DES MOINES-Coaches always say when the game is not going your way you have to find other ways to win the game.
That fact could not have been more true in the Class 2A state title game for Western Christian Friday as Erica Bousema hit two 3-pointers late in the game, and led the team in scoring with Karsyn Winterfeld, to hand the Wolfpack its first state title in four seasons in a 51-48 victory over Treynor.
Like the first two games of the state tournament, Western Christian got out to an early 10-2 lead aided by a post jump shot and a putback by Jessi DeJager. One would think the Wolfpack run would have sealed the game, but Western Christian was not thinking that.
“They are a great team. We weren’t overlooking them at all. We had to fight, because down here we have to fight every game,” said senior guard Winterfeld.
Low and behold Treynor inched its way back as a 3-pointer sparked a 12-2 run to tie the game at 14 for the start of the second quarter. That second frame started with Ashtyn Veerbeek getting her second foul and the Cardinals taking its first lead of the game at 15-14 following a free throw. Treynor then went to a 2-3 zone defense to start the second period and that strategy worked as the Cardinals pulled out to a 21-18 advantage following a 3-pointer from the left wing.
“We played our 2-3 zone very well today and we were trying to deny (Ashtyn) Veerbeek by getting a hand in her face and No. 5 (Erika Feenstra) as well,” said Treynor coach Gail Hartigan. “We were just trying to keep them out of the game and if we were going to get beat, we were going to get beat by the other players.”
Those “other” players for the Wolfpack included Janae Wynja who hit a layup off a full-court press by the Cardinals to keep the game close at 21-20. Following a travel call by the Cardinals, Western Christian claimed another lead at 22-21 with a layup from Feenstra. The two teams traded baskets for the rest of the half, but a post jumper and a putback gave the Cardinals a 27-24 edge for intermission.
Despite being down and having some nerves during that first half, Western Christian felt that all it had to do was stay calm and play a clean second half.
“He (coach Negen) just gave us time to relax. We just needed to get our breath and relax,” said Bousema. “But (ultimately) he told us we were good basketball players. We just had to take care of the ball and don’t give it up so easily (the Wolfpack had four turnovers in the first half that led to 13 Cardinal points). Then, defensively, we needed to make it hard for them.”
Western Christian had a good start to the third quarter, getting two 3-pointers from Winterfeld to take a 30-29 lead and forcing the Cardinals to signal for a timeout. Following the stall in time, the two teams traded baskets with one another before a 5-0 spurt by the Cardinals gave Treynor a 4-point edge heading into the final eight minutes of play.
Once again, despite the deficit, the Wolfpack felt good about their chances in the fourth quarter.
“We said to them at the quarter break that we are at the same place we were Monday (Feb. 27) night, because we were down 3 going into that fourth quarter,” Negen said.
He added that Western Christian’s defensive effort in the third frame also gave his team a chance to come back in the fourth.
“We did the triangle-and-2 for most of the third quarter, but in the fourth quarter we said, ‘You know what, man-to-man defense is our go-to. So we’re going to win on it or we’re going to lose on it’,” Negen said.
Both teams were slow to start the final frame, committing three-straight turnovers. But the Cardinals broke the ice on a basket for a 42-36 lead. Veerbeek then grabbed an offensive rebound and stuck the ball into the basket for a 42-38 score. Following a timeout by Western and two missed free throws by Treynor, Bousema went off from the 3-point line, hitting two-straight treys from the wings to give Western Christian a 44-42 lead and some added momentum.
“I just really had confidence (in my shots) because they were falling for me today. I just wanted to get the momentum for my team because that offense propels the defense,” Bousema said.
That lead quickly grew to 47-42 after a free throw by Winterfeld and a putback off an offensive rebound. The Cardinals countered with a layup from the post and two free-throws to make the score 47-46 with 1:14 left to play.
The Cardinals promptly got a steal and raced the other way for a possible break-away layup. The shot rolled all the way around the rim, but did not fall and the Wolfpack maintained its 1-point lead. Treynor had another chance as there was a tie-up on the rebound and the possession arrow favored the Cardinals. Treynor setup a play for a drive to the basket but the Western Christian defense was right there, forcing another jump ball and Wolfpack possession on the alternating arrow with 40.1 seconds left.
To prevent Western Christian from running out the clock, the Cardinals elected to foul Bousema and the senior guard went to the line for a one-and-one. Bousema hit the first shot but missed the second, making the score 48-46. Treynor raced down to the other end of the floor and set up a jump shot. The shot missed but the rebound went right back to Treynor which put it back in to tie the game at 48 with under 30 seconds to play.
Following a timeout by Western with 13.4 ticks on the clock, the Wolfpack inbounded the ball to Bousema. Bousema was fouled again by Treynor and she went to the line for two free throws. The Cardinals called timeout before the shots to try and ice Bousema, but she nailed both shots to give Western Christian a 50-48 edge with 13 seconds left to play.
On the ensuing possession, Treynor gave the ball right to Madelyn Deitcher. She saw an open lane to the basket but as she drove the lane she was hit by Wynja. The ref blew the whistle and the Cardinal players and fans began to cheer thinking they had tied the game and were going to the line for a bonus free throw. But the ref called a charge on Deitcher, resulting in no basket and Western Christian possession. The Wolfpack gave the ball to Veerbeek. She was sent to the line for two free throws. She hit one of the two attempts, giving Western Christian the 51-48 victory amid boos by the Treynor fans on the charge call.
Both teams felt the call could have gone either way.
“My perspective was I thought she was going to the free-throw line. I thought she scored and we were going to the free-throw line. I didn’t even think about that being a charge, actually,” Hartigan said.
“For Janae (Wynja) to step in and take that charge was awesome. That’s a call that could have gone either way, but if you ask me I thought she was in position. For her (Wynja) to even get there was awesome,” Negen said.
But Hartigan noted the charge call was not the main reason the Cardinals came out on the short end to Western Christian.
“Like I told them, refs make mistakes. However, if there is anybody in this locker room that has not made a mistake stand up now,” Hartigan said. “Because we missed a couple of free throws, we missed a couple of layups and we missed a couple of easy shots to be a lot further ahead than what we were. You can’t blame it on anyone, but Treynor people are going to think that was the wrong call. Western people are going to think it was a great call.”
The victory gave Western Christian its first state title in four years.
“We’re a state champion in volleyball and now basketball. I can’t believe it and also since, it’s by senior year, it couldn’t have gone any better,” Bousema said. “I’m still in shock. I can’t believe I’m a state champion again.
The Wolfpack were led by Bousema with 17 points and Winterfeld with 12. Feenstra had 7 and Veerbeek had 5. Negen said, due to how Treynor was defending Feenstra and Veerbeek, he was proud of his other players for stepping up and giving Western a girls’ state basketball title.
“We found a way to win and that’s what makes me proud of our girls. We did not play our strongest game of basketball by any stretch of the imagination,” Negen said. “I give their kids and fans a ton of credit. They had a great game plan for taking Ashtyn (Veerbeek) out of the game. If you would have told me that they were able to hold Ashtyn and Erika (Feenstra) to 5 and 7 (points) and we were still able to come out on top, I wouldn’t have believed it.
“So for Karsyn to knock down a couple of big ones, Erica Bousema to also do that and hit a couple of free throws and Janae to take that charge at the end, that’s a team effort,” Negen continued. “(Overall) Erika and Ashtyn really carried us through those first two games and tonight they didn’t. But it’s a five-on-five game so to have other teammates to be able to step up in big spots — wow.”
Western Christian went 19-of-41 from the field for 46.3 percent and was 7-of 19 for 36.8 percent from the 3-point arch. The Wolfpack also shot 6-of-12 for 50 percent from the free-throw line.
Points:Erica Bousema 17, Karsyn Winterfeld 12, Erika Feenstra 7, Ashtyn Veerbeek 5
Rebounds:Janae Wynja 9, Erika Feenstra 7, Ashtyn Veerbeek 5
Assists:Olivia Granstra 3, Karsyn Winterfeld 3, Erica Bousema 3
Steals:Erika Feenstra 1, Erica Bousema 1, Karsyn Winterfeld 1, Olivia Granstra 1, Janae Wynja 1
Blocks:Ashtyn Veerbeek 3, Jessi DeJager 1, Olivia Granstra 1