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What we learned from the Nevada boys' 62-55 3A Substate 6 semifinal loss to Grinnell

The Nevada boys basketball team saw one of the best seasons in program history end Thursday with a 62-55 loss to Grinnell in the Class 3A Substate 6 semifinal game at the Nevada High School Field House.

The Cubs put up 23 points in the first quarter and led 30-29 at the half. Grinnell came back to take a 44-42 lead after three quarters, and the Tigers gradually pulled away in the fourth quarter.

"Our guys kept believing in each other and playing hard for each other — they gave us a chance over and over again," said Nevada coach Tyler Struck. "But at the end of the day, their size was too much of a factor and they were able to make just enough plays and free throws late to come away with the win."

Nevada guard Kyle Kingsbury (1) takes a shot against Grinnell forward Carson Penyich (15) during the third quarter of the Cubs' 62-55 loss to the Tigers in the 3A Substate 6 semifinal at the Nevada High School Field House on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024, in Nevada, Iowa.
Nevada guard Kyle Kingsbury (1) takes a shot against Grinnell forward Carson Penyich (15) during the third quarter of the Cubs' 62-55 loss to the Tigers in the 3A Substate 6 semifinal at the Nevada High School Field House on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024, in Nevada, Iowa.

Here is what we learned from Nevada's substate semifinal loss.

Early injury hurts Nevada

Nevada lost one of its best players to injury in the first half.

John Nelson, a 6-foot, 5-inch sophomore, entered the game averaging 15.8 points and 7.2 rebounds. But he got hurt in the first half and was only able to see a limited amount of time in the third quarter, finishing without a point.

More: Nevada's John Nelson is among the most dependable basketball players in the HOIC

"It's always tough when a starter gets hurt and doesn't play the whole game," Struck said. "With their size and our gameplan having John as a big part of both on both ends, it really threw a wrench into the game."

That was especially evident in the second half.

"Grinnell did a great job of taking advantage of their size differential in the second half by getting the ball inside and attacking the offensive rebounds," Struck said. "We had some great defensive possessions that we just couldn't finish with a rebound because we needed multiple guys and rotations to help down low, leaving them open for some backside rebounds."

Jacob Khounsourath goes all out in his final game

Nevada guard Jacob Khounsourath (0) lays up the ball  as he goes by Grinnell forward Braden Johnson (25) and guards Cole Blackford (21) and Derek Doty (22) during the second quarter in the 3A boys Substate 6 semifinal game at the Nevada High School Field House on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024, in Nevada, Iowa.
Nevada guard Jacob Khounsourath (0) lays up the ball as he goes by Grinnell forward Braden Johnson (25) and guards Cole Blackford (21) and Derek Doty (22) during the second quarter in the 3A boys Substate 6 semifinal game at the Nevada High School Field House on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024, in Nevada, Iowa.

Nevada All-HOIC guard Jacob Khounsourath had a huge night in defeat.

Khounsourath scored a game-high 26 points. He put up 12 points in the first half and 14 over the final two quarters.

More: Nevada sits atop the HOIC boys basketball standings. Jacob Khounsourath is a big reason why

Khounsourath finished the game with 12 field goals, including two 3-pointers.

"Jacob was great today on both ends, obviously, with 26 points," Struck said. "But we got great minutes from a lot of players. Everyone contributed some big moments, but I was especially happy with how hard our seniors fought and battled."

Alec Higgins added 14 points for Nevada. Easton Gray chipped in eight and Kyle Kingsbury five.

"Alec and Kyle had a good night especially on the defensive end having to guard bigger and different players than they were originally planning on guarding and handled it well," Struck said. "Nick (Larson) gave us great minutes off the bench and helped get some big rebounds and force some turnovers in big spots."

Loss does not take away from Nevada's outstanding season

Even though Nevada came up short on Thursday, the Cubs still had a great run in 2023-2024.

With the loss Nevada finished 19-5. It was an outstanding season for the Cubs, who won the Heart of Iowa Conference with a 13-1 record.

"That is what makes tonight's loss hurt so much, but it will also be something I will look back on and be happy about because I think tonight showed just how far this team has come and how much work they put into it," Struck said. "The 19 wins is tied for the most wins in a season in over the last 60-plus years, and we won our conference for the first time since 1997. This was truly a special team that I am so lucky to have been a part of, and I am so happy to be leading this program in such a positive and fun direction. Lucky to be the coach at Nevada and get to work with these young men."

Joe Randleman covers high school sports for the Ames Tribune. Contact him at jrandleman@gannett.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JoeRandleman

This article originally appeared on Ames Tribune: Nevada boys see outstanding season end with substate loss to Grinnell