South Hamilton boys a win away from state bid

SOUTH HAMILTON TEAMMATES Ty Koehnk (left) and Ryland Ubben talk on the bench during the team’s Class 2A district final. (DFJ photo by Angela Hewitt)

Only one hurdle is left for the South Hamilton boys basketball team to clear.

The Hawks (18-4 overall) will face powerful Underwood (23-0) in a Class 2A substate final on Saturday night at Waukee Northwest High School. Tip is set for 7 p.m.

Head coach Matt Juber’s squad captured a district championship by rallying for a 65-57 victory over Pleasantville in Boone earlier this week. Trailing by two points heading into the fourth quarter, South Hamilton used a 23-13 advantage in that final period to pull away.

“What an emotional win,” Juber said. “A great game between two really good teams on a neutral floor, a great atmosphere, and I couldn’t be more proud of the boys for hanging tough and then finishing like we have so many times this season.

“I felt the majority of the first half we were playing from behind. We would fall down five or six points and then claw back to two or three. We really struggled to find much flow offensively in the first half. They took us out of transition, and we didn’t hit much from the outside.”

Senior Ryland Ubben had a monster game for the Hawks, scoring 30 points and grabbing 14 rebounds. Classmate Reece Ricke added 13 points, nine rebounds and five assists, with Jonathan Drake (nine points) and Owen Renaud (eight) next in line.

South Hamilton, which used all seniors in its seven-player rotation, out-rebounded Pleasantville (14-10) by a 40-29 margin and made 15 of 17 free throws.

“Reece had a couple of big buckets for us (in the first half to keep pace), and Owen and Ryland really did a good job inside converting in the paint,” Juber said. “The second half started with us being on the wrong side of a run that stretched the lead to eight. But like we have all year, the boys responded in a big way and just kept fighting.

“I just felt like if we could keep hanging and eventually take the lead, we would be in a really good position to close. We have a lot of veteran leadership, and I thought that is what really won out.”

Juber saw plenty of balance and effort in the clutch, and all of his players filled their respective roles to contribute to the victory.

“Everyone that played really made positive contributions,” Juber said. “Obviously Ryland’s 30 points were huge. Reece had a quiet 13 and maybe hit the biggest shot of the game with a three in the fourth quarter to give us a lead that we never gave back.

“One thing we haven’t really done that well all year is shoot free throws, and wow, we go 12 of 14 (at the charity stripe) in the fourth quarter to close out the game.”

The Hawks now turn their attention to the unbeaten Eagles, who are ranked fourth in 2A. Underwood is balanced, with five players — all seniors — averaging at least 9.6 points. Mason Boothby (13.4), Josh Ravlin (12.7), Owen Larsen (11.0), Jack Vanfossan (10.7) and Luke Seidler (9.6) are all capable scoring options. Vanfossan also grabs 10.3 rebounds per contest, while also dishing out 4.5 assists.

Ubben (17.6), Ricke (12.4) and fellow senior Ty Koehnk (9.9) pace South Hamilton. Ubben (9.4 rebounds) and Ricke (8.7) are both forces on the glass.

The Hawks last qualified for state in 2019, which marked a third consecutive trip to Des Moines at the time.

“The growth these boys have made as a team since November has been incredible to watch first hand,” Juber said. “I am incredibly proud of the team they have become, and I’m just so happy with how they played and how they finished giving themselves one more opportunity on Saturday night to play for what everyone wants: a trip to Des Moines.”


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