Tyreke Locure held the state tournament qualifier banner in his hands as the rest of the North boys’ basketball players celebrated around him.
The sophomore point guard still had a hard time believing that the Polar Bears are headed to Wells Fargo Arena next week.
“It feels amazing, especially to get it for this community,” Locure said after North rolled to an 88-68 victory over Ankeny in a Class 4A substate final on Tuesday at Grimes. “Everybody is behind us on the north side. They’ve been dreaming of this since 1991, and to get it done tonight is an unbelievable feeling for them and for us.”
Hurl Beechum was a standout on the last North team to qualify for the state tournament 26 years ago. He was part of the large crowd on Tuesday to watch the Polar Bears earn their fourth trip to state overall.
“I’m proud of these guys. It’s been a long time coming,” Beechum said. “I went to school with (North coach) Chad (Ryan) and played against Chad, and I’m just really proud of him for getting the program back to where we were accustomed to having it. What more can you ask for, but to go down and win three more games and hopefully bring a state championship back?”
Jal Bijiek scored 23 points and Locure added 20 as North (18-5) extended its winning streak to 12 games. The Polar Bears have not lost since dropping a 90-85 decision at Ankeny on Jan. 10.
“We just wanted to do it for coach Ryan,” said Bijiek, who had five of North’s 13 3-pointers. “He’s been coaching at North for eight years, and he hasn’t gotten out of the second round (of substate) before. To be the team that got coach Ryan over the hump is just a blessing because he does so much for us and for the community that nobody ever sees. There is nobody that does for their kids what coach Ryan does. He loves his kids like they are his own, and I just wanted to do it for him.”
North, which never trailed, closed the first half with a 10-2 run to build a 36-28 lead. The Polar Bears then pulled away in the third quarter behind Bijiek, who made back-to-back 3-pointers from the top of the key to increase the margin to 48-30.
Bijiek drilled two more 3-pointers early in the fourth quarter to make it 65-48.
“I was feeling it a little bit,” Bijiek said. “But we have so many weapons. I was trying to get everybody involved.”
Drew Maschoff scored 24 points to lead Ankeny (11-13), which lost in a substate final for the second straight year. Reserve Jalen Smith added 19 points for the Hawks, who had 10 3-pointers of their own.
Ankeny had knocked off second-ranked Waukee in a substate semifinal on Friday, but couldn’t pull off another upset.
“We played hard. The difference with the Waukee game is that Waukee missed shots and North didn’t,” said Ankeny coach Brandt Carlson. “I felt like our guys were doing what we wanted them to do, minus a few defensive rebounds, but you’ve got to give North credit. They shot the ball really well, and they deserved to win.”
The Polar Bears avenged a 30-point loss to Ankeny in a substate semifinal last year.
“We’ve turned the corner the last five years, but this was kind of our last hurdle to overcome,” Ryan said. “The kids did a great job tonight, and it’s all about them. I’m just super proud of them, and I love to be their coach.”
NORTH (88)—G. Bijiek 4, Deng 8, J. Bijiek 23, Malual 13, Locure 20, Myles 10, McCaleb 10. Also played—Cavan. Totals 32 11-18.
ANKENY (68)—Lyon 3, Otten 4, Hawkins 4, Maschoff 24, Carlson 5, Smith 19, Lewis 6, Lee 3. Also played—Riordan, Rinker, Ferree, Jackson, Scheer, Plummer, Pitz. Totals 24 10-21.
North…..19 17 23 29—88
Ankeny..15 13 18 22—68
3-point goals—N 13 (J. Bijiek 5, McCaleb 3, Malual 2, Deng 2, Locure), A 10 (Smith 3, Maschoff 3, Lewis 2, Carlson, Lee). Fouls—N 19, A 21. Fouled out—Lyon, Malual. Technicals—None.