By Susan Harman
Your Prep Sports
DES MOINES – Regina was ready, willing and able to compete in Thursday’s 2A semifinal at the girls basketball tournament. But Western Christian simply played a different game.
The Wolfpack’s size and strength devoured the plucky but out-gunned Regals, 71-49, and in the process handed Regina its only loss of the season. The top-ranked Regals retired with a 26-1 record in their third visit to the semifinals.
No. 4 Western Christian (24-2) advanced to Friday’s final against third-ranked Treynor (27-0). The Wolfpack won three titles in a row from 2012-14 and was runner-up a year ago.
“We tried to take away some of their inside game, and they started off hot shooting the basketball,” Regina coach Jeff Wallace said. “They did a good job moving the basketball around. They made shots.
“We’ve seen them on film eight times this year and have never seen them shoot the ball that well. They were unbelievable today. I don’t know if I’ve seen a high school team play that well in a long time.”
The Wolfpack jumped to an 8-0 lead, with 6-foot-2 junior Ashtyn Veerbeek leading the way, and led 20-7 after one quarter.
“I don’t know, we didn’t give up, but I guess we weren’t prepared for that (start),” Regina senior Sarah Lehman said.
“At the end of the first quarter I couldn’t believe we came out that strongly,” Western Christian guard Erica Bousema said. “We had a lot of height advantage on them with Erika (Feenstra) and Ashtyn. Even our guards are taller than their guards.”
Regina simply had no answer for the Veerbeek, a Nebraska recruit who is big, strong and talented enough to play Division I basketball right now. She finished with 31 points and tied a 2A tournament record.
“This summer I really worked on my outside shot,” Veerbeek said. “It makes it easier for me to get the ball inside.”
Wallace called Veerbeek a “matchup nightmare,” and said he hoped to limit her touches, but she roamed all over the court and her teammates found her.
“We didn’t identify her enough,” Lehman said. “We knew she was good and our game plan was to identify her, but we just didn’t do that as much.”
The Wolfpack led by as many as 18 in the second quarter before Regina clawed back into the game by scoring in seven of its last eight possessions of the half to trail only 33-22.
“We wanted to keep the pressure up. We were going to try to change defenses to try to confuse them and cause some turnovers,” Wallace said.
But to begin the third period, Western’s offense was almost unstoppable as it built its lead to 20.
“We were just running our stuff, passing the ball,” Lehman said. “They face-guarded Mary (Crompton). That was hard so we tried to find other people to give the ball to.”
Regina cut the lead to 13 early in the fourth quarter, but that was it for the Regals.
Western out-rebounded Regina by 10 despite a great effort by 6-0 sophomore center Alex Wiese, who finished with 14.
“We’ve never really played against a team that big,” Wiese said. “It was something new for us and we were prepared, but I guess they just played harder than us.”
With all due respect to Wiese, Regina played with great effort. That wasn’t the issue.
“I think our size and our length helped us on the boards and helped us convert offensively,” Feenstra said.
Foul trouble made Wiese a bit less effective trying to defend the 6-1 Feenstra and Veerbeek in the second half.
Western had 15 turnovers, but Regina wasn’t able to turn its full-court press into enough turnovers or easy baskets to make a difference.
“We play a tough schedule where teams are pressing us a lot,” Veerbeek said. “We were used to that, and we just stayed composed.”
“We practice press breaks a lot in practice,” Feenstra said. “We really focus on that. We had a couple turnovers early in the game, but after we figured it out we were able to (get through it).”
Western also shot the ball well, making 56.5 percent of its shots, including 62 percent in the second half. Western averaged 47 percent shooting this season.
The Regals shot just 25 percent for the game, no doubt a season low, and made 1-of-16 threes.
“Their length just really bothered us on the offensive end,” Wallace said. “We just couldn’t get shots that we’re able to get on a lot of teams.”
“They can say they had a rough shooting night, but I think our length gave the a lot of problems,” Western Christian coach Justin Negen said. “They didn’t get a lot of clean looks from the outside. Wiese had a great game for them on the inside. She’s a nice player. It was a tremendous effort by our kids.
Wiese made 9-of-13 shots. Thirteen of her 22 points were second-chance points.
“We played our game; they just had a better night,” Wiese said.
Regina graduates Lehman and reserve Emma Corkery but returns four of five starters and its top reserves for another run next season.
Western Christian 20 13 23 15 – 71
Regina 7 15 17 10 – 49
Western Christian (71) – Erika Feenstra 6-9 4-5 17, Jessi DeJager 3-4 2-3 8, Erica Bousema 1-2 1-2 4, Ashtyn Veerbeek 11-19 8-10 31, Karsyn Winterfeld 5-11 0-1 11, Olivia Granstra 0-1 0-0 0, Team 26-46 15-21 71.
Regina (49) – Mary Crompton 0-13 5-5 5, Sarah Lehman 3-21 3-4 9, Greyson Dumont 1-4 0-0 2, Kennedy Wallace 1-5 2-2 5, Alex Wiese 9-13 4-6 22, Alexa Lehman 0-1 4-4 4, Maeve Dunne 1-1 0-0 0, Team 15-60 18-21 49.
3-point field goals – ICR 1-16 (Crompton 0-7, S. Lehman 0-3, Dumont 0-1, Wallace 1-4, Wiese 0-1), WC 4-15 (Feenstra 1-4, Bousema 1-2, Veerbeek 1-3, Winterfeld 1-5, Granstra 0-1). Rebounds – ICR 28 (Wiese 14), WC 38 (Veerbeek 10). Assists – ICR 8 (Crompton 2), WC 11 (Bousema 5). Turnovers – ICR 7, WC 15. Total fouls – ICR 19, WC 16. Fouled out – Regina (Wiese). Technical fouls – None.