Humboldt bows out in state quarterfinals
DES MOINES – Cold shooting surfaced at the most inopportune time for the Humboldt boys basketball team here Tuesday.
Held in check offensively throughout, the eighth-seeded Wildcats (16-8 overall) suffered a 64-44 setback to No. 1 seed Harlan in a Class 3A state quarterfinal at Wells Fargo Arena.
Making its seventh trip to Des Moines in school history and first since 2002, Humboldt made only 26.8 percent (15-for-56) of its field goal attempts in its lowest scoring output of the season. After leading by four points right out of the gate, the Wildcats watched the third-ranked Cyclones pull away behind a 23-7 second-quarter flurry.
“They are a very good team, and it showed (Tuesday),” said first-year Humboldt head coach Jake Mohling of Harlan. “We had trouble getting any open looks, but their defense on the perimeter and size and length inside really bothered us.
“I didn’t think we executed (offensively) very well, either. Looking back, maybe I should’ve made some changes on the defensive end.”
Senior Jack Curran anchored the Wildcats with 14 points, while juniors Austin Zylstra and Brady Ross each netted eight.
Star junior guard Jaxon Heinz was limited to four points on 1 of 13 shooting. Heinz came in averaging a team-high 17.6 points per game.
“We kind of knew (the Cyclones) were going to try and face guard some guys, and we didn’t adjust very well to that,” Heinz said. “It was frustrating seeing all the things we did wrong.
“It’s pretty disappointing not to get the win, especially for our fans.”
Curran’s jumper at the 5:27 mark briefly gave Humboldt a 5-1 edge, but Harlan closed the first period on a 10-0 burst behind six points from 6-foot-7 University of Nebraska-Kearney recruit Trey Lansman.
With all the momentum on their side, the defending state runner-up Cyclones later reeled off a pivotal 14-0 burst to end the half. Before the break, Humboldt made only four field goals on 14.8 percent shooting.
“That (cold spell) sucks the life out of you,” said Mohling. “It’s hard to come back from. And when we didn’t make a quick run in the third quarter, it hung around a little more. It was insurmountable.”
Lansman delivered a triple-double for Harlan (23-2) with 20 points, 11 rebounds and 11 blocks. Senior classmates Nathan Cave and Adam Juhl contributed 16 and 15 points, respectively.
The Hawkeye Ten Conference champion Cyclones finished with a 28-16 advantage on points in the paint.
“We kept scoring, we got our defense going, we were making threes,” Lansman said. “It was just the snowball effect, I guess.”
Curran, Nick Heider, Alex Nelson, Dillon Fevold, Will Pogge and Jonah Haselhuhn all suited up for the final time as Wildcats.
“It was a great memory for our seniors to end their careers at state, and their extra leadership was so important,” said Mohling. “This season was unforgettable, and I’ll remember it for the rest of my life. I couldn’t have asked for a better group of kids in my first year as coach.
“The amount of fun we had was amazing. Our whole community of Humboldt deserves a big thank you. To see all our fans come out and support us was huge.”
Perennial power Harlan is making its 17th state appearance, including their ninth since 2001 alone. Veteran Harlan head coach Mitch Osborn now owns 617 career victories, which ranks ninth all-time in Iowa and fifth among active coaches.
Osborn, who previously directed Pomeroy-Palmer to a 1A state crown in 1994 and a runner-up effort in ’95, guided the Cyclones to 3A state titles in ’04 and ’06.
“We didn’t look ourselves early on, but (the Wildcats) are an extremely quick team,” Osborn said. “Obviously a big part of (the win) was our defense. I think we did a great job of slowing down (Heinz).”
No. 5 seed Dubuque Wahlert (21-4) now awaits Harlan in a 3A semifinal here Thursday at 6:35 p.m. The top-ranked Golden Eagles easily prevailed over fourth-seeded Chariton Tuesday, 81-59.