CARROLL, Iowa — No one disputes that Harlan has a stable of young, talented girls basketball players.
But several of those players hadn't yet earned their stripes in a big-game situation with a season's worth of expectations weighing on them.
And so Tuesday the Cyclones at times struggled more than they would have liked. However, No. 8 Harlan broke through those mental obstacles to outlast No. 5 Perry 48-42 for a Class 4-A regional final victory at Carroll High School.
With the victory, Harlan (21-2) heads to the state tournament for the 10th time and first since 2009. The Cyclones will play No. 3 Benton Community (21-2) in a 4-A quarterfinal at 6:45 p.m. Tuesday in Des Moines.
“Physically, and basketball-wise, we're capable,” Harlan coach Zach Klaassen said. “There's a mental hurdle that we needed to get over and I think we got over it. Hopefully we can relax once we get down to Wells Fargo and play basketball like we know how to.”
In his first year as a head coach after two as an assistant, Klaassen again used nine players almost interchangeably, including two freshmen (Frederick and Jordyn Moser) and three sophomores (Taylor Wagner, Jess Schaben and Elle Kloewer). Most of the time that depth is a blessing. It can also be a curse, because Klaassen constantly is trying to find the perfect combination.
In the second half Tuesday, that combination usually included 6-foot freshman Frederick. Her powerful post moves in traffic resulted in 5-of-5 shooting after the intermission, as she scored 11 of the Cyclones' 23 points. She finished with 13.
“I'll tell you what, she was shouldering a lot of bodies down there,” Klaassen said. “She's got a nice touch and she can finish inside.
“We needed somebody to step up. I didn't necessarily know it was going to be a freshman, but we got some big buckets out of her.”
Frederick said she couldn't worry about her age because her team needed offense.
“I just went out with confidence, and it was just really fun to get out there and score some points,” she said. “It was also nice to have the guards getting the ball into me.”
Frederick sandwiched a pair of baskets around a Taylor Leinen 3-pointer to give Harlan a 44-37 lead with 5:56 remaining. But sophomore Claire Marburger scored five straight to get the Jayettes (16-7) within two with four minutes left, and it stayed that way as the clock fell below two minutes.
Both teams missed numerous opportunities in the final minutes. Wagner's two free throws put Harlan up 46-42 with 53.9 seconds left. After attacking the basket effectively at times, 10 of Perry's 14 fourth-quarter field-goal attempts came from beyond the arc. It made one.
However, Harlan couldn't put the Jayettes away. Wagner and Schaben missed front ends of one-and-ones in the final minute and the Cyclones had a couple turnovers. But Perry misfired on numerous 3s in the final 40 seconds.
“We were very nervous, as you could tell,” Klaassen said.
Liz Riessen's free throws with 2.1 seconds left accounted for the final points. Wagner joined Frederick in double figures with 10, and played a strong floor game with five assists, four rebounds and a pair of steals. Schaben pulled down a team-high nine rebounds, Kloewer added eight and senior Josie Esser added seven.
It wasn't a work of art. But Klaassen was only concerned about the result.
“We graduated four starters from last year's team and two girls coming off the bench,”
Klaassen said. “This is all new to these girls. They stepped up and they played well.”
Moments after Riessen's final free throws, the Harlan student section was sprinting to meet their players near midcourt. They had the same celebration in volleyball, one in which Frederick and several others also were a part.
“It's really exciting,” Frederick said. “It's going to be a lot of fun at state.”
Harlan (21-2)...........12 13 11 12—48
Perry (16-7)...............12 11 11 8—42
H: Liz Riessen 0-3 4-4 4, Hannah Havick 0-1 1-2 1, Taylor Wagner 3-9 4-7 10, Elle Kloewer 1-7 4-4 6, Josie Esser 3-8 1-2 7, Jess Schaben 2-5 0-1 4, Taylor Leinen 1-3 0-0 3, Jordyn Moser 0-3 0-0 0, Taylor Frederick 6-10 1-2 13. Totals: 16-49 15-22 48.
P: Maggie Lowe 4-14 0-2 9, Claire Marburger 3-18 7-10 14, Becca Miner 1-3 0-0 2, Frankie Eklund 4-9 0-0 8, Amy Marckres 0-1 0-0 0, Julie Diw 3-10 0-0 7, Ashley Davis 1-1 0-0 2. Totals: 16-56 7-12 42.
3-point goals: H 1-12 (Leinen 1-3, Havick 0-1, Kloewer 0-1, Esser 0-1, Riessen 0-3, Wagner 0-3), P 3-20 (Marburger 1-5, Diw 1-7, Lowe 1-7, Miner 0-1). Total fouls: H 10, P 18. Fouled out: Eklund, Marckres. Technical fouls: none. Rebounds: H 40 (Schaben 9), P 30 (Marburger 10). Assists: H 8 (Wagner 5), P 8 (Lowe 4). Steals: H 3 (Wagner 2), P 7 (Eklund 3). Turnovers: H 15, P 9.
Contact the writer:
402-444-1055, firstname.lastname@example.org, twitter.com/KWhiteOWH