DES MOINES – Down 14 with less than 10 minutes remaining, Sioux City North found its shooting eye.
In a span of 5:15, the Stars drilled five 3-pointers, two each by sophomores Daniel Tillo and Xavier Scarlett, and one by Deontre Dean, who capped a 20-6 run by tying the game at 45 with 3:20 left.
But just as quickly as North’s magic appeared, it vanished.
The unrated, fifth-seeded Tigers scored 12 of the game’s final 13 points and pulled away for a 57-46 Class 4-A state quarterfinal basketball victory over the fourth-seeded, seventh-rated Stars Wednesday at Wells Fargo Arena.
“We’ve been in a lot of situations this year where they’ve been down and out,” North first-year coach Cody Fisher said. “Even to beat East to get to state. We got down two after leading the whole game. They showed their heart there, they’ve shown their heart countless times this year. I knew they weren’t going to give up.”
But in its last seven possessions, North (21-3) committed three turnovers, made 1 of 2 free throws and missed all five of its 3-point shots.
With its starting lineup averaging a shade over 6-foot-5, Cedar Falls’ defense eventually won out. The Tigers (20-4) allowed just 44.4 points per game this season to rank seventh in Class 4-A. On Wednesday they blocked 10 shots, well over their average of 3.7.
“They were huge,” Fisher said. “In the beginning, I think we kind of let that affect how we attacked the rim. Guys were adjusting to certain shots, instead of just taking it strong to the hole and being the aggressor.”
For most of the final three quarters, Cedar Falls played a box-and-one defense, faceguarding Tillo wherever he went. The 6-4 Tillo entered as the 4-A tournament leader in points (22.9), rebounds (12.4) and 3-pointers (57). When he did get the ball, he was almost always met by a second defender. Tillo still managed 14 points and eight rebounds.
“Tillo’s a great player,” Cedar Falls coach Tom Bardal said. “He’s a sophomore and he’s going to have a lot of college recruiters following him.”
Cedar Falls got a lift in the second half by 6-4 senior Kalehl Brown. He poured in 19 of his game-high 23 after the break, hitting 8 of 9 shots.
“We knew they were going to come out and give us their best shot in the second half,” Brown said. “We wanted to make sure we matched that high energy and intensity.”
With 1:30 left, North’s Dean split a pair of free throws to cut it to 49-46. But Iowa football recruit Isaac Boettger scored inside off a set play out of a timeout, and then Tillo missed a deep 3. Brown’s two free throws made it 53-46 with 52 seconds left, and North didn’t score again.
Dean, Scarlett and Carlos Elizalde all added nine points for North, which was making its 10th state appearance and first in five years. The Stars had just one senior on their roster, reserve Ramiro Garcia.
“This is a great learning experience, just kind of realizing the level that we have to get to to play with teams like this,” Fisher said.
Cedar Falls shot 64.7 percent from the field while North shot 30.2 percent. After their first state win in 26 years, the Tigers will meet top-rated, second-seeded Bettendorf (24-0) in Friday’s 1:30 p.m. semifinal.
North’s Fisher said he heard from legendary former coach Tom Goodman prior to the game. Goodman directed the Stars to four straight state appearances, including three straight semifinals, from 1980 to ’83.
“He told me that some of his players were taking time out of their day to listen to us on the radio and be reminded of the glory days of North,” Fisher said. “That kind of humbles you, but at the same time we can’t be satisfied with this, because if we’re going to be satisfied with it, we’re not going to go anywhere next year.”
Cedar Falls (20-4) ................. 12 15 12 18—57
Sioux City North (22-2) ................. 12 6 13 15—46
CF: Kalehl Brown 10-14 3-7 23, Kalund Brown 2-4 1-2 5, Isaac Boettger 5-7 0-0 10, Zach Harvey 1-1 1-2 3, Keeon Johnson 3-5 5-8 13, Jake Nichols 0-0 0-0 0, Jared Deines 0-1 0-1 0, Brandon Bardal 1-2 0-0 3, Alec Braun 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 22-34 10-20 57.
SCN: Carlos Elizalde 3-10 2-4 9, Deontre Dean 2-10 3-6 9, Faris Najdawi 2-5 0-0 4, Matt Bennett 0-5 0-0 0, Daniel Tillo 6-14 0-1 14, Xavier Scarlett 3-4 1-2 9, Robert Neustrom 0-4 0-2 0, Liam Bald 0-1 1-2 1. Totals 16-53 7-17 46.
3-point goals: CR 3-6 (Johnson 2-3, Bardal 1-2, Kalu. Brown 0-1), N 7-19 (Scarlett 2-3, Dean 2-4, Tillo 2-8, Elizalde 1-4). Total fouls: CF 17, N 16. Fouled out: none. Technical fouls: none. Rebounds: CF 33 (Kalu. Brown 10), N 27 (Tillo, Neustrom 8). Assists: CF 18 (Kalu. Brown 9), N 8 (Scarlett 3). Steals: CF 5 (Kalu. Brown 2), N 8 (Najdawi 3). Turnovers: CF 15, N 9.
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