Lutjen’s play off bench key in Hawks quarterfinal win
DES MOINES — South Hamilton’s crowd was rowdy throughout Monday’s Class 2A state quarterfinal basketball game against Rock Valley, but there was one moment in particular that brought the thunder from the Hawks’ side of Wells Fargo Arena.
Midway through the second half, as Rock Valley was attempting a comeback, its do-everything guard Brayton Van Kekerix sliced his way towards the basket, broke free and tossed up a shot from the right baseline.
And here came Doran Lutjen.
Coming from the other side of the lane, South Hamilton’s 6-foot reserve guard who can seemingly jump out of the gym, launched himself into the air and swatted the high-arcing shot straight to a teammate to start a fast break the other way.
Snuff you very much.
In the grand scheme, it was just one play in a game with hundreds of them. But here’s the thing — Lutjen made a bunch of those plays and he provided a pivotal role in South Hamilton’s 73-61 victory, its first win at the state tournament since 1988.
“He was huge,” Conner Hill said of Lutjen, who scored seven points, yanked down three rebounds and added an assist with his one block in 19 minutes of court time. “He just doesn’t get worked up over anything. He’s going to go out there and work his butt off at all times.”
Lutjen always factored into South Hamilton’s game plan for the quarterfinal bout, but he was thrust into an even larger role due to foul trouble that plagued starting guard Quinton Grove throughout the contest.
Grove faced the formidable task of staying in front of Van Kekerix, a powerful guard who wants to attack, attack and then attack some more. Grove picked up his second foul with two minutes remaining in the first quarter, and No. 3 came with 4:27 to go in the second. He eventually fouled out at the 2:47 mark of the fourth.
And that meant more minutes for Lutjen, who was more than ready for the challenge.
“Doran was not afraid of the moment,” South Hamilton head coach Nathan Hill said. “He did what we asked him to do and he was aggressive.”
Lutjen buried a jumper from the right elbow in the opening half and took a turn at guarding Van Kekerix. Maybe more importantly he committed just one turnover.
Perhaps his biggest contributions came late in the fourth quarter. Rock Valley knew it needed to foul and hope the Hawks missed free throws, but they didn’t want to send Conner Hill to the stripe.
And so the Rockets grabbed Lutjen whenever he touched the ball. He made them pay by burying the front end of a one-and-one to push South Hamilton’s lead to 66-58 with 1:28 remaining. Just 28 seconds later he canned two more free throws to make it a seven-point margin.
Lutjen’s minutes were sporadic throughout December and January, but when Aaron Hegland was injured against Gilbert on Feb. 2 that left a void in the Hawks’ rotation, one Lutjen has filled nicely.
“After the whole Aaron situation, (Lutjen) knew he had to be dialed in because he was going to be the next one in,” Conner Hill said. “He’s done great.”
Said Nathan Hill: “Ever since Aaron went down, every game Doran’s confidence has built and built.”
Lutjen averages 2.4 points, and shoots 50 percent from the field and 80 percent at the stripe.