Balderas named to 2A all-state third team by INA

Hawks’ junior PG speeds up productivity as the game slows down

South Hamilton junior point guard Marco Balderas (2) draws the defense on a drive into the lane and then kicks the ball out to an open teammate during a Class 2A district final against Southeast Valley. Balderas has been named to the Class 2A all-state third team by the Iowa Newspaper Association. DFJ photo/Troy Banning

JEWELL — Marco Balderas found a new level of comfort on the basketball court this winter, and with it came a newfound level of success.

The improvements South Hamilton’s junior point guard made, both physically and mentally, helped to propel the team to a Heart of Iowa Conference championship and trip to the Class 2A state tournament. And today, it carried him to a statewide honor.

Balderas was named to the Iowa Newspaper Association 2A all-state third team by a panel of sports writers from across the state. He joined teammate Collin Hill, a senior who was named to the first team for the second consecutive year.

“I’m really happy and I’m a little surprised because I didn’t expect it,” Balderas said. “I’ve worked towards something like this.”

South Hamilton’s floor leader and, like Hill, a vocal supporter for his teammates, Balderas thrived in big situations. He helped send the Hawks to state by knocking down a pair of free throws with 9.1 seconds left in a 53-51 substate victory over East Marshall and then led the team in scoring with 13 points in a 53-47 state quarterfinal loss to top-ranked and eventual champion Western Christian.

Marco Balderas (2) cashes in on a runner in the lane against Southeast Valley. Balderas averaged 12.7 points per game this season. DFJ photo/Troy Banning

The numbers were always important, but so was his presence.

“Marco is a guy that’s improved in all areas and he really became the leader of our team in a lot of ways,” South Hamilton head coach Nathan Hill said. “He stepped up in big moments and proved really why he is an all-state player. So I couldn’t be more happy for him because he’s put in as much work as anybody.”

Balderas averaged 12.7 points, 5.9 assists, 3.8 rebounds and 2.5 steals per game for the 22-3 Hawks. His 147 assists is the second-most in a single season in program history, trailing only Sam Koehnk, who distributed 174 in 1996-97. He set the single-season record for free throw percentage at 87.4 (83 of 95).

“From a talent standpoint, Marco has been as natural a player as I’ve ever had just with his instincts,” Nathan Hill said. “Those are the things you can’t teach.”

Balderas will enter his senior season with several milestones potentially on the horizon. With 735 career points, he needs just 265 more to become the seventh Hawk to reach 1,000. He’s also 70 assists and 59 steals away from holding those all-time records.

“If those things happen, that will be awesome,” Balderas said. “But, honestly, as long as we’re winning and the team meets its goals, that’s all that really matters.”

CLASS 2A

First Team

Pos Player School Ht Gr

F Collin Hill South Hamilton 6-6 Sr

F Matt Dentlinger Carroll Kuemper 6-7 Sr

F Cooper Kabela West Branch 6-4 Sr

G Ethan Wyant Jesup 6-0 Sr

G Levi Jungling Pella Christian 5-11 Sr

G Ben Gesink Western Christian 6-3 Sr

UT Jesse Jansma Western Christian 6-3 Sr

UT Jay Small Hinton 6-3 Sr

Second Team

Pos Player School Ht Gr

F Austin Roetman Pocahontas Area 6-7 Sr

F Dylan Hundley Camanche 6-4 Sr

F Isaiah Humphrey Underwood 6-2 Sr

G Ben Juhl Des Moines Christian 6-1 Sr

G Dakota Soenksen Camanche 6-3 Sr

G Trenton Massner Wapello 6-1 Sr

UT Ben Latusek Dike-New Hartford 6-4 Sr

UT Riley LeGrand Dyersville Beckman 6-3 Sr

Third Team

Pos Player School Ht Gr

F Zane Johnson East Marshall 6-4 Jr

F David Kacmarynski Pella Christian 6-3 Sr

F James Betz Garner-Hayfield/Ventura 6-7 So

G Drew Olson Osage 6-2 Jr

G R.J. Harris AHSTW Avoca 6-2 Jr

G Gannon O’Brien Cascade 6-0 Jr

UT Marco Balderas South Hamilton 5-7 Jr

UT Isaac Heyer West Lyon 6-3 Sr

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