Clutch free throws late in the fourth quarter helped the Pella Christian girls seal a 66-63 victory over previously unbeaten West Hancock Tuesday morning in the Class 2A State Quarterfinals in Des Moines. The two teams battled back and forth throughout all four quarters, trading the lead 11 times and tying the game 9 times. Head coach Kevin Van Maanen said the experience of last year’s overtime loss in the State Quarterfinals made his team stronger and was a key element of their success.
“We got back here [to the State Tournament] and we took advantage of it. I think it showed down the stretch. We had a lot of heart and a lot of resiliency throughout the whole game,” said Van Maanen. “West Hancock is a very good team. They just kept coming at us and we’d kind of get up and make a run, and then we’d have to withstand their run, but we made big shots to get back in it. I was just proud of the team and the heart they had this game.”
In the end, Pella Christian’s 18-of-29 performance at the free throw line proved to be a deciding advantage, as West Hancock found itself down in the game’s final minutes and eventually was forced to foul. Jasmin Schelhaas led Pella Christian at the charity stripe, as the senior knocked down 10-of-13 attempts as a big part of her team-high 17 points. Cali Vink also hit five free throws to go alongside her three 3-pointers, and tallied 14 points in the victory. Sami Veenstra led Pella Christian on the boards with 8 rebounds, and also tallied 6 points.
The victory gives the Lady Eagles a 22-3 overall record on the season, and leaves West Hancock at 25-1. Pella Christian will now face IKM-Manning – who beat Bellevue, another 25-0 squad – in the Class 2A Semifinals on Thursday at 1:45 p.m. back at Wells Fargo Arena.