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Iowa high school girls basketball state tournament: Waukee holds off Ankeny Centennial for third time

Johnston, Cedar Falls and Dowling advance to semifinals
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DES MOINES, IOWA – Many say that beating a team three times in a season is extremely difficult. That was the case Monday at the Iowa Girls State Tournament as Waukee held off Ankeny Centennial 46-44 at Wells Fargo Arena. 

The Warriors beat the Jaguars by a combined 21 points in their two previous meetings by scores of 51-37 at Centennial on Dec. 15 and 60-53 on Jan. 23 at home. But this battle between the 4 vs. 5 seeds came down to the final seconds.

Waukee led by as many as 10 points twice in the third quarter, but the Jaguars had their chances to steal a victory at the end, but Mya Crawford’s driving runner down the right side of the lane was off the mark. Teammate Ava Martin snared the offensive rebound and dribbled out of traffic to the wing, but her pass was deflected about 1-2 seconds before the final horn sounded.

Waukee knocked off Ankeny Centennial for the third time this season. (Photo by Chris Short)

Waukee knocked off Ankeny Centennial for the third time this season. (Photo by Chris Short)

“It was a great look at the basket,” said Centennial coach Scott DeJong, who’s the winningest active coach in the state with 699 victories. “We’ll have Mya take that shot every time. If we’re down 10 more times, we’d have her take that shot 10 times because she’s gonna make it.”

The fourth quarter was a defensive grind for both teams. Waukee held a 40-30 lead midway through the third quarter when Mara Yokiel hit a runner. The Jaguars clawed back to within 42-37 at the quarter break.

Centennial then scored seven of the first eight points of the fourth quarter to take a 44-43 lead with 2:54 left in the game as Jaeden Pratt scored back-to-back spinning bank shots in the lane.

Pratt, an Illinois State signee, finished with a game-high 22 points, but it wasn’t easy as she was held to 7 of 17 from the field. She worked hard though and was able to score eight points at the free-throw line.

“She’s a competitor,” DeJong said. “When it gets tough, she’s good. She competed hard, and I’m really proud of the effort she had, along with the rest of the kids.”

“My teammates got me the ball whenever they had the chance,” Pratt said. “Just me trying to draw fouls is all I can do. Whenever we can execute our plays, there’s no trick. That’s what got me those shots and got me to the free-throw line.”

The Warriors showed grit after falling behind in a game they led since midway through the second quarter. They were unable to score a basket in the final period, scoring just four points on free throws in the final 10 minutes of play. Their last basket of the game came on a driving layup by Northern Illinois recruit Sophia Hope with 2:07 left in the third quarter.

Trailing 44-43, Yokiel calmly sank two free throws with 1:22 left to give Waukee the lead back.

Finley Blackmore’s shot from about 10 feet in the middle of the lane rolled in and out for Centennial with 1:02 left.

“The one before rolled in and out,” DeJong said. “That’s just how close it was.”

Gentry Williams sank one of two free throws for her only point of the game with 44.3 seconds left to give Waukee a two-point lead.

Sophia Hope had nine points to go with 13 rebounds and two blocked shots – both game highs.

The Warriors held a 33-26 edge on the boards, while shooting 45.7 percent (16 of 35) from the field.

“I knew a lot of our shots weren’t falling so I was working hard to get rebounds,” Hope said.

Waukee struggled early, falling behind 10-0, but they were able to keep its poise and scored 11 straight to lead 14-12 after the first quarter.

“It’s a new court, new rims so we just had to keep shooting as much as you can, and we’ll catch fire,” said Hope, who knocked down three 3-pointers. We’re not used to that much of a crowd and how they were responding to our shots. I knew we’d get it going though.”

Dani Franklin-Printi , who’s in her third season at Waukee after collegiate stints at Mercer and Valparaiso, had to call an early timeout to stop the early Centennial onslaught.

“We called a timeout to get them to regroup a little bit,” she said. “It’s a new environment, and a lot of our kids haven’t played in this environment, which is an incredible position to be in. We just needed to get control of our emotions and realize ‘hey we’re meant to be here’.”

Waukee’s defense was phenomenal, holding the Drake commit Crawford to just seven points on 2-of-18 shooting.

“The key was our defense, especially against a team like that,” Franklin-Printi said. “We needed to get stops. That’s something we’ve been stressing really all year long, but recently we’ve emphasized it the most.”

The Warriors had a balanced scoring attack with Kirsten Hauk and Maryne Szalo hitting double figures with 10 points each. Sorensen and Hope added nine and Yokiel seven.

Nobody besides Pratt was able to reach double digits for Centennial as Tillie Smith was next with eight points. Crawford pulled down a team-high nine rebounds.

Centennial returns everyone off a team that went 14-9, while Waukee improves to 19-4 and will face nationally ranked and unbeaten Johnston in the semifinals Thursday at 10 a.m.

Johnston rolls past Valley

Top-ranked and undefeated Johnston flexed its muscle in a 60-31 bowout win over West Des Moines Valley in the state tournament opener.

The Dragons, ranked 19th in the nation by SB Live/Sports Illustrated Girls Basketball Rankings, scored the last eight points to take an 18-7 lead after the first quarter as Aaliyah Riley and Iowa State recruit Aili Tanke knocked down back-to-back 3-points in the final two minutes.

Johnston led 35-19 at halftime, and Valley closed to within 36-24 on a Elise Jaeger trifecta, but that would be the closest the Tigers would get. The Dragons ended the quarter on a 12-0 run and pulled away for the 29-point victory.

The Dragons limited the Tigers to five baskets in the second half and 29.3 percent shooting for the game.

Jenica Lewis led all scorers with 18 points and Tanke hit double figures with 10. Both players also grabbed five rebounds. Amani Jenkins contributed nine points and snared seven boards, and Riley also had nine points.

Johnston made 48.9 percent of its shots, outscoring Valley 30-16 in the paint and 23-2 off 21 turnovers.

Valley, which ends the season at 13-11, was led by Tylee Weite with 12 points and Jaeger had eight points and a team-high nine rebounds.

The Dragons (24-0) move on to face Waukee at 10 a.m. Thursday. They beat the Jaguars 72-54 and 72-59 earlier this season.

Cedar Falls upsets Davenport North

Grace Knutson poured in 34 points to lead No. 7 seed Cedar Falls to an upset victory over second-seeded Davenport North.

The Drake signee knocked down eight 3-pointers and played all 32 minutes. She was 12 for 23 from the field overall.

The Wildcats got a huge performance from junior Divine Bourrage with 24 points and 11 rebounds in front of South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley, who was in attendance. The 5-star recruit made nine of 14 shots and knocked down four of her five 3-point attempts. She also handed out a team-high four assists.

The Tigers got 17 points, six assists and five rebounds from Karis Finley, and Grace Hannam had a solid game with eight points on 4-of-5 shooting and a game-high 12 rebounds.

North also got a 20-point, six-rebound performance from Makayla Farnum and a 12-point, seven-board effort from Kyra Taylor.

The game was tight throughout with 10 ties and 16 lead changes. With the score tied at 63 with under two minutes left, Knutson knocked down a 3-pointer to give the Tigers the lead for good. She also hit another trey and sank two free throws down the stretch.

North, which lost Iowa commit Journey Houston in late January to a knee injury, finishes the season with a 22-3 record.

Dowling holds off defending champions 

A champion doesn’t go down without a fight, and that’s what third-seed West Des Moines Dowling found out in the final quarterfinal game.

The Maroons held off multiple six-seeded Pleasant Valley comeback attempts to advance with a 53-48 victory.

The Spartans trailed by just three points and came up with a pair of steals in the final 22 seconds but turned it immediately back over both times – through no fault of their own. Jessie Clemons stole the ball on a harassing press near the sideline in front of the PV bench but was whistled for stepping out of bounds. Moments later Haley Asselin dove for a loose ball in the lane in front of the basket but was unable to find a teammate, and Dowling’s Layla Trytten stole it back as Asselin was desperately trying to find a teammate while lying on the ground.

Ava Zediker then iced it with two free throws with 8 seconds left. The Creighton commit scored a game-high 29 points on 8-of-11 shooting, which included burying four 3-pointers, and knocking down 9 of 10 free throws.

Katelyn Muller chipped in with 15 points, including two huge 3-pointers in the fourth quarter after PV closed a 41-29 Dowling lead to just 43-39 after three quarters with a 10-0 run.

The Spartans’ feisty backcourt of Clemons and Reagan Pagniano scored 16 and 12 points respectively. Drake recruit Quinn Vice, captain of last year’s all-tournament team, was held to eight points on 4-of-12 shooting.

Dowling (20-4) moves on to face Cedar Falls at 11:45 a.m. Thursday, while PV’s season ends at 19-5.

--Chris Short | @SBLiveIA