The similarities are downright eerie.
Three years ago, the Harlan girls squandered a nine-point halftime lead late in the regular season, losing to Council Bluffs Lewis Central in overtime.
“There were a lot of upset kids in the locker room,” Harlan coach Zach Klaassen recalled. “I just remember coming in the locker room saying, ‘It doesn’t matter. We’ve still got a chance to win five more games, and we’ve got to focus on those.’”
With two freshmen and two sophomores among its top five scorers, Harlan didn’t stop winning until a 53-52 loss to Cedar Rapids Xavier in the Class 4-A championship game.
On Feb. 12 this season, Harlan led Lewis Central by — you guessed it — nine points at the half. The Titans rallied for a 43-42 victory.
Again, Klaassen thinks it can be a blessing in disguise.
“I think it was kind of a similar deal,” he said. “I think our practices have been better. There’s a lot of kids that aren’t ready to be done, so they’re pushing each other a little harder I’d say than they were before.”
Third-rated Harlan (20-2), which went on to claim the 4-A crown in 2014 and 2015, will seek to keep its three-peat hopes alive at 11:45 a.m. Wednesday in a quarterfinal against No. 7 Marion (19-4) at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.
Harlan’s mainstays, seniors Taylor Frederick and Jordyn Moser, will be playing their 10th state games and represent one of the state’s best point guard-post duos. The 6-foot-1 Frederick averages 17.9 points and 9.1 rebounds, and the 5-7 Moser adds 16.2 points and 4.7 boards.
And Klaassen said the supporting cast has handled the high expectations of playing for Harlan well.
In Marion, Klaassen feels like he’s looking in a three-year-old mirror. The Indians start three sophomores along with freshman posts Randi Wright (6-0) and Sophie Willette (5-11). Two of their top reserves are 6-2 Isabella Sade and 5-11 Tessa Jordan.
Klaassen said they have size, talent and innocence. Does that ring a bell?
“I’ve had several people say, ‘Well, you’re just playing a bunch of young kids,’” Klaassen said. “I said, ‘Well, three years ago I took a bunch of young kids down there, and we about won the whole thing.’
“I think when you’re that age, I don’t know if you’re able to be nervous because you’re just happy to be there and you’re just going to play like you’ve got nothing to lose. That’s how we played.”