Hawks denied 4th consecutive state appearance by Pella Christian
Eagles go on 19-2 first-half run to take control, SH stymied by poor shooting
MARSHALLTOWN — Cade Balvanz had an entourage waiting for him just steps outside of the South Hamilton locker room Saturday night. There were hugs, handshakes and photos taken, and all of it eventually put a smile on his face.
Quinton Grove had his people there too. He was wrapped in a hug that, for a moment anyway, took the pain away.
This was foreign territory to the seniors and four-year varsity contributors. Losing a postseason game away from the state tournament just felt, well, weird.
“It’s different and I’m not used to it,” Grove said following South Hamilton’s 52-30 loss to a bigger and, quite frankly, better Pella Christian team in the Class 2A Substate 7 final inside the Roundhouse. “It’s really hard to take right now. The sun will come up tomorrow and it will be a new day, but right now it hurts and it’s going to hurt for a while.”
Balvanz and Grove stepped onto the floor 90 minutes earlier hoping they could lead the Hawks to a fourth consecutive state tournament appearance. But Pella Christian had other ideas, and over 32 minutes of action the Eagles were just better. It’s really not any more complicated than that.
“It’s tough because I don’t know what it’s like to stop here,” Balvanz said, referring to the substate round. “We were one step away, just a couple things didn’t go our way, and it ends right here. It’s tough to know what to do or say.”
A 19-2 run that covered portions of the first and second quarters put Pella Christian (13-10) in the driver’s seat, and the Eagles punctuated the 22-point victory with a 12-0 spurt midway through the fourth period.
That roughly 10-minute stretch in which Pella Christian outscored South Hamilton 31-2 was simply too much — way, way too much — to overcome.
“When you get down like that, it’s always tough to come back, especially in a game like this,” the 6-foot-5 Balvanz said after he led the Hawks with seven points and five rebounds against a tree-lined Pella Christian frontcourt that included 6-9 Josh Van Gorp, 6-7 Isaiah Gritters, 6-6 Eric Mulder and 6-5 Ryan Vande Haar. “We fought, but we just didn’t get over the hump.”
South Hamilton (15-8) did what it wanted defensively. It slowed the high-octane Eagles and limited Van Gorp to just 12 points, more than four points below his average. Pella Christian, which averages 66.9 points per game on the season, had just 23 at the intermission.
The problem was that the Hawks simply couldn’t score amongst the trees. It took a late second-quarter 7-0 flurry, five of them coming from Balvanz, just to get into double digits and trim the Eagles’ edge to 10 at the break.
“Defensively we played about as well as we could and it’s an effort I’m very proud of,” South Hamilton head coach Matt Juber said. “If we hit some shots, especially in the first half, it’s a different game. But I felt like we couldn’t buy a bucket. It didn’t matter if it was from four feet, or 10 feet, or 20 feet. It was just one of those nights.”
Yes it was.
South Hamilton shot just 31 percent overall (13 of 42) and only 9 percent from behind the arc (1 of 11). The Hawks missed their first nine 3-point attempts before Doran Lutjen finally ended the futility from the top of the key with 5:12 remaining in regulation. Lutjen added a free throw 42 seconds later to trim Pella Christian’s margin to 10, 37-27.
And then the wheels fell off the bus.
Six straight South Hamilton turnovers and seven over the final four minutes erased any chance it had of mounting a comeback. Pella Christian took advantage and reeled off the 12 straight points. The Eagles outscored the Hawks 15-3 over the final four minutes.
“I can’t fault my kids,” Juber said. “They battled and gave me everything they had, but the physical difference between the two teams played a big part in it. I knew it was probably going to be a factor, but I figured if we could make some shots then we could hang. Unfortunately they just didn’t go down.”
Dan Jungling and Keean Cadwell joined Van Gorp in double figures for the Eagles; both finished with 10 points.
Grove and Lutjen both scored six points in their final prep performances. Carter Hewitt came off the bench to provide five points and Austin Busch tallied four on a pair of first-quarter mid-range jumpers.
South Hamilton actually owned a 29-23 rebounding advantage; Busch collected a team-high seven caroms, one more than Lutjen.
The final chapter wasn’t in any script Balvanz ever envisioned, but he still walked away with no regrets.
“I’m really proud of our guys because no one really gave us a chance this year,” he said. “We really came together as a team and decided we were going to keep the tradition going. It ended at substate, but I’d still call that a successful season.”
Juber sent a similar message to his team in a long, emotional post-game meeting.
“You don’t always end up where you want in life, but if you refuse to give in and you get back up and fight, that’s the mentality that gets you places in life,” Juber said. “The kids in that locker room, they’ve got character. Lots of times this season they could have folded up their tent and went home, but they kept fighting for me, for each other and for themselves. The run we made in the postseason is because they came together.
“They wanted it. It just wasn’t meant to be.”
South Hamilton has now played in five consecutive substate finals and six in the last seven seasons.
Pella Christian 52, South Hamilton 30
Class 2A Substate 7 Final
Saturday at Marshalltown
South Hamilton (15-8) — Brock Galetich 0 0-0 0, Carter Hewitt 2 1-2 5, Tycin Barkema 0 0-0 0, Sam McNally 0 0-0 0, Doran Lutjen 2 1-2 6, Ty Skartvedt 0 0-0 0, Austin Busch 2 0-0 4, Quinton Grove 3 0-0 6, Kyler Hodnefield 1 0-0 2, Nic Flaugh 0 0-0 0, Cade Balvanz 3 1-2 7, Cade Flaugh 0 0-0 0. Totals: 13 3-6 30.
Pella Christian (13-10) — Levi Scheelhaas 1 0-0 3, Keean Cadwell 4 1-3 10, Dan Jungling 4 0-0 10, Bryant Agre 0 0-0 0, Jack Vermeer 0 2-2 2, Jase Amelse 0 0-0 0, Bradyn Zula 0 0-0 0, Ryan Vande Haar 3 0-1 6, Jack Anderson 0 0-0 0, Luke Mulder 0 0-0 0, Eric Mulder 2 0-0 4, Isaiah Gritters 2 1-2 5, Caden Van Dyke 0 0-0 0, Josh Van Gorp 5 2-2 12. Totals: 21 6-10 52.
S. Ham. 6 7 8 9 — 30
Pel. Christ. 15 8 11 18 — 52
3-point field goals — SH 1 (Lutjen); PC 4 (Jungling 2, Cadwell, Scheelhaas). Rebounds — SH 29 (Busch 7, Lutjen 6, Balvanz 5). Steals — SH 2 (Hodnefield 2). Assists — SH 8 (Lutjen 3). Turnovers — SH 14. Team fouls — SH 10, PC 8. Fouled out — none.