PLEASANT HILL, Ia. — While the girls’ state basketball tournament kicked off Monday at Wells Fargo Arena, the rest of the boys’ field was still sorting itself out. Class 2A’s eight state qualifiers all punched their tickets on Saturday. On Monday, both the 3A and 1A contestants joined them.
Substate action will officially complete Tuesday, when eight 4A squads are left standing. But Monday offered plenty of action in Iowa’s smaller classes. Let’s Take Five and check in to see who all will play another week, and who all got left behind for another year.
Pella wins thriller over Grinnell
It is hard to beat a team three times in three months. The Pella boys’ basketball team learned that the hard way Monday night.
The Dutch topped Grinnell, 55-53, in Class 3A’s Substate 7 final at Southeast Polk High School. Pella, now 22-2 on the year, advances to the state tournament for the third consecutive year and for the 16th time in program history.
“This is what high school basketball is all about,” Pella coach Mark Core said. “… Our guys are really pleased to be heading back to the Well.”
Pella enters next week’s 3A state tournament hoping to improve on its third-place finish a year ago. But the Dutch needed to first muscle through a scrappy Grinnell (12-12) team in order to get there.
The game itself was a doozy. There were eight lead changes. Cade McKnight carried Grinnell in the first half before Sam Allen put on his cape in the second. They finished with 18 and 17 points, respectively, and led the Tigers to a 50-46 lead with 2 minutes left.
The rest of the game belonged to the Dutch. Ryan Van Wyk scored to be within one possession. Nicholas DeJong sank a bucket to tie the game at 50 with 72 seconds to play. DeJong finished with six points while Van Wyk put up 12, one of three Pella players to finish in double figures.
Then, Donovan Holterhaus, who shot 2-for-7 in the first half but finished 5-for-11 with 11 points for the game, stole the ball and went to the rim to put Pella up 52-50. After the ball dropped through the net, Holterhaus flexed in front of the Pella student section. The Dutch never trailed again.
“I had a lot of energy after that shot,” Holterhaus said. “In the first half, I was playing more passive, but in the second half, I knew if we lost, that would be my last half of basketball. So I knew I had to pick it up and do something or else we would’ve been done.”
As a whole, the Dutch shot 21-for-49 from the field, a few ticks below their season average of 50 percent. But at this stage in the season, it does not matter how you win — only that you win. And Pella, now with 67 wins over the last three seasons, has gotten pretty good at that.
Atlantic, Sergeant Bluff-Luton win close calls, too
Two other 3A teams advanced to next week’s state tournament with narrow victories Monday night.
At the Tyson Events Center in Sioux City, Sergeant Bluff-Luton edged Bishop Heelan of Sioux City, 53-51, to qualify for the state tournament. It will be the Warriors’ first trip to the state tournament (Sergeant Bluff qualified in 1940).
About a two hours’ drive south, in Harlan, Atlantic eked by Glenwood, 69-68, to qualify for the state tournament. It will be the Trojans’ 11th trip to state, and their first since 2002, when they took third.
Reaching the Well with ease
No game is easy, per se, but a handful of teams put up double-digit margins of victory in their substate final wins on Monday.
Mount Pleasant rolled to a 70-40 victory over Oskaloosa in 3A’s Substate 6 final at Fairfield. The Panthers led just 30-23 at halftime, but erupted to lead 51-32 by the end of the third. They continued to pile on in the fourth, securing their eighth trip to the state tournament.
Dallas Center-Grimes will continue its strong postseason run next week as well. The Mustangs won their third-straight game by double digits in a 54-43 win over Boone in 3A’s Substate 2 final at Johnston, clinching their fifth trip to the state tournament.
Waverly-Shell Rock will return to state for the sixth time in seven years. The Go-Hawks beat Forest City, 72-55, at Aplington-Parkersburg. They maintained a comfortable lead throughout the second half after going up 30-15 at the intermission.
U.S. Cellular Center hosts two 3A substate finals
The U.S. Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids played host to two 3A substate final games Monday night.
Defending 3A state champs Cedar Rapids Xavier rolled in the early game, beating Dubuque Wahlert 58-39. The Saints are now 13-11 entering their third-straight state appearance, but have won nine of their last 11 games.
In the nightcap, West Delaware (Manchester) kept its unbeaten season intact with a 54-51 win over Center Point-Urbana. The Hawks are now 24-0 on the year, and will be making just their fourth trip to state, and their first since 2008.
St. Mary’s Remsen rounds out 1A state field
St. Mary’s of Remsen entered Monday night with the opportunity to reach the state tournament for the first time in school history. On top of that, the Hawks were one of just three remaining unbeaten teams left in the state (1A’s North Linn and 3A’s West Delaware were the others).
A perfect season remains intact after Monday night’s victory. St. Mary’s toppled Boyden-Hull, 56-51, to become the final team to qualify for the 1A state tournament. The Hawks also improved to 24-0 on the season.
St. Mary’s joins North Linn, West Hancock (Britt), Gladbrook-Reinbeck, New London, Lynnville-Sully, Grand View Christian and Maple Valley-Anthon-Oto as qualifiers for the Class 1A state tournament. The brackets for each class will be announced at 1 p.m. on Wednesday at IHSSN.com.
Cody Goodwin covers high school sports, college basketball recruiting and Drake athletics for the Des Moines Register. Reach him at (816) 582-0633, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or send him a tweet at @codygoodwin.