East Marshall’s state bid denied by No. 9 South Hamilton
NEVADA — Adam Bauder had the right play call or words of encouragement for every occasion except this one. Facing a locker room full of brokenhearted teenagers, the East Marshall boys’ basketball coach had little to offer.
The Mustangs’ frenetic run through the Class 2A playoffs came to a gutwrenching halt on Saturday night at Nevada High School at the hands of No. 9 South Hamilton, even though East Marshall appeared to have the Hawks right where they wanted them.
With back-to-back buzzer-beating victories to reach the Substate 6 final, the Mustangs seemed poised to take a shot at another. But an uncharacteristic turnover and a pair of South Hamilton free throws served as the finishing moments of a 53-51 victory for the Hawks to earn their second state tournament berth in the last four seasons.
East Marshall (17-6), which trailed by 10 points twice in the first half, found itself in another nailbiter by the time the scoreboard clock wound down toward zero. Dru Boliver’s 3-pointer with 1 minute, 25 seconds remaining gave the Mustangs their last lead, 51-49, before South Hamilton’s Logan Klemp cashed in a mid-range jumper with 1:05 to play.
Tied at 51-all, East Marshall chose to control the way this game would be decided. Instead, the Mustangs mishandled a handoff and South Hamilton (22-2) converted the turnover into a pair of free throws for Marco Balderas with 9.1 seconds left.
East Marshall’s last-second heave was off the mark, denying the school its first trip to state in 26 years as a cooperative.
“We put something together that we thought might draw a foul or get an open shot,” Bauder said. “What transpired was something that I did not expect would happen with the people involved in the play, but that’s the way it goes I guess.”
Zane Johnson’s handoff to point guard Tyler DeBondt was pressured by South Hamilton brothers Conner and Collin Hill, and a loose ball led to a fast-break chance for Balderas as time melted away. Johnson was whistled for the foul attempting to block Balderas’ shot, and the Hawks’ junior point guard knocked down both free throws.
East Marshall’s late-game play was left with little more than a Hail Mary, and DeBondt’s heave from 28 feet failed to lift the Mustangs to their third-consecutive late-game triumph. Wins against PCM (50-48) and Des Moines Christian (55-53) got East Marshall this far, but South Hamilton had other ideas after losing in this round a year ago.
“When it’s a close game you’re obviously nervous because [East Marshall] had proven two times in a row that they could come back,” said South Hamilton head coach Nathan Hill. “When they come back, they’re believing in themselves. Every time we went on a run, they didn’t give up. They just kept coming back because they had it in their minds that they’ve done it two times already. So you get that mindset and it’s a dangerous team when you play against teams like that … but when it really mattered we got the stop we needed and we made two free throws.”
Having seen East Marshall’s miraculous district finishes on film, the Hawks were somewhat prepared for what Bauder drew up in the huddle.
“First of all I didn’t want DeBondt to … we wanted to make it tough for him to get the ball,” coach Hill said. “We know that their offense, everything goes through him. We made him earn it.”
South Hamilton jumped the pass to DeBondt, who slipped and lost control of the ball. The opportunistic Hawks pounced on the chance.
Moments later, Bauder walked into a locker room he wasn’t prepared to address.
“You really can’t [put it into words],” he said. “I did not prepare for that speech. You just tell them how proud you are of them, how special a group they are, and you thank the seniors for all their hard work.
“You just try to keep it as positive as you can, [because] everybody’s hurting real bad.”
It was the final high school game for three Mustangs seniors — Boliver and reserves Jordan McAnulty and Jon Baker. Boliver shared team-high scoring honors with junior Zaine Leedom, who had to watch the final 1:58 from the bench after fouling out. Collin Hill made one of two free throws at the other end, but Boliver erased a 49-48 deficit with a go-ahead 3-pointer.
Collin Hill finished with 32 points, matching a career-high, as he went 11-for-21 from the field and 7-for-10 at the free-throw line. He also led the Hawks with 13 rebounds, four steals and two blocked shots.
“Ninety percent of our gameplan was about him,” Bauder said of Hill. “He hit a lot more shots than we would have anticipated from the outside, so credit to him, he’s a special player.”
Conner Hill, Collin’s younger brother, added eight points, Klemp had six and Balderas four.
Behind Boliver and Leedom’s 13 points, Eli Anderson netted a career-high 10. Johnson was held to six points, DeBondt added five and Logan Nicholson scored four off the bench.
DeBondt led the Mustangs with seven rebounds and Leedom had five, while Johnson totaled four assists. Boliver and Anderson both made three steals.
“You play in this type of game, you can gameplan and you can prep and do all the stuff you want, but whoever is the team that makes the most plays is the one that’s going to come out on top,” Bauder said, “and they made the play late and we did not, so there you go.”
South Hamilton 53, East Marshall 51
SOUTH HAMILTON (22-2) — Marco Balderas 0 4-4 4, Logan Klemp 3 0-0 6, Logan Peters 0 0-0 0, Collin Hill 11 7-10 32, Conner Hill 3 0-0 8, Cole Berg 0 1-1 1, Cade Balvanz 1 0-0 2. TOTALS 18 12-16 53.
EAST MARSHALL (17-6) — Zaine Leedom 6 1-2 13, Dru Boliver 5 0-0 13, Zane Johnson 1 4-5 6, Eli Anderson 3 3-3 10, Tyler DeBondt 2 1-1 5, Logan Nicholson 1 2-4 4, Zach Finders 0 0-0 0. TOTALS 18 11-16 51.
S. HAMILTON 16 10 14 13 — 53
E. MARSHALL 9 17 13 12 — 51
3-Point Goals–SH 5 (Col.Hill 3, Con.Hill 2), EM 4 (Boliver 3, Anderson). Total Fouls–SH 21, EM 16. Fouled Out–Berg, Leedom.