Your Prep Sports
DES MOINES – Ava Locklear called it a ‘perfect storm’.
PJ Sweeney labeled the first quarter of Tuesday’s Class 4A state quarterfinal a ‘blitz’ and later described it as a runaway snowball headed down the hill.
Regardless of the description it all meant the same thing – North Polk was really good early in what ended as a 61-30 win over the Comets at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.
“It was a first-quarter blitz,” Sweeney said. “It was a first-quarter blitz right from the tip they had us on our heels.”
Second-ranked North Polk bolted to a 26-8 first-quarter lead, shot 60 percent in the first half while building a 42-16 halftime advantage and rolled into the 4A semifinals.
North Polk (22-2) will face third-ranked Sioux City Heelan (23-2) in a 4A semifinal on Thursday at 6:45 p.m. after the Crusaders downed defending champion Cedar Rapids Xavier in the semifinal.
“Oh no doubt,” North Polk coach Clint Albertsen said when asked if his team played as well as he could imagine early on against Clear Creek Amana. “All season this team has been able to consistently show up for big game after big game.”
The North Polk ‘blitz’ came early.
The Comets made 11 of its 14 field goal attempts and didn’t commit a turnover in the first quarter.
North Polk forced Clear Creek Amana into eight first-quarter turnovers scoring 16 points off those turnovers.
“They sped us up and we had quite a few turnovers that led into some open transitions buckets for them,” Sweeney said. “It was just kind of snowball effect from there and that ball just kept getting bigger and kept rolling downhill.”
Leading 7-4 less than three minutes into the game the Comets used a 17-0 run that spanned less than four minutes to take a 24-4 lead with 1:21 remaining in the opening quarter.
“I think we definitely could have played better but that isn’t going to change every single thing because they are a great team,” Locklear said. “It kind of blended together into a perfect storm.”
An 18-point lead ballooned to 26 by the half as the Comets made 18-of-30 first-half field goal attempts and had six offensive rebounds.
While North Polk shot 60 percent in the opening half Clear Creek Amana was limited to 33 percent shooting and had 12 of its 17 turnovers in the first two quarters.
“We struggled on offense getting into anything and credit North Polk, they are a good team,” Sweeney said. “It’s sometimes hard to gauge how good a team is on film but in person boy if there is a better team in 4A I’d like to see them.”
The top three leading scorers from North Polk, MaKayla Boatman, Abby Tuttle and Liza Schaffer entered averaging a combined 38.1 points per game on the season.
The trio had 38 points in the first half.
“I think we just came out ready to go right away,” Boatman said. “Our guards made great passes, it helps to have other girls that can score and just get after it.”
Boatman had 18 of her game-high 21 in the first half and Schaffer had 14 of her 21 in the opening half.
“When you come down here you aren’t sure how you are going to shoot, that is always the thing you wonder about and we came out and shot it early,” Albersten said. “We knocked the first few down and then it’s a lot easier from there.”
Locklear finished with 16 points, eight rebounds and three assists to lead Clear Creek Amana (18-5) which was making its second state tournament appearance and first since 2020.
The Clippers lose just one starter from this year’s state tournament team in senior guard Olivia Miller and return its top three scorers in Locklear, Averie Lower and Bliss Beck.
“We lost one senior in Olivia and that is going to hurt us but with the players that are returning it’s good for them to experience this,” Locklear said. “We will work in the offseason and when we come back next season we will be ready for some revenge.”
Lower had nine points on Tuesday going 3-of-8 from 3-point range and Beck had seven rebounds.
“We lose Olivia a big piece of what we’ve done the last few years but basically we return everybody else so hopefully we can use this as a learning experience and maybe next year we can get here and take that next step,” Sweeney said. “Last year we lost in the regional final one step away to get here and this year we broke through to get here and maybe next year we can take that next step and win a game and get into the semifinals.”
Clear Creek Amana 8 8 7 7 – 30
North Polk 26 16 11 8 – 61
Clear Creek Amana (30) – Kaylee Stratton 0-3 0-0 0, Averie Lower 3-8 0-0 9, Olivia Miller 0-4 0-0 0, Bliss Beck 1-3 0-0 2, Ava Locklear 6-14 4-6 16, Sam Schrage 0-3 1-2 1, Lena Evans 0-1 0-0 0, Melissa Sweeney 1-1 0-0 2, Totals 11-37 5-8 30.
North Polk (61) – MaKayla Boatman 9-17 1-2 21, Liza Schaffer 8-11 2-2 21, Abby Tuttle 3-5 0-2 6, Izzy McCool 0-3 0-0 0, Beccad Aagard 2-5 0-0 4, Trinity Miller 0-1 0-0 0, Madi Nemmers 1-2 0-0 2, Lauren Ausborn 1-1 0-0 2, Ava Husak 0-1 0-0 0, Kaylee Koudelka 1-1 0-0 2, Jada Podey 1-3 1-2 3, Greta Dillinger 0-3 0-0 0, Totals 26-53 4-8 61.
3-point field goals – CCA 3-13 (Lower 3-8, Miller 0-3, Schrage 0-2), NP 5-16 (Boatman 2-3, Schaffer 3-5, Tuttle 0-1, McCool 0-1, Miller 0-1, Nemmers 0-1, Husak 0-1, Podey 0-1, Dillinger 0-2). Rebounds – CCA 23 (Locklear 8), NP 33 (Aagard 6). Assists – CCA 5 (Locklear 3), NP 9 (Boatman 3). Turnovers – CCA 17, NP 8. Total fouls – CCA 5, NP 7. Fouled out – None. Technical fouls – None.