GREENFIELD — A young up-and-coming Earlham team put a scare into seventh-ranked Nodaway Valley here Tuesday night before the Wolverines pulled out a 57-51 District 13 semifinal victory.
The win vaults Nodaway Valley (21-2) into the district championship game 7 p.m. Thursday at West Central Valley High School in Stuart against Griswold (15-8), an 83-52 victor over Orient-Macksburg in the opener here Tuesday.
The substate’s other district is down to East Mills (20-3), a 58-53 winner over an AHST team coached by former Creston Panther G.G. Harris, and Sidney (17-6), which got past Clarinda Academy in overtime Tuesday.
Despite playing at home, Nodaway Valley was in a precarious situation Tuesday night after going on a 13-0 run at the end of the first half to take a 35-22 lead at the break.
Early in the third quarter, top scorers TJ Bower and Jackson Lamb each picked up their fourth foul, requiring coach Darrell Burmeister to put them on the bench for most of that period.
Earlham made up 10 points in that quarter, trailing 41-38 entering the fourth period. A 5-0 start to the half by the Cardinals quickly shaved the margin to eight, and it was single digits the rest of the way.
When Alan Schmidt sank a 3-pointer for the first shot of the fourth quarter, the game was tied 41-41.
Caleb Mueller, a spark for the Wolverines with Bower and Lamb so limited, converted a conventional 3-point play to make it 48-43.
Senior center Delson Grantham, who contributed in a variety of ways in the victory, drew a charging foul with 2:18 left and the Wolverines clinging to a 52-49 lead.
Earlham sophomore center Canyon Hopkins’ putback kept it a one-point game at 52-51 with 1:26 left. But then Bower and Zach Plymesser converted at the free throw line to make it 55-51 with 35 seconds left.
Mueller and Lamb each had one more free throw as Earlham went scoreless after Hopkins’ basket.
Grantham finished with 10 points and 15 rebounds. Mueller had nine points and seven rebounds. Even with limited time, Bower and Lamb were the leading scorers at 13 and 12 points, respectively, but balance was the key for the Wolverines as Plymesser made it four in double figures with 11 points.
Schmidt had 16 points for Earlham (15-8). Everyone on the floor for Earlham was a sophomore or junior except for senior point guard Logan Madren.
Earlham coach Kevin Williamson said his team’s youth played a part in the 83-61 loss to Nodaway Valley a month ago.
“We didn’t play well at all the first time we played them,” Williamson said. “We turned the ball over. We panicked against their pressure. Tonight, we battled. We were more patient. We’re a step away, literally. A couple of breaks or free throws, and we’re there. I wish it would have been a neutral site and seen what we could have done in that kind of environment.”
Burmeister knew his team would get a stiffer challenge in the rematch. It was also a concern that Bower went home from school with illness on Monday.
“They’d seen us once and I knew we wouldn’t score 80 some points this time,” Burmeister said. “Earlham is a young team of the future for this part of the state. They have a nice mix of guards and big guys. Their only losses are to very good teams.”
Burmeister said his team was playing “NV basketball” with steals and transition baskets in the 13-0 second-quarter run, but lacked offensive flow in the second half., The Wolverines shot only 1-of-15 from the 3-point line. However, the team was 10-of-15 on free throws in the fourth quarter.
“Our guys held their composure pretty good,” Burmeister said. “Other than TJ and Zach, this is the first big tournament game for these kids, so it’s all kind of new. Caleb Mueller really stepped up defensively and Delson Grantham was good on the boards. I thought it was key they only had two 3-pointers in the second half. They had their five 3-point shooters in there.”
The big difference from the first meeting was in rebounding. NV held a 39-26 advantage Tuesday and trailed the Cardinals by three in the previous game.
Looking ahead, Burmeister said Griswold presents some of the same challenges as Earlham, with good size and athleticism.
“We played a half game with them in the jamboree at Elk Horn, Burmeister said. “They have improved a lot.”
Thursday’s winner plays in the substate game Saturday at Atlantic.
EARLHAM (51) — Alan Schmidt 7 1-2 16, Andy Algreen 4 2-3 12, Canyon Hopkins 5 0-1 11, AJ Leporte 2 2-2 7, Dan Schmidt 1 0-0 3, Gable Johnson 1 0-0 2. Totals — 20 5-10 51. 3-point goals — 6 (Algreen 2, Leporte 1, D. Schmidt 1, A. Schmidt 1, Hopkins 1). FG shooting — 20-57 (39 percent). Rebounds — 26. Turnovers — 14. Team fouls — 24. Fouled out — Hopkins.
NODAWAY VALLEY (57) — TJ Bower 4 5-5 13, Jackson Lamb 3 6-8 12, Zach Plymesser 5 1-4 11, Delson Grantham 4 2-4 10, Caleb Mueller 3 2-3 9, David Schweitzer 0 2-2 2. Totals — 19 18-26 57. 3-point goals — 1 (Mueller 1). FG shooting — 19-45 (42 percent). Rebounds — 39 (Grantham 15, Mueller 7, Lamb 6). Assists — 14 (Bower 7, Schweitzewr 3, Plymesser 2). Steals — 7 (Grantham 2, Mueller 2, Bower 2). Blocked shots — 1 (Bower 1). Turnovers — 14. Team fouls — 14. Fouled out — None.
Earlham — 15 22 38 51
NV — 18 35 41 57