles close at halftime, though they still trailed 25-24.
After the break, Jungling continued his hot shooting. There were times when Hessing didn’t even call a specific play, but allowed his players to feel each situation out. For most of the middle two quarters, that meant getting Jungling the ball. His play led to a 15-2 third-quarter run.
Pella Christian led 44-39 after three, but Kuemper erased that deficit with a quick 6-0 run to open the final 8 minutes. Back and forth the teams went — there were 23 total lead changes and another nine times when the game was tied.
Kuemper’s Matt Dentlinger kept the Knights (23-3) in the game with a 13-point, 21-rebound performance. He accounted for many of Kuemper’s 14 second-chance points. Parker Badding also scored 15 and held Jungling in check for most of the fourth quarter.
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That allowed Kacmarynski to shine. He ended up with 14 points and nine rebounds, and scored six crucial points late in the game.
The 6-foot-3 senior took one defensive rebound coast-to-coast for the bucket and-one, putting the Eagles up 56-51. Kuemper’s Sam Auen answered with a three. On the next possession, Kacmarynski grabbed an offensive board and scored on the putback along with the ensuing free-throw.
“It was a state semifinal game, so I don’t think I had the opportunity or the luxury to hesitate,” Kacmaryinski said. “Especially going up against a guy like Dentlinger. I knew I had to give everything today and stay aggressive.”
Jungling iced the game with a pair of free throws with less than 10 seconds left, capping another brilliant game. He thanked his mother, Jan Haupt, a successful 6-on-6 girls’ basketball player for Wellsburg High School.
“Me and my mom went to the gym yesterday and shot a bunch of free throws,” Jungling said. “She once went 18-for-18 on free throws in a state game.”
Jungling made half that many on Thursday, but the percentage was the same. If he can turn in a similar performance on Friday, Pella Christian will win its first Class 2A state title since 1993.
Kuemper Catholic (61) — P Badding 15, Auen 6, Dentlinger 13, W Badding 6, Schaefer 13, Tigges 4, Mertz 2, Gunnerson 2. Also played — Kraus. Totals: 22-54, 12-17.
Pella Christian (64) — Jungling 31, Pringle 5, Kacmarynski 14, Veenstra 5, Haveman 9. Also played — Howerzyl, Roose, Flagel, Vander Molen, Cadwell. Totals: 18-45, 21-23.
Kuemper Catholic…9 16 14 22 — 61
Pella Christian…10 14 20 20 — 64
3-pointers—Pella Christian 7 (Jungling 6, Kacmarynski 1), Kuemper Catholic 5 (Auen 2, P Badding 1, Dentlinger 1, Tigges 1). Fouls—Kuemper Catholic 18, Pella Christian 17. Technical Fouls—None. Fouled Out—None.
Cody Goodwin covers high school sports, college basketball recruiting and Drake athletics for the Des Moines Register. Follow him on Twitter at @codygoodwin.