End of the Road
Hawks scare No. 1 Wolfpack, can’t hold onto big lead in state quarters
DES MOINES — Unafraid of the setting or the opponent, ninth-ranked South Hamilton stared the defending state champions in the eyes and made them blink during the early stages of Monday night’s Class 2A state quarterfinal inside Wells Fargo Arena.
But Western Christian won gold in 2016 and seven other times in program history because its players understand how to overcome adversity. The final 20 minutes made that clear to everyone in attendance.
South Hamilton looked the part of Cinderella in roaring out to a 16-point lead in the first half, but top-ranked Western Christian never deviated from its script and, keyed by a 14-0 run over a stretch of 6 minutes, 9 seconds of the second and third quarters, rallied to take out the Hawks, 53-47.
The Wolfpack (22-2) advanced to Thursday’s semifinal round where it will tangle with sixth-ranked Camanche (23-2) at 2 p.m. Camanche avenged two regular season losses to River Valley Conference rival Cascade with a 58-48 win in the last quarterfinal on a busy first day of the state tournament.
South Hamilton (22-3) could do no wrong early in the contest. The only problem was very little went right in the second half.
“That first quarter, that was good basketball that we played and I don’t think they were expecting that,” South Hamilton senior forward Collin Hill said after posting nine points, 12 rebounds and three blocks in the 74th and final game of his illustrious prep career. “We proved we belong here. But in that third quarter, we wanted to try to get that energy from the beginning, but we just couldn’t get it. We hung around, but they’re a good team.”
Marco Balderas led the Hawks with 13 points, four steals and two assists. Logan Klemp pitched in eight points, Conner Hill added seven first-half points and Logan Peters finished with five points and seven boards.
Western Christian forward Jesse Jansma, a 2016 all-tournament team member, asserted his dominance throughout and finished with a game-high 25 points. He went off for 11 of the 19 Wolfpack points in the third quarter and had 23 in all prior to the start of the fourth.
Jansma began to take control over the final 3:55 of the second period with four of his team’s points during a 10-0 flurry that cut South Hamilton’s lead to six, 29-23, at the intermission.
“We obviously got beat by a very good team in Western Christian,” South Hamilton head coach Nathan Hill said. “Jansma, he’s a heck of a player and he showed why he’s an all-state guy. He really attacked us hard.”
Jansma gave much of the credit to his teammates, who relentlessly fed him the ball.
“I knew we had to be aggressive and take the ball to the hoop,” Jansma said. “My teammates did a great job of getting me the ball.”
A Jansma 3-pointer from the left wing with 1:30 remaining in the third quarter gave the Wolfpack a 40-38 lead, its first advantage since it was 7-6 less than three minutes into the opening quarter.
Western Christian led 42-39 after three quarters and never let South Hamilton get closer than three the remainder of the way. The Hawks had two shots from close range to close to within three and then a pair of triples that, had either fallen, would have trimmed it to a two-point game in the closing minute.
Shooting, particularly from long distance, was a problem for the Hawks throughout. A Cole Berg trey from the wing with 4.7 seconds remaining ended a misery-inducing 0-for night from behind the arc and they finished just 1 for 10.
Western Christian made it a priority to hound both Hill brothers — Collin and Conner — on every possession. Collin got just nine shots up and Conner was limited to five and only a pair of 3-point attempts.
“We didn’t want either of those Hill guys to get loose,” Western Christian head coach Bill Harmsen said. “We were just trying to limit what they could do.”
It was just the third time in his career that Collin Hill, a Truman State University recruit, was held under 10 points. It ended a streak of 41 consecutive double-digit performances, but he contributed plenty in other ways, particularly at the defensive end.
“They were playing me tight and physical, so it was kind of hard to get shots up,” Collin Hill said. “I only got nine shots off and that’s less than I usually take, but that happens.”
Logan Klemp set the tone early for South Hamilton with a pair of mid-range jumpers and the Hawks reeled off 13 straight points to build a 19-10 lead after one quarter.
South Hamilton continued to pour it on early in the second by scoring nine of the first 12 points. Logan Peters scored four points during the burst and Klemp hit another jumper to send the large and loud Hawk crowd into a frenzy.
“Probably the thing I’m most proud of these guys is we didn’t come in intimidated,” Nathan Hill said. “We knew we had a good ball team and we took the floor with the mind-set that we were the better team. We showed it, for sure, in the first quarter. But as the game wore on, they didn’t fold and we tightened up a little bit. We seemed very stagnant offensively.”
Tyson Kooima poured in 12 points for Western Christian and he helped ignite the third-quarter run with a pair of 3-pointers. The Wolfpack shot a dismal 29 percent in the first half, but eventually found its rhythm.
“South Hamilton came out and took it to us in the first quarter, obviously,” Harmsen said. “It took us about 12 minutes of game time to get our game legs underneath us … it was really good to see us come out in the third and fourth quarters and play our game a little bit more.”
Six-foot-6 reserve Jacob Vis added four points, 11 rebounds and a pair of blocks for the Wolfpack. South Hamilton limited Ben Gesink — Western Christian’s leading scorer on the season — to no field goals and just one point.
It was the first time all season that South Hamilton had been held below 50 points and what made it particularly frustrating was the Hawks scored more points in the first quarter (19) than they did in the entire second half (18). They connected on just 4 of 25 shots (24 percent) over the final 16 minutes and shot 37 percent (19 of 52) overall.
Part of that can be attributed to a poor shooting performance. But Western Christian had plenty to do with it as well.
“They had really tight pressure on all of our guys,” Conner Hill said. “It was tough to get looks outside. They had us scouted pretty (well).”
W. Christian 53, So. Hamilton 47
Class 2A State Quarterfinal
Monday at Wells Fargo Arena
South Hamilton (22-3) — Marco Balderas 4-12 5-6 13, Logan Klemp 4-10 0-0 8, Logan Peters 2-7 1-2 5, Collin Hill 4-9 1-2 9, Conner Hill 3-5 1-1 7, Cole Berg 1-3 0-0 3, Colton Coy 1-2 0-0 2, Quinton Grove 0-0 0-0 0, Jared Ullestad 0-0 0-0 0, Zeke Balderas 0-0 0-0 0, Cade Balvanz 0-4 0-0 0, Wes Wynkoop 0-0 0-0 0, Jordan McSparin 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 19-52 8-11 47.
Western Christian (22-2) — Caleb Harmsen 1-7 2-2 4, Tyson Kooima 3-10 4-5 12, Ben Gesink 0-2 1-2 1, Ben Granstra 1-1 1-2 3, Jesse Jansma 9-17 5-9 25, Harry Steele 0-0 0-0 0, Colyn Oostenink 0-2 2-2 2, Carter Broek 0-2 2-4 2, Clay Van Tol 0-0 0-0 0, Austin Haak 0-0 0-0 0, Jacob Vis 2-3 0-0 4, Layne Miller 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 16-44 17-26 53.
So. Hamilton 19 10 10 8 — 47
W. Christian 10 13 19 11 — 53
3-point field goals — SH 1-10 (Berg); WC 4-15 (Kooima 2, Jansma 2). Rebounds — SH 35 (Col. Hill 12, Peters 7); WC 34 (Vis 11, Kooima 9). Steals — SH 8 (Balderas 4, Con. Hill 2); WC 7 (Gesink 2, Granstra 2). Assists — SH 8 (Balderas 2, Peters 2, Con. Hill 2); WC 7 (Kooima 2, Broek 2). Blocks — SH 4 (Col. Hill 3); WC 6 (Kooima 2, Vis 2). Team fouls — SH 18, WC 11. Fouled out — none.