Nick Phillips, Nathan Stenger and Nicolas Ziniel of Regina celebrate winning the 2A quarter final round game with Cascade at Wells Fargo Arena Tuesday, March 10, 2015.
After finishing fifth in the Little Hawkeye Conference during the regular season, Pella Christian (17-7) became the first team to wear the glass slipper at the state boys’ basketball tournament.
The No. 7 seed Eagles’ 70-69 Tuesday victory over Class 2-A’s defending champion and No. 2 seed Western Christian was, in their minds, a direct reflection of a challenging regular-season schedule.
“It’s a conference of predominantly 3-A schools and a smaller 4-A school with Newton,” Pella Christian coach Larry Hessing said. “The (Little) Hawkeye is great, we love it, we got fifth place in that conference and now we’re in the final four I guess you could say in 2-A, so it definitely prepared us against big competition and good competition.”
STATE TOURNAMENT: Brackets
Bigger competition is something the Eagles have grown accustomed to this season, and although their tallest player, David Kacmarynski (15 points, 12 rebounds), was tremendous against the 6-foot-7 and 6-foot-9 front line of the Wolfpack, it was the perimeter game that won this one for the Eagles.
Seven first-quarter 3-pointers rained in as Pella Christian raced to a 23-9 advantage, and the Eagles would ultimately need every one of them in the one-point win.
“We were really ready to play this game, we knew we were the underdog and we just wanted to come out and show everybody that we can play with anybody,” Pella Christian sophomore Levi Jungling said. “Every one of us stepped up, we had really balanced scoring so we all stepped up, the whole team did.”
With 17 seconds left, Western Christian junior Josh VanLingen executed a 3-point play the old-fashioned way to bring his team within one after it had been down double-digits for much of the game. But Pella Christian used clutch free-throw shooting and its elite sophomore point guard (Jungling) to seal the win.
“Every time we started making a run, they got a quick shot or an easy layup that just killed us,” Western Christian sophomore Ben Gesink said.
VanLingen finished with 32 points, 17 rebounds and five blocks. Jungling was the catalyst for the Eagles and scored 12 points to go along with six assists and three steals.
“He’s (Jungling) a really quick, great point guard and he didn’t have that many turnovers, I don’t think,” Gesink said. “And he just took care of the ball and towards the end he just dribbled around us and broke our defense apart.”
Pella Christian will play Iowa City Regina in a 2-A semifinal Thursday at 3:45 p.m.
PELLA CHRISTIAN (70) — Kacmarynski 15, Posthuma 14, Jungling 12, Holwarda 12, Vermeer 8, Fopma 6, Stravers 3. Also played — Van Kooten
WESTERN CHRISTIAN (69) — VanLingen 32, Gesink 16, Miedema 11, Jansma 5, Horstman 3, Kooima 2. Also played — Granstra, Marra, Den Herder.
P. Christian …23 16 14 17 — 70
W. Christian …9 23 15 22 — 69
3-point goals — Pella Christian (Fopma 2, Posthuma 2, Holwarda 2, Vermeer 2, Jungling 1, Stravers 1). Western Christian (Gesink 2, Miedema 1, Jansma 1, Van Lingen 1, Horstman 1).