Skip to main content

Iowa high school girls basketball state tournament: Top two seeds Clear Creek-Amana, Waverly-Shell Rock advance to 4A final

Both teams were challenged in Thursday's semifinals

DES MOINES, IOWA – The top two seeds in the Class 4A field got scares but were able to survive and advance at the girls state tournament Thursday at Wells Fargo Arena.

Both top-seed Clear Creek Amana and two-seed Waverly-Shell Rock built double-digit second-half leads and had to hold on for dear life. The two will meet in Saturday’s state championship game at 2:30 p.m.

Clippers hold off Comets 

Clear Creek-Amana nearly saw an 11-point fourth quarter lead dissipate but was able to pull out a thrilling 50-48 victory after the Comets scored 10 straight points to close within 47-46 with 2 minutes left. 

North Polk even had a chance to take the lead in the final seconds when standout Abby Tuttle missed a 3-pointer from the corner, but the shot didn’t draw rim and landed in 6-foot-3 Becca Aagard’s hands, who went up for a contested layup. However, the rim was unkind on her putback attempt, and CCA was off to the races for a fastbreak layup by Averie Lower to go up 50-47 with 4 seconds left.

After a timeout by the Comets to stop the clock, Tuttle was then fouled on the sideline near midcourt and went to the free-throw line for two free throws. She made the all-important first one to cut it to one possession with 1.8 seconds left and intentionally missed the second shot, hoping for an offensive rebound and desperation-tying shot. The ball hit off the front of the rim and caromed to Lower was there to secure the rebound and the clock hit zero.

“We knew that they were always there and were going to come back,” said Ava Locklear, who finished with 17 points and seven rebounds. “It was tight but we were never scared to lose. We were playing to win.”

CCA coach PJ Sweeney knew that North Polk wouldn’t go away easily after Averie Lower made a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 6:18 left to put the Clippers up 47-36.

“I felt pretty good at that point, but North Polk is a tremendous team and kept on battling and fighting, and they got right back in it,” said Sweeney, who’s in his 10th year at CCA. “It was a dog fight. I kept telling everyone, ‘It’s probably going to come down to the last couple possessions’ and that’s what happened. I guess we made one more stop than they did, and we got the win.”

The Comets are no strangers to gut-wrenching losses, falling in an overtime heartbreaker in last season's state championship. They were able to avenge that loss against Dallas Center-Grimes in the quarterfinals,

“Our team is gutty,” said North Polk coach Clint Albertsen. “I was confident we would make a comeback even when we got down 11. That’s the type of grit we showed all year.

“We made things hard for them, both teams made some plays. There’s a lot of luck to this game and how the ball bounces.”

Clear Creek Amana got a nice game from Lower with 16 points and seven rebounds, and Bliss Beck pulled down 10 rebounds, snaring six on the offensive end.

North Polk was led in scoring by Campbell Schulz and UNI commit Tuttle with 15 points apiece.

Aagard pulled down a team-high eight rebounds and Kaylee Koudelka grabbed seven off the bench for the Comets, which outrebounded the Clippers 38-27.

There were six ties and four lead changes in a highly contested first half. North Polk held the biggest lead at 28-23 on a Lauren Asuborn layup at the one-minute mark. Locklear converted a three-point play with 38.4 seconds left to cut the Comet lead to 28-26 at halftime.

The Clippers caught fire to start the third quarter, scoring the first 10 points as four different players scored, including back-to-back trifectas from Lower and Kaylee Stratton. They later went on to lead by 10 before Kaylee Koudelka rained in a corner 3 with 10 seconds left to make it a 43-36 game after three quarters.

CCA – ranked No. 6 in SB Live’s all-class top 25 – took their biggest lead of the game 47-36 when Lower sank a 3-pointer from the top of the key at the 6:18 mark of the fourth quarter.

The Comets came storming back sparked by a five-point possession to cut it to 47-44. Fayth Sullivan was fouled on a 3-pointer, sank the first two, missed the third and Tuttle got the rebound and knocked down a 3-pointer with 2:47 left.

They closed to within one on two free throws by Schulz at the 2 minute mark and cut it to 48-47 when Tuttle made the second free throw with 1:04 left.

“They had some opportunities, and we had some opportunities,” said Sweeney, who picked up his 150th win in the quarterfinal victory over Gilbert. “When push came to shove our girls made some plays at the end.”

North Polk – ranked 14 in SB Live’s all-class top 25 – finished the season 23-3.

“You get to the final four of the tournament, you’re in a game that’s right there against a really good team that has a bunch of weapons.” Albertsen said. “I’m very proud of this group.”

Meanwhile, the Clippers will have a day to rest before facing Waverly-Shell Rock.

“We’re so ecstatic to be here and to have a chance to take the title home on Saturday,” Locklear said.

Go-Hawks will go for state title

The second game was almost a duplicate of the first semifinal. Waverly-Shell Rock also built an 11-point second half lead, saw Sioux City Heelan Catholic storm back but was able to pull out the victory at the end.

The Go-Hawks led by 11 twice in the third quarter in a low-scoring game – the latest coming at 31-20 on a 3-pointer by freshman Lizzy Frazell at the 3:23 mark.

Bishop Heelan – ranked ninth in SB Live’s all-class top 25 – went on an 8-0 run to end the third period trailing only 31-28. It was eventually able to pull even when Melina Snoozy sank three free throws after getting fouled on a 3-point attempt with 3:30 left in the game.

Waverly-Shell Rock's Emma Thompson grabs a rebound against Bishop Heelan during a Class 4A state tournament semifinal game at Wells Fargo Arena on Thursday. (Photo by Ryan Timmerman)

Waverly-Shell Rock's Emma Thompson grabs a rebound against Bishop Heelan during a Class 4A state tournament semifinal game at Wells Fargo Arena on Thursday. (Photo by Ryan Timmerman)

The Go-Hawks, ranked 21st in SB Live’s all-class top 25, didn’t make a basket in the final 5:21 after Katelyn Eggens made a jumper. But they were able to make 8 of 12 free throws and finished the game scoring six of the game’s final eight points to break open a 35-all tie.

A state qualifier the past three seasons, WSR coach Greg Bodensteiner will have an opportunity to play for a title in his 17th season.

“I knew we had a really good team, but this was hard,” he said. “I think maybe what makes it even a little bit more rewarding is all the stuff that we had to fight through. We're going to turn our attention to Saturday after we get to enjoy this one tonight.”

The Crusaders forced Waverly-Shell Rock into 23 turnovers – many coming on a harassing full-court press in the second half. But they couldn’t capitalize, only scoring 14 points off turnovers. They made just 2 of 16 shots in the fourth quarter – a dismal 12.5 percent.

“We made a run and had a lot of energy,” said coach Darron Koolstra, who’s in his 10th state tournament in 14 seasons at Heelan. “Typically your energy feeds off made baskets and that gets you pumped. But we weren't making shots, and we still had a lot of energy, and that says something about our team and the effort that they gave.

“It just didn't go in the hoop. We tried a lot of things, and it just just wouldn't go in. I thought we got good looks. We only had 14 points off turnovers, so the 23 turnovers didn't lead to baskets like they typically do for us. I thought we had some good looks, but we settled for three sometimes when we should have been going to the hoop a little bit more. Their physicality took us a little out of our game.”

“None of our shots were falling, and we just couldn’t get over the hump,” said Snoozy. “It’s frustrating, but I'm just proud of our energy and our hard work on defense.”

The Go-Hawks’ 36-26 rebounding advantage was also a factor.

“When you have 23 turnovers and can win a game, you did some other something else really well,” Bodensteiner said. “We defended and rebounded at a high level, and that gave us a chance. You can't replicate their press in practice. I mean you just can't with their length, their athleticism, their rotations, and their speed.”

Western Illinois signee Katelyn Eggena led the Go-Hawks with 16 points and four assists.

“My coaches and teammates were able to trust me to get it done, and if I didn't make it or wasn't open, they got the job done for us so I’m pretty happy with that,” she said.

Sydney Bienemann pulled down 15 rebounds, including six on the offensive end, and had three steals. Emma Thompson scored nine points and grabbed six boards and Frazell had a good all-around game with eight points, four rebounds, three blocks and two steals.

Unfortunately, Frazell appeared to turn her ankle in the final seconds of the game on a collision in the lane and was had to be helped off the court.

“I don’t know a darn thing,” he said. “I wish she could’ve walked off the floor on her own. Lizzy’s a tough kid, and I’m guessing she’ll be out there Saturday. We’re lucky to have a freshman like her.”

Heelan (23-2), had two players score in double figures as Snoozy pumped in 15 and Brooklyn Stanley had 10 points to go with a team-high six rebounds, three steals and two assists.

The Go-Hawks improve to 25-0 and will face another 25-0 team for the title.

“I’m just excited about the opportunity that we get a chance to play on Saturday,” Bodensteiner said. “It says it all for this team and this program, and I’m really happy for these kids.”

--Chris Short | @SBLiveIA