DES MOINES — Nate Kloewer recently learned a lesson in humility.
After a violation of the school’s good-conduct policy, the Harlan senior missed the final two regular-season games and the first two postseason games, sliding from basketball starter to scout-team member.
With time running out Thursday, Kloewer forged a more positive destiny for his final season. Not finding anyone open, the 6-foot-2 guard drove the right baseline and banked in a hanging layup in traffic to give the Cyclones a 43-42 lead with 14 seconds left. It stood as the 15th and final lead change in unrated Harlan’s thrilling 45-42 Class 3-A state semifinal victory over No. 9 MOC-Floyd Valley at Wells Fargo Arena.
“I just thought, you know, it’s open, I might as well take it,” Kloewer said. “I just wanted to finish and get the points. I can’t even describe what it felt like after I made that shot. It’s just unbelievable.”
The win moves the eighth-seeded Cyclones (20-6) into the 3-A title game for the sixth time, all in the last 16 years under coach Mitch Osborn. Harlan, which lost three straight at one point this season, will meet fifth-rated, third-seeded Waverly-Shell Rock (22-4) in Saturday’s 6:05 p.m. championship game.
“We’ve had ups and downs,” Osborn said. “Most of the time our teams have usually peaked at the end of the year. I even told our parents at a family potluck before the state tournament, ‘It’s frustrating for parents, grandparents, kids and coaches, and we’ve just got to grind through it.’”
Both teams grinded through a gripping final period, which featured eight of the 15 lead changes.
After MOC’s Trey Achterhoff answered Adam Juhl’s 3-pointer with one of his own, the Dutchmen led 39-38 with 3:17 left. Harlan’s Trey Lansman split a pair of free throws, then made two more after fouling out Achterhoff with 1:19 left.
With his top scorer in the game out, Dutchmen coach Loren DeJong went to freshman Levi Jansen on the next two trips. The first time he was fouled and made 1 of 2 free throws to trim its deficit to one.
After freshman Kyle Juhl missed the front end of a one-and-one for Harlan, Jansen scored on a baseline drive to give his team a 42-41 lead with 31.2 seconds left.
The Cyclones beat token full-court pressure and worked the ball to Kloewer in the corner. Despite his modest 3.2 scoring average, he took and made the biggest shot of the season.
“We’ve always believed in him,” teammate Nathan Cave said.
Osborn said Kloewer worked hard on the scout team, usually guarding the 6-6 Lansman. On Thursday, he often was guarding Dutchmen center Justin Van Kalsbeek.
“That probably helped for tonight,” Osborn said.
Kloewer said he couldn’t just coast through practices after his demotion.
“I believed in my teammates. I worked hard every day,” he said. “I went on to the white team, helping them every day, trying to get myself back so I could play with them. Definitely a little lesson to be learned. Definitely learned from it.”
After Kloewer’s driving hoop, Jansen tried to fire a long pass to Van Kalsbeek, but it deflected off him out of bounds. Kyle Juhl, who had made just 1 of 3 from the line at that point, was fouled with 4.6 seconds left.
Junior Adam Juhl entered the tournament second in 3-A in free-throw percentage at 87.5 percent. He said his younger brother, who was 13 of 21 on the season, shoots just as well in practice. They have to make 50 free throws and then record how many attempts it takes to get there. Kyle usually needs only 55 to 58 attempts.
“When we really needed him here at the end, he stepped up and hit them,” Adam Juhl said.
Jansen pushed the ball up, and Adam Juhl briefly deflected it. Jansen recovered and launched a long 3-pointer that clanged off the rim. It was waved off by the officials anyway.
Now the Harlan boys are in the title game one week after their girls team finished runner-up.
“Our girls started off good, kept going and they battled,” Adam Juhl said. “We did the same thing. We’re playing good basketball right now.”
There was controversy with 4:09 remaining. Lansman was called for a charge, and the scorer’s bench believed it was his fifth. Harlan vehemently protested that it was his fourth, and a five-minute delay followed. It was found that Kloewer’s third-quarter charge was inadvertently given to Lansman. Since it was a correctable error, Lansman was allowed to remain in the game.
“I want to commend the officials,” Osborn said. “They were tremendous. They came over and they got it corrected.”
Lansman led Harlan with 15 points, 12 rebounds and two blocks, while Cave added 11 points and eight rebounds. Harlan advanced despite getting two points from Gabe Ferry (9.9 avg.), who was fighting an illness and played only 11 minutes.
Counting a pair of championship games at Pomeroy-Palmer, Osborn is now leading a team into the finals for the eighth time in 20 years.
“We’re on a run now, and we’ve got to try to ride this thing into Saturday night,” he said.
Kloewer still wasn’t ready to call his basket his greatest athletic moment. He said it was either second or tied for first with his fourth-down deflection that preserved Harlan’s 28-21 overtime win over Atlantic in week eight of the football season.
But he said the No. 1 moment could still be out there.
“A state championship,” he said. “That would be the best.”
MOC-Floyd Valley (21-5) .............. 10 9 13 10—42
Harlan (20-6) ................................ 8 12 13 12—45
M: Trey Achterhoff 7-11 1-2 18, Parker Mulder 0-6 0-0 0, Ryan Christy 0-2 0-0 0, Mitchell De Wit 2-4 0-1 4, Justin Van Kalsbeek 2-8 1-5 5, Jon Nilles 0-0 0-0 0, Levi Jansen 3-7 1-2 7, David De Haan 4-5 0-0 8, Christian Korver 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 18-45 3-10 42.
H: Adam Juhl 2-7 1-2 7, Nate Kloewer 2-5 2-4 7, Gabe Ferry 0-2 2-2 2, Trey Lansman 6-11 3-4 15, Nathan Cave 4-9 0-0 11, Brandon Bjoin 0-2 0-0 0, Kyle Juhl 0-7 3-5 3, Jake Daeges 0-0 0-0 0, Will Lansman 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 14-43 11-17 45.
3-point goals: M 3-11 (Achterhoff 3-4, Christy 0-1, Korver 0-1, Mulder 0-5), H 6-26 (Cave 3-7, A. Juhl 2-6, Kloewer 1-3, Ferry 0-1, Lansman 0-1, Bjoin 0-2, K. Juhl 0-6). Total fouls: M 16, H 14. Fouled out: Achterhoff. Technical fouls: none. Rebounds: M 32 (Van Kalsbeek 6, Jansen 6), H 31 (Lansman 12). Assists: M 6 (Mulder 2, De Wit 2), H 8 (A. Juhl 3, Kloewer 3). Steals: M 9 (Jansen 4), H 6 (Kloewer 2, Daeges 2). Turnovers: M 16, H 13.
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