Spartans stump A-P to claim district final

T-R PHOTO BY JAKE RYDER - Grundy Center’s Jalen Kirkpatrick shoots over a host of Aplington-Parkersburg defenders during Tuesday’s Class 2A District 12 basketball final at Dike-New Hartford High School in Dike. Kirkpatrick scored 24 points in leading the Spartans to a 77-63 win.

DIKE — Grundy Center boys basketball is hungry to add to the growing list of successful sports endeavors at the school.

The Spartan boys haven’t made a state tournament appearance since 2003, but took a step closer on Tuesday night with a 77-63 win over Aplington-Parkersburg in a Class 2A District 12 final at Dike-New Hartford High School.

Jalen Kirkpatrick led Grundy Center with 24 points, Brayden Wallis added 19 points and Brody Zinkula had 12.

Saturday brings a task as tall as many of the boys on Grundy Center’s roster as they take on ninth-ranked Carroll Kuemper at Boone High School in the substate final. Kuemper was a state quarterfinalist last season.

“We’ve gotten to state in a lot of other sports, but basketball we haven’t been there yet,” said Wallis, a junior. “We want that feeling of playing down at The Well.”

T-R PHOTO BY JAKE RYDER - Grundy Center’s Tate Jirovsky, top, attacks the basket against Aplington-Parkersburg during Tuesday’s Class 2A District 12 boys basketball final in Dike.

On Tuesday, Grundy Center led from start to finish, but an Aplington-Parkersburg team led by senior standout Gavin Thomas didn’t make it easy.

The Spartans led by 20 after a Brayden Wallis early in the fourth quarter, before the Falcons answered with a 13-0 flurry that included five points each from Thomas and fellow senior Cooper Hoff.

“We knew they were going to be a tough out,” Grundy Center head coach Brent Thoren said. “They threw everything at us in that fourth quarter because they had to to get back in the game, but credit to those kids and coaches, but I can’t say enough good things about our kids that play so hard and just continue to get better.”

Eventually, the Falcons had to put the Spartans on the line, though, and Grundy Center gave A-P no quarter, going 20-of-22 from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter as the Falcons could only get as close as nine points down the stretch.

“We knew there’d be those moments where they foul us, and we were gonna knock them down, even in this great environment, this lively environment,” Thoren said.

Kirkpatrick was dominant for most of the first half, scoring 21 of his 24 points in the first 12 minutes of the game before he had to sit with foul trouble.

He also had five of Grundy Center’s eight 3-point baskets on Tuesday, with Wallis providing the other three.

“My teammates were finding me, penetrating and kicking out,” Kirkpatrick said. “We were working on that inside-out game and I just happened to be the guy who got the ball, but any of us could have taken those shots.”

The long-range shots really took the wind out of A-P’s sails for most of the game, interrupting Falcon scoring runs and keeping the Spartans a step ahead while also firmly in control of the rebounding game thanks to their noticeable size advantage over the Falcons.

“We really took a lot of pride in shutting their guys down,” Thoren said. “And it was still a tall order, because Thomas had a heck of a night.”

Saturday will be Grundy Center’s first substate final appearance since 2019, when Montezuma upended the Spartans in the Roundhouse. In the seasons since, Grundy Center has struggled to get back to that level, with back to back losses to Meskwaki in 2020 and 2021, a loss to Aplington-Parkersburg in the 2022 district final and a shocking early exit against Union last winter.

“We’ve worked hard for this moment, we’ve prepared for it and we’re excited to go play for it,” Kirkpatrick said.

Kuemper is led by three scorers in double digit averages — Brock Badding paves the way at 13.2 points per game.

Thoren believes the Spartans’ experience in other big moments across the sports calendar will shine through on Saturday.

“They know how to prepare themselves and what it takes, the mentality going into these kinds of games,” Thoren said. “We’re still building a lot of athletes on our team into that basketball mode, but you can’t coach how they handle these moments and how they compete. We’re always going to give everybody our best effort.”

Grundy Center 77, Aplington-Parkersburg 63

GRUNDY CENTER (19-3) — Brody Zinkula 1 10-12 12, Brayden Wallis 7 2-2 19, Ryker Thoren 1 0-0 2, Tiernan Vokes 2 2-4 6, Judd Jirovsky 1 2-2 4, Colin Gordon 1 4-4 6, Tate Jirovsky 2 0-0 4, Jalen Kirkpatrick 9 1-2 24. TOTALS 24 21-26 77.

APLINGTON-PARKERSBURG (17-6) — Cooper Hoff 4 3-4 13, Caleb Campbell 4 2-2 11, Gavin Thomas 10 7-8 30, Benny Waller 2 1-1 5, Nick Neuroth 0 2-2 2, Kael Schoneman 1 0-0 2. TOTALS 21 15-17 63.

GRUNDY CTR. 18 18 19 22 — 77

A-P 6 18 13 26 — 63

3-Point Goals–Grundy Center 8 (Kirkpatrick 5, Wallis 3); Aplington-Parkersburg 6 (Thomas 3, Hoff 2, Campbell). Total Fouls–Grundy Center 19, Aplington-Parkersburg 23. Fouled Out–Neuroth, Schoneman.


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