By Zach James Herald Assistant Sports Editor
The Clinton Herald
---- — DES MOINES — Logan Wilhelm threw the dunk down, and all momentum was on Easton Valley’s side, if only for a short while.
Easton Valley (21-3) ended its season in the state quarterfinals, losing to Keota 56-47 on Monday despite having the lead heading into the fourth quarter.
The scoreboard said that the River Hawks were ahead, but momentum swayed heavily when Keota senior guard Kolton Greiner hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
Greiner’s 3-pointer from the NBA D-League line made the score 41-39 heading into the fourth quarter, but even Easton Valley knew that shot could have been the turning point, and it was.
“We should have had a steal on that pass,” Easton Valley coach Dan Beck said. “We had him dead out front right where we wanted it, and we should have known better.
“It was a huge basket,” Beck said. “We had him 30 feet from the basket, and knew where he was going with the ball.”
Meanwhile, on the opposing side, Keota (25-1) knew it saw an opening to pull ahead after the big shot.
“I got posterized on the dunk,” Greiner recalled. “They had all the momentum after the dunk, and coach told us that all it was is two points, so we took that to heart and hunkered down.
“I was just glad to get a shot off when I did, and I’ve been struggling the last two games ... it was awesome.”
Greiner had a game-high 21 points.
After that basket, shots didn’t fall for the River Hawks. They just six points in the final frame, while Keota opened the fourth with an 8-0 run.
“We’ve been doing that the last three or so games where we’ve just stopped teams in the fourth quarter, but that’s just guts and desire from our kids,” Keota coach Dan Stout said.
Easton Valley opened up the quarter by missing its first 10 shots before Chase Zaruba made two free throws that made the score 47-43 in favor of Keota with 3:19 remaining in the game.
Zaruba then made the lone field goal in the fourth quarter with 2:01 remaining on a left-handed drive to the basket. At that point, the River Hawks still trailed by four.
Easton Valley got to within three points with 47 seconds remaining when Blake Bormann hit two free throws, which became the last points that the River Hawks scored.
Bormann ended with five points, while Zaruba led with 16 points.
“We weren’t playing as a team, not being as aggressive, I guess,” Zaruba said. “It was good to get here and to get the experience, but it wasn’t the outcome that we wanted.”
In the first half, the River Hawks scored 31 points by getting the ball inside on strong drives and finishing their shots.
Easton Valley scored 10 points in the paint in the first quarter, thanks to two layups by Craiton Andresen, while Zaruba had two layups, too.
Keota hung around, however, scoring 11 points in the first quarter as well.
“I thought we were gambling too much in the first half,” Beck said. “We were a little too anxious defensively, and we got nothing out of our pressure, which I was afraid of. Today we were a little too anxious.”
The second quarter was where the River Hawks played their best basketball, scoring 19 points before halftime. Most of those points came in the paint (8), while six points came off Keota turnovers.
Keota ended the half with its first buzzer-beater of the game; Zach Mousel hit a deep two-point shot that made the score 30-27 at the half. Easton Valley also had to worry about foul trouble, with Zaruba having three fouls in the first half. He later fouled out in the waning moments of the fourth quarter.
Easton Valley shot decently in the first half, going 10-for-26 overall and 9-for-11 at the free-throw line.
The fourth-quarter troubles lowered those numbers at the end of the game. The River Hawks ended with a 15-of-54 shooting performance while making only 2 of 14 3-pointers.
Wilhelm ended his career on a sour note, shooting 4-for-23. He scored 14 points but did get a double-double by snatching 16 rebounds.
Beck believed the River Hawks took their opponent casually in some cases.
“I think the guys realized that they took these guys too lightly,” Beck said. “They were giddy to get here, weren’t real impressed with what they saw on film, and they didn’t see enough film. Greiner really got away from us.”
This is the first year that Easton Valley has become a consolidated school district, and Beck realizes how big of an accomplishment that is.
“There certainly is a lot to be positive about,” Beck said. “I thought it was a reward for all the people who fought hard to make Easton Valley happen; I’m just disappointed we didn’t play better.”
KEOTA 56, EASTON VALLEY 47
EASTON VALLEY (21-3) — Chase Zaruba 6 3-3 16, Blake Bormann 1 2-2 5, Craiton Andresen 4 4-4 12, Jarod Lee 0 0-0 0, Logan Wilhelm 4 6-9 14, Cam Larson 0 0-0 0, Zach Peiffer 0 0-0 0, Blaine Volquardsen 0 0-0 0, Marshall Driscoll 0 0-0 0, Landyn Voss 0 0-0 0, Vaughn Behn 0 0-0 0, Brett Earles 0 0-0 0. Totals 15 15-18 47.
KEOTA (25-1) — Justin Hultman 1 3-4 5, Derek Berg 2 0-0 4, Kolton Greiner 6 4-4 21, Luke Lyle 2 6-10 10, Nate Owen 1 4-6 6, Zach Mousel 3 0-0 8, Shane Gibson 0 0-0 0, Isaiah Hahn 0 2-2 2, Paden Uphold 0 0-0 0, Nate Sieren 0 0-0 0. Totals 15 19-26 56.
Easton Valley 11 19 11 6 — 47
Keota 11 16 12 17 — 56
3-point goals — Easton Valley 2 (Bormann, Zaruba); Keota 7 (Greiner 5, Mousel 2). Total fouls — Easton Valley 23, Keota 17. Fouled out — Zaruba, Berg.