Your Prep Sports
BETTENDORF – A double digit deficit against a team as stingy on defense and as deliberate on offense as Pleasant Valley is challenge few teams are capable of overcoming.
Then again not many teams have faced as many challenges as Liberty High has this season.
During a season in which Liberty High conquered nearly every obstacle it encountered a 15-point deficit to fifth-ranked Pleasant Valley finally proved too much to overcome.
Liberty High whittled a 15-point Pleasant Valley fourth-quarter lead to six but could get no closer in a 57-46 loss to the Spartans in the Class 4A, Substate 6 championship on Tuesday at Bettendorf High School.
“We showed tonight we never give up, we are always going to go at it,” Liberty High senior Kelby Telander said. “Coach talks to us about playing until the last minute of practice and the same thing applies to games and tonight didn’t work out the way we wanted to be we left it all on the court.”
Pleasant Valley (19-3) hit six of its first eight shots, including all four 3-point attempts during the first quarter, and never trailed after the opening minute of the game.
However, the Spartans had to overcome some tense moments in the fourth quarter and a furious Liberty High run to return to the state tournament for the first time since 2016.
Pleasant Valley (19-3) will face second-ranked Waukee (13-2) in the Class 4A state quarterfinals on March 10 at 4 p.m. while Liberty High closed the season 7-6.
“They’ve just stayed with it,” Pleasant Valley coach Steve Hillman said. “We started 1-2 this year, I think we were picked sixth in the MAC but our guys just kind of had a chip on their shoulder and they are gritty kids and they do the tough things, we aren’t very fun to play because we guard and I’m just really proud of our guys.”
After scoring 21 points in a substate semifinal win over Bettendorf last week Pleasant Valley opened red-hot on Tuesday.
Ryan Dolphin and Matt Mickle each had a pair of 3-pointers during a 11-0 Spartan run to close the first quarter that gave Pleasant Valley a 16-5 lead.
The Spartans led 23-14 at the half and 39-24 after three quarters.
“I think that just took some pressure off of guys,” Hillman said. “We were so tight offensively against Bettendorf so to see a couple go in I think that was really, really important tonight, really big.”
Pleasant Valley appeared to be cruising when Dolphin hit a pair of free throws with 7:37 left to make the score 41-26.
Liberty High had no intentions of going quietly.
The Lightning scored six points in a span of six seconds to cut the lead to 41-32.
Liberty High then cut the lead to 43-37 on a conventional 3-point play by Telander with 4:44 left.
“The effort that we had in the second half remarkable,” Liberty High co-head coach Ryan Kelly said. “They were playing every single possession as hard as they could and I can’t ask as a coach anything more than that.”
Liberty High had several chances to cut into the lead further but missed three consecutive shots while trailing by six points.
Pleasant Valley went more than two minutes without a point during that stretch before rattling off six straight points with the big bucket a resounding baseline slam by CJ Ragins that pushed the lead to 46-37 with 3:20 left.
“I looked up and we were down six and thought ‘we have a shot here we go’,” Kelly said. “It’s just a good basketball team and they made the right plays and they made shots too.”
Dolphin converted eight of 10 free throw opportunities in the fourth quarter, including 8-of-8 in the final 2:14 to put the game away, and finished with a game-high 26 points.
Jacob Townsend had 17 points and 12 rebounds for the Spartans.
“Our kids do not play for personal stats, they play to win and that’s to score one more point than your opponent,” Hillman said. “Our guys have bought into that and tonight they shot the ball well and we do what it takes to win.”
Telander had 12 of his team-high 14 points in the fourth quarter while fellow senior Ethan O’Donnell added 10 points and Basil Aldoss had eight.
“I think we definitely set the foundation for Liberty High basketball,” Telander said. “We showed them what they can do.”
Senior starters Ira Hazeltine and Grayson Tyler had four and two points respectively as the first group of four-year players at Liberty High finished the first winning season in program history at 7-6.
“They have been super high character individuals, they provided their own leadership when they freshman and sophomores, I’ve learned a lot from them, I appreciate their effort,” Liberty High coach Stu Ordman said of the seniors. “They are winners, they are going to go on in life and be successful.”
Liberty High 5 9 10 22 – 46
Pleasant Valley 16 7 16 18 – 57
Pleasant Valley (57) – Ryan Dolphin 6-11 10-12 26, Alex Hunter 0-0 1-2 1, Jacob Townsend 7-10 3-5 17, Joel Lawlor 0-3 0-0 0, Matt Mickle 2-5 2-4 8, CJ Ragins 2-2 1-2 5, Totals 17-32 17-25 57.
Liberty High (46) – Ira Hazeltine 2-6 0-0 4, Grayson Tyler 1-3 0-0 2, Da’Shon 3-5 0-0 6, Lucas Forbes 1-1 0-0 2, Ethan O’Donnell 2-7 5-6 10, Basil Aldoss 3-10 1-2 8, Griffin Kraft 0-3 0-0 0, Kelby Telander 5-9 4-4 14, Totals 17-44 10-12 46.
3-point field goals – ICL 2-14 (Hazeltine 0-3, Tyler 0-2, O’Donnell 1-4, Aldoss 1-3, Telander 0-2), PV 6-14 (Dolphin 4-7, Borbeck 0-1, Townsend 0-1, Lawlor 0-1, Mickle 2-4). Rebounds – ICL 19 (Telander 5), PV 31 (Townsend 12). Turnovers – ICL 9, PV 12. Total fouls – ICL 19, PV 13. Fouled out – None. Technical fouls – None.