The Van Meter Bulldogs played the Pella Christian Eagles in the first round of State Basketball Tournament on Tuesday, Mar. 8.
The Bulldogs season ended with a 23-2 record when the Eagles won 52-49 in overtime.
“First of all, I have to give props to Pella Christian, I want to congratulate them on the big win,” said Coach Jed Alexander. “They were the only loss we had during the regular season. It was good for us to see that we could play with top teams in the state. Their competition night in and night out is probably the top in the state. Four teams in their conference are in the tournament and they won their conference. We know Pella Christian is good, we saw that we can play with them that first night. We understood what it was going to take this time around and we took it all the way to the wire here.”
The Eagles began the game with the ball, but quickly turned it over to the Bulldogs. The first point went on the board when Eagle David Kacmarynski fouled Jack Trudo. Trudo was given two free throws, but only made one.
The Bulldogs were up 3-0 after Ryan Schmitt made the first field goal of the game. After another trip down the court, Eagles’ Levi Jungling was able to tie up the score with a three pointer.
With a foul called against the Bulldogs, a free throw made by Alex Pringle allowed the Eagles to have their first lead of the game.
Two more field goals, and the Bulldogs were back up 7-4.
The quarter ended with the Eagles scoring one more field goal and the Bulldogs’ Ian Abrahamson making a free throw. The score at the end of the first quarter was 8-6 with the Bulldogs leading.
Schmitt scored the first two points of the second quarter for the Bulldogs. With a few more possessions, the Bulldogs were back on defense and Graham Howerzyl was shooting a field goal for the Bulldogs. Howeryl’s basket went through the gap, went back down for two points.
The two point spread continued until there was only two and a half minutes left of the half. Abrahamson shot a three pointer that finally put the Bulldogs up five points and the scoreboard read 15-10.
“Ian has done a great job for us, made a lot of big moves for us this year,” said Alexander. “You bring a kid off the bench and double check that he’s a freshman, he was the reason we probably got a couple of our bigger wins this season. We like that coming off the bench, he’s that spark that a lot of times we depend on.”
The Bulldogs continued this lead into the half after J.J. Durflinger made a three pointer to end the half with a score of 20-14. With 11 points, Durflinger was the Bulldogs’ second-leading scorer of the game. He made one field goal and three three pointers. He also led the Bulldogs with three assists.
The Eagles came out strong the second half. The first two points on the board came after a foul was called against Bulldogs Grant Johnson which allowed Jungling to score two free throws.
Jungling’s free throws were just the beginning of the Eagles’ scoring streak. The Eagles were up 24-20 before the Bulldogs could put the ball through the hoop.
Trudo had the first two points of the third quarter for the Bulldogs. This field goal took nearly half of the quarter to finally make.
Now it was the Bulldogs’ turn to score. Unlike the Eagles, the Bulldogs only put up five points, but it was just enough to put them ahead. The score was 27-24 when Pringle tied up the score once more at 27-27.
At the buzzer, Abrahamson scored a field goal that put the Bulldogs back up two points, 29-27.
Abrahamson was the Bulldogs’ leading scorer at state. He finished the game with 12 points from four field goal, one three pointer and one free throw.
It took a minute and a half before a shot went in on the fourth quarter; the shot was made by Durflinger. It only took one trip down the court for Kacmarynski to make his own field goal for the Eagles and lessen the gap to three points again.
The Eagles gained the lead again at 34-32 when Pringle made a basket, but Trudo was able to tie it up with free throws on the following possession.
Soon, Schmitt went up for a basket and was fouled by Eagle Kade Vander Molen. Schmitt’s basket was good and Vander Molen’s foul allowed him one free throw. When Schmitt made his free throw, the score was tied at 37-37.
It looked as though Schmitt’s three points were going to be the last of the game for the Bulldogs as the Eagles continued to score until the scoreboard read 40-37.
Blake Fryar then scored three of his five points to end the fourth quarter 40-40; the game is going into overtime.
The Bulldogs had the first possession after the tip, and with a foul called against the Eagles, Trudo scored the first point of overtime for the Bulldogs as well.
This one point lead for the Bulldogs didn’t last long as Pringle scored another three pointer to put the score at 43-41.
The Bulldogs never regained the lead in overtime. With just under 20 seconds left, Fryar was the last one to score for the Bulldogs with a field goal that put the score at 49-51.
The final point of the game was a free throw made by Howerzyl from a foul called against Fryar. The Eagles won the game with a three point lead and a final score of 52-49.
“I’m really proud of our guys’ effort, they battled a top three team in the state,” said Alexander. “We’re a little bit new to the show this year, but we showed we belong. This group is really great to coach, and it didn’t surprise me to be here, to be honest, they keep a pretty even keel about themselves no matter the situation, whatever the plan, it’s just they know what they need to do and they get it done. They could have been a little timid going against a two-time third place team. A team that might be a favorite to win it this year and us being the first time here in 81 years, but I wasn’t worried about that with these guys.”