Unity Christian edges Western Christian for 2A title

DES MOINES – Josie Blankespoor scored the go-ahead basket with 2 minutes left and third-ranked Unity Christian held on during a hectic final minute to edge Western Christian 42-41 Friday night and win its second straight Class 2A state championship.

Western Christian had a chance in the closing seconds after Ashtyn Veerbeek sank the first of two free throws with 6.5 seconds remaining to make it a one-point game.

She missed the second and Blankespoor rebounded but was tied up. The possession arrow favored Western so the Wolfpack kept the ball.

But Erika Feenstra missed a layup and Western couldn’t get off a second shot before the buzzer, allowing the Knights to escape with the title.

Anna Kiel led Unity Christian (25-1) with 13 points and 15 rebounds and was voted captain of the all-tournament team. Veerbeek led Western Christian (24-3) with 13 points.

The two schools sit only 16 miles apart in the northwest corner of the state and now have combined to win the last five 2A championships. Western Christian won three in a row before Unity claimed last year’s crown. Unity was the 3A runner-up in 2014.

Blankespoor’s shot, a jumper from the left baseline, gave Unity a 41-40 lead and was the fifth lead change of the fourth quarter. Kiel then rebounded a Western Christian miss and the Knights had the ball most of the way from then on, coming up with two big offensive rebounds to keep possession.

Alyssa Fedders rebounded her own miss and teammate Chanda Zomermaand was fouled. Zomermaand missed the front end of a 1-and-1 but Blankespoor slipped in for the rebound and Zomermaand was fouled again. She made one and missed the second, giving Western Christian a chance with 27 seconds left.

But the Wolfpack couldn’t capitalize.

Kiel finished with a tournament record 53 rebounds in her three games, breaking the old mark of 50 set by Exira’s Hallie Christofferson in 2010. Christorfferson will be inducted into the state Hall of Fame on Saturday night.

Deidra Noteboom added 10 points for Unity and Zomermaand scored seven. Feenstra scored seven points for Western Christian, while Payton Harmsen and Karsyn Winterfeld each scored six.

Unity avenged its only loss with the victory, a 59-48 setback at Western Christian on Jan. 16.

CLASS 1A

Springville 49, Turkey Valley 48

Alyssa Jaeger sank two free throws with 3.2 seconds left to give Springville a 49-48 victory over Turkey Valley in the Iowa girls Class 1A state championship.

Jaeger’s shots on a 1-and-1 ended a game of huge swings and gave Springville (26-1) its second title. The Orioles blew a 15-point lead and fell behind by five points before settling down and handing top-ranked Turkey Valley its first loss.

Mikayla Nachazel, one of four sophomores in the starting lineup, led third-ranked Springville with 20 points, 14 in the first half, when the Orioles could do little wrong. Rylee Menster added 11 points and Jaeger finished with six.

Emily Busta came off the bench to lead Turkey Valley (26-1) with 23 points, including seven 3-pointers to tie the state tournament record. Morgan Kuennen added eight points and Sadie Nymeyer scored seven.

With Nachazel scoring effectively inside, Springville dominated the first half and built a 30-19 lead. The lead grew to 34-19 early in the third quarter before Turkey Valley rallied.

Busta hit three 3-pointers and Nymeyer added one in a 26-6 run that the Trojans finished with 14 straight points for a 45-40 lead.

After seven straight points put Springville back on top, Busta knocked down her final 3 of the evening to put her team up 48-47. Busta then missed the front end of a 1-and-1 free throw that could have stretched the lead and Jaeger was fouled during a scramble for a rebound at the other end.

She stepped to the line for a 1-and-1 and calmly made both shots. Turkey Valley could only put up a desperate shot that didn’t come close.

Springville, which also won the title in 2008, lost to Turkey Valley 49-42 back on Jan. 9.