A 12-point first quarter deficit left the Pella Christian girls basketball team in a hole they could never fully dig themselves out of, as the Lady Eagles’ great postseason run ended at the hands of Western Christian in a 67-57 loss Friday night in the Class 2A State Championship game.
The Wolfpack took advantage of early Pella Christian turnovers to take a 20-8 lead through the opening eight minutes, and led by as many as 15 points in the second quarter.
“We got down early, but we had a chance to get some points early as well. I thought Sami Veenstra had a good look at the first part of the game, but it didn’t go in, and Jasmin Schelhaas missed a lay-up, and then they went on a run. They [Western Christian] crashed the board really hard and got some put-backs and got us in foul trouble,” said Pella Christian girls’ head basketball coach Kevin Van Maanen.
“It seemed like we had to continue to play catch-up the whole time and just keep fighting back. I thought our kids showed a lot of heart and a lot of resilience and just kept fighting back. It seemed like whenever we’d get back in it in the second half, they’d always have an answer.”
Pella Christian got off to a strong start in the second half, forcing the Wolfpack into early turnovers and quickly taking a bite out of their lead, pulling to within two points midway through the period at 37-35. Western Christian found answers from outside, though, knocking down three-pointers to stem the Pella Christian run and push their advantage back out to 49-37 entering the fourth quarter.
There was enough gas left in the tank for another strong charge by the Lady Eagles, though, as they again rallied to pull within three points, this time making it to 52-49 with the Wolfpack still holding the lead. In the game’s final minutes, though, Western Christian continued to knock down shots – as well as free throws – while Pella Christian’s offensive push slowed.
The Wolfpack’s Brooke Wolterstorff led all players with 16 points and also pulled down 8 rebounds, and was selected to the Class 2A All-Tournament Team. Pella Christian landed two All-Tournament selections, with Christina Nolte and Jasmin Schelhaas each picking up the postseason honors. Nolte went 10-for-10 at the free-throw line in the State Championship game and finished with 14 points, while Schelhaas had 12 points. Fellow senior Tayler Stursma added 14 points and 7 rebounds, and Sami Veenstra rounded out the top scorers with 10 points for Pella Christian.
Pella Christian Activities Director – and assistant coach – Brad Engbers, said the hundreds that filled Wells Fargo Arena throughout the week dressed in maroon and white were greatly appreciated.
“I just want to really thank our fans. We had a lot of people showing up, and they did an outstanding job,” said Engbers. “Our student section is phenomenal. Those kids create energy, and there were just a lot of people out supporting Pella Christian, and we certainly appreciate that.”
The loss in the Class 2A State Finals leaves the Pella Christian girls basketball team at 23-4 to finish the 2011-12 season, which also included an outright Little Hawkeye Conference title. Western Christian ends their State Title season at 25-3 and will be the favorite to repeat next season, as all five starters for the Wolfpack were underclassmen.