Call it a case of nerves. A case that could have sent North Tama home for good. Instead, the Redhawks rode a second-half wave of offense en route to a thrilling 47-45 victory over Ankeny Christian in the opening round of state tournament play on Monday.
The Redhawks got off to an unusually sluggish start, shooting just over 35 percent in the first half, giving up 10 turnovers and allowing an overmatched Eagles squad to dictate the pace of play.
"Very uncharacteristic of the way we want to play in the first half," head coach Brandon Clubb told the Times-Republican after the game. "In the second half we settled down a bit and played the way we needed to play."
Above, Mitchell Boerm goes for two of his game-high 19 points during the second half of Monday’s opening-round state tournament game in Des Moines. At right, Dalton Hulme follows through with a shot in the lane. Far left, Jacob Watson shoots over the outstretched arms of an Ankeny Christian defender. Bottom left, players cheer from the bench during North Tama’s second-half comeback.
Ankeny Christian (24-2) had just one senior on the roster, and the Redhawks' experience showed itself during the second period-North Tama outscored ACA 23-5 during the first eight and a half minutes following the intermission.
Mitchell Boerm led the Redhawks with a game-high 19 points and a team-high seven rebounds. Skyler Kvidera provided a much-needed second-half boost with eight points and four rebounds, a stat line matched by teammate Dalton Hulme.
Despite their impressive comeback, the Redhawks will need to close out games with free throws if they hope to advance-North Tama missed 12 free throws in the fourth quarter alone.
The team was just 14-of-32 from the line, which caused a tense few minutes at the end of the game for the North Tama coaches, players and especially the fans who packed Wells Fargo.
"We told the kids after the game, 'It's March Madness, you have to survive and advance' - we did that," Clubb said. "You forget about this one. You just have to win and move on to the next one."
The Redhawks will face 7th-seeded Boyden-Hull (23-3) in the semifinals on Thursday. B-H entered the tournament ranked #4 in most statewide polls and is sure to put up a fight, as the team has five seniors hungry for a state title.
North Tama has some hungry seniors too. Tipoff is set for 12:15 p.m. in Des Moines with the winner moving on to the championship game on Friday at 6:05.