1 SHOT SHORT
Comets fend off Hill, Hawks in 2A?semifinal
DES MOINES — Conner Hill knew the moment the ball left his hands. As the large South Hamilton faithful bit its fingernails in the background, he knew.
It was short. And just like that, South Hamilton had fallen short too.
Hill’s contested 3-pointer from the right wing just before time expired bounced off the front of the rim and the Hawks fell in the Class 2A state semifinals to Boyden-Hull, 62-59, last night inside Wells Fargo Arena.
“Right as it left my hand I knew it was going to be short,” Hill said. “It was right on line, but I knew it was going to come up short.”
Boyden-Hull (24-2) snapped South Hamilton’s 16-game winning streak and advanced to Friday’s championship where it will face North Linn (25-0). South Hamilton (22-2) will meet Van Meter (22-3) in this morning’s third-place game at 11:55 a.m.
The Comets pulled out the victory by putting together a balanced offensive performance — three players scored in double figures and two others had eight points — and dominating on the glass, 39-27. It was the first time the Hawks had been out-rebounded all season.
But that was the kind of night it was for South Hamilton. Uncharacteristic. Choppy. Frustrating.
“I thought we’d come out and play loose basketball, but it was just the opposite,” South Hamilton head coach Nathan Hill said. “Those things are just so hard to predict.”
Conner Hill did everything in his power to give South Hamilton a chance and the senior point guard nearly pulled off the improbable.
With nerves getting the better of the majority of the starters, Hill took over from the opening minute of the game on his way to 29 points, four rebounds, three steals and two assists.
Hill scored 11 of South Hamilton’s first 12 points, was the only player with a field goal over the initial 9 minutes and 45 seconds, and had 20 points by the intermission.
“I knew I could take my guy off the dribble because they were playing us man-to-man,” Conner Hill said. “I knew the gaps where there and if I just got downhill and made good decisions, I could keep us in the game.”
Hill did exactly that.
The two teams were knotted at 28 at the half. Hill connected on 7 of 12 shots over the opening 16 minutes, but the rest of the team was just 2 of 15.
“We just weren’t playing loose like we usually do,” Conner Hill said. “We were so stiff the whole night and just too anxious to get to that (championship game).”
Boyden-Hull opened the third quarter on a 7-2 run and South Hamilton was forced to play catch up the rest of the way.
Doran Lutjen again gave the Hawks a huge lift off the bench. He took some of the pressure off Conner Hill’s shoulders by ripping off nine points over the final three minutes of the third quarter.
Lutjen buried a jumper early in the fourth to tie the game at 46, and 50 seconds later Conner Hill canned a 3 from the left wing to give South Hamilton its first and only lead of the second half, 49-46.
And then the Hawks went quiet.
Boyden-Hull reeled off 11 of the next 13 points and held South Hamilton without a field goal for 4:40, as the Comets moved in front by as many as six, 57-51.
A Quinton Grove 3 from the corner pulled the Hawks within three, and Logan Peters’ only field goal of the game — a trey from the same corner — made it a one-point game with 53 ticks remaining.
Boyden-Hull pushed its lead to three on free throws by Keyton Moser and Andrew Frick.
Hill brought the ball down the floor looking for the tie as the clock moved under 10 seconds. He started on the left wing, weaved to the top of the key and then drifted to the right before he let the final shot fly.
Moser led the Comets with 19 points on a nearly perfect night offensively. He was 7 of 7 from the field, including 2 of 2 from behind the arc. He made 3 of 5 free throws.
Beau De Jongh added 11 points and Spencer Te Slaa added 10.
Lutjen was the only other South Hamilton player in double figures with 11 points. Grove added seven.
Boyden-Hull limited Peters (five), Cole Berg (five) and Cade Balvanz (two) to a combined 12 points. They entered the contest averaging 38.
The dream of capturing the school’s first state basketball championship won’t be realized, but Lutjen says the players have to push that heartbreak aside for the time being.
“It has to be gone right when we hit the hotel tonight. It has to be about (the third-place game),” he said. “This is a bad taste, but it will push us harder. We want to be known as the team that gave it our all.”
Nathan Hill said he shared similar words with his players in the locker room immediately after the loss.
“How do you want to be remembered?” Nathan Hill said he asked his players. “We can hang our heads or we can go out and see what we’re made of. We have the opportunity to play one more game and most guys around the state would give anything for that opportunity.”
Boyden-Hull 62, South Hamilton 59
Class 2A State Semifinal
At Wells Fargo Arena
Boyden-Hull (24-2) — Brett Van Der Wilt 3 0-0 8, Carter Francis 0 1-2 1, Beau De Jongh 2 6-12 11, Spencer Te Slaa 4 1-3 10, Keyton Moser 7 3-5 19, Josh Heitritter 3 1-1 8, Andrew Frick 2 1-2 5, Tanner Te Slaa 0 0-1 0. Totals: 21 13-26 62.
South Hamilton (22-2) — Cole Berg 2 0-0 5, Logan Peters 1 2-6 5, Quinton Grove 2 2-2 7, Conner Hill 10 7-8 29, Cade Balvanz 1 0-0 2, Carter Hewitt 0 0-0 0, Sam Lewis 0 0-0 0, Doran Lutjen 5 1-2 11. Totals: 21 12-18 59.
Boyden-Hull 16 12 18 16 — 62
S. Hamilton 14 14 16 15 — 59
3-point field goals — B-H 7 (Van Der Wilt 2, Moser 2, De Jongh, S. Te Slaa, Heitritter); SH 5 (Hill 2, Berg, Peters, Grove). Rebounds — B-H 39, SH 27 (Peters 7). Steals — B-H 2, SH 9 (Hill 3). Assists — B-H 9, SH 5 (Hill 2). Turnovers — B-H 21, SH 11. Team fouls — B-H 14, SH 21. Fouled out — SH: Peters.