SLHS boys weather late LeMars run for win; Bishop Heelan is next
irst year Storm Lake boys basketball coach Bob Grant felt a mixture of joy and relief here Monday night after watching his Tornadoes hold off a furious LeMars rally to win a Class 3A, Region 1 quarterfinal game 58-50 at the SLHS gym.
He pumped his fist in the air several times, and that was 20 minutes after the game.
"I thought we were aggressive on offense, played outstanding defense and had a big advantage on the boards," Grant said. "Those were the keys for us; we've done those things well when we've come out on top."
With the win, the Tornadoes improved to 11-11 overall and advanced to the region semifinals. They'll meet tenth-ranked Bishop Heelan (15-7) at Sioux City North High Thursday night starting at 7 p.m.
"It's going to be another very tough game for us," Grant said, adding that his team will have some momentum going in thanks to Monday night's win.
Before the game, Grant had predicted that the game with LeMars would be "a game of runs; it's inevitable that they'll make an eight or nine point run. We just have to match that."
The Tornadoes were sharp from the outset. They led 14-13 after one quarter and increased the margin to 33-26 at the half.
"We knew we had to stay relaxed but also be aggressive," said 6-foot-6 senior Derrick Randall. "I thought we got some good looks through the first three quarters and knocked a few down. It was an intense game, just as it alway is between us and LeMars."
Storm Lake built on their lead in the third quarter, taking a 47-34 lead into the final frame.
It looked like LeMars would never make the run it needed to to stay close and have a chance at the end.
SLHS forward Aaron Clausen made a shot from underneath for a 49-36 lead with five and a half minutes left.
Finally, LeMars started playing some aggressive defense, and courtesy of top scorer Jared Clement made things scary for the Tornadoes down the stretch.
Clement scored four two-point baskets over the next 2:34 as the Bulldogs used a 12-0 run to trail by one at 49-48 with 2:46 left. A minute, 20 seconds earlier, SLHS guardAlex Spielman had fouled out.
"I'll have to say I was worried when Alex had to come out," Grant said. "Overall, I was confident the whole game that this was one we were going to win."
Added Randall: "It was tough losing Alex because he's the guy that runs the show on offense for us. Somehow, we found a way to win."
With 2:10 left, SLHS forward Jake Randolph worked hard for an offensive rebound and got the putback to up the lead to 51-48.
On the other end, LeMars' 6-4 forward Brian Borchers made a two-point shot from underneath. With just under two minutes remaining, SLHS led 51-50.
Storm Lake turned the ball over on its next possession and the Bulldogs looked to take the lead. They missed on the other end and Logan Masters was fouled.
Masters missed the front end of a one and one situation, and LeMars' Zack Strub corraled the rebound underneath the basket.
He made a short pass across the lane to a teammate, but Clausen made a heads-up interception and made an easy layup. The junior forward was fouled and made the free throw to make it a two possession game at 54-50 with 1:05 remaining.
Clement missed a three at the other end and Randall clinched it with two free throws.
"It was a huge relief to see Aaron pick off the pass and get a three-point play out of it," Randall added.
LeMars coach Dave Irwin was left to consider only what might have been.
"We just didn't finish on our shots, and we didn't get many bounces," he added. "We played great defense but we couldn't score off our stops.
"Give credit to Storm Lake; they played hard and got us in a hole early that we never got out of. We wish them luck against Heelan."
Bishop Heelen pounded Cherokee 76-57 in Sioux City Monday night to advance.
Randall had a huge game for the Tornadoes Monday, netting 23 points and nine rebounds. Spielman added 12, while Masters was held to nine points.
Clement led the Bulldogs with 23 points while Brandon Phelan and Brian Borchers each added 12.
Clausen added nine rebounds while Masters added eight boards and six assists.