(Photo by Trent Johnson)
DES MOINES - Too smart. Too balanced. Too disciplined. In the end, Boyden-Hull proved to be a little too much to handle as they dashed St. Mary's hopes of a second 1A title in three years by claiming their second-straight in a 49-45 final Friday night.
"I told the kids, there are 158 teams that would like to be playing in this game," St. Mary's head coach Brad Wilkening said. "We fought back and had an opportunity to win it. Just couldn't get it done. The thing that makes me sad is that it's coming to an end. The end of every season is like that. Fortunately, the kids ran it as long as they could run it."
"Boyden-Hull played a great game," senior Kennedy Drey said. "I'm glad the title is staying in Northwest Iowa. We just couldn't answer late in the game. We got back to the championship and came up a little short. We've got nothing to hang our heads about. I'm sure our fans are proud of us."
"We'd rather be hoisting the gold trophy, but we don't have a whole lot to complain about," said senior guard Luke Lenhart. "They're a really smart team, they play great defense and they have a lot of scoring options. We made a run at them and just came up short."
Riley Francis, son of Comet head coach Bill Francis, scored 20 points to lead Boyden-Hull (25-3) as they overcame a slow start in which they missed 10 of their first 13 attempts from the floor.
The Panthers surged all the way back within one at 46-45 with a minute and a half to play on a Drey basket, and they had a shot at the lead after Josh Demers came up with a steal. However, Drey's lay-up attempt rimmed out, and Francis sank two free throws. Lenhart misfired on a three with 30 ticks left, and Francis added another free throw for the final score of the night.
"They're a great team. They take care of the ball so well," said Drey. We just couldn't capitalize when we had the chance."
Lenhart finished 9-of-17 from the floor, 3-of-6 from three and 5-of-5 at the line for his 26, pushing his tournament total to 85. He added four rebounds and two assists and was named the 1A all-tournament team captain. Drey joined him on the team and finished with 12 points 12 rebounds and two blocks Friday. Trevor Landgraf added four points, and Joe Sandhoff had two and three rebounds.
The Comets did well to limit St. Mary's free-throw opportunities as they finished 8-of-9 on the night. The Panthers were 17-of-38 from the floor and 3-of-10 from three.
"Rebounding and keeping them off the line were our most important factors coming in," Boyden-Hull head coach Bill Francis said. "They're automatic if you put them at the line. We knew what kind of players Drey and Lenhart are. We wanted to make them work for everything they got."
St. Mary's ends the year with a record 26-2 and wrap up a three-year run at state that netted them first, second and third place finishes. This group of seniors has run off a 102-5 run in their high school career without a single loss on their home court.
"I'm very proud of our last four years," Drey said. "It's been amazing. A great group of guys to play with and great fans."
"It's very emotional obviously because we wanted to win but secondly, I'm done putting on this uniform," said Lenhart. "Very emotional right now but we came out and fought hard. You've got to give all the credit to Boyden-Hull."
SHELDON WINS FIRST STATE TITLE
The Sheldon Orabs won the school's first title with a 48-36 win over previously unbeaten West Fork. Sheldon had four players score in double figures, led by Nate Oostra's 12 points, and shot 50 percent for the game. Sheldon (25-3) held West Fork (26-1) to just 33.3 percent shooting for the game.