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Pella bests Clarke in back and forth substate semifinal

Feb. 23—PELLA — Postseason basketball with a great postseason atmosphere with two evenly matched teams going toe to toe for 32 minutes. Pella hosted Clarke on Thursday night for a great Class 3A substate semifinal battle that went down to the wire with the Dutch coming out on top, 60-54.

"I was most proud of our ability to respond to their runs," Pella head coach Derek Schulte said. "We didn't play our best 32 minutes. In the first half they turned us over and that surprised us a little bit that we didn't value it the way we typically do. But our guy's ability to respond in that second quarter to close it to two, the ability in the third quarter to close it to two and then all of a sudden we got things going."

Those first half turnovers were key for the Dutch as the game tipped off and they faced some struggles against Clarke's 3-2 zone. The good news for the Pella offense was when they weren't turning it over, they were making their shots. Jack McGuire scored the first six Pella points and the three ball was setting the tone for the night.

Pella got threes from Luke Hardman and Austin Schulte as well as a deep buzzer beater by Brayden Traetow to put the Dutch in front 17-16 after the first quarter.

The back and forth continued in the second quarter as the Indians were able to keep up the scoring and the pace of the game while continue to force turnovers. Neither team would budge with a late layup by McGuire cutting the Clarke lead to 27-25 at the break.

The third quarter saw Pella starting to get a handle on Clarke's zone as they were moving it better and finding the soft spots. Meanwhile the Indians continued to match bucket for bucket as both teams scored 15 points in the third quarter and Clarke was holding a slight 42-40 advantage heading to the fourth. But in that quarter, the Indians would see their 6-foot-7 forward Cole White go down with an injury and wouldn't return.

It was on to the fourth quarter and the Dutch would put together their best run of the night. A Traetow corner three was followed by a tough layup by Schulte as Pella did on both ends with a 9-0 run to take a 51-42 lead.

"The 3-2 zone forces you to be able to attack through that corner because of the pressure they put on the perimeter," Schulte said. "I thought in the first half we were a little perimeter oriented and we struggled to get it to the corner or in the paint. We did a better job in the second half. It didn't always lead to twos or to paint touches but it did lead to good shots. Our guy's unselfishness was key during that stretch."

It looked like it might be all Pella the rest of the way but the Indians from Clarke were not done yet as they responded with a couple of free throws and a pair of huge threes from Ashton Giza to cut it to 51-50 with 1:39 to go.

Pella needed an answer and they got it from McGuire who was able to put back his own miss to push the lead back to three. Giza missed a three on the other end and Clarke would have to start playing the foul game from there.

The Dutch would go 7-of-8 from the free throw line down the stretch and it would be enough to hold off Clarke for 60-54 victory to advance to the substate final.

Pella shot 44% from the field on the night including a very good 11-of-25 from three and 11-of-14 from the charity stripe. They were led by a trio of double digit scorers as McGuire led the way with 14 points, seven rebounds, three assists, four steals and one block. Traetow also tallied 14 points, two rebounds, two assists and one steal while Schulte was big off the bench going 4-for-5 on corner threes to end with 14 points and three rebounds.

Pella (14-9) will take on Winterset (15-9) in the substate finals on Monday at 5:30 p.m. at Indianola. It will be a rematch of their 2022 substate final where the Huskies came away with a 72-62 win.

"They've got an excellent basketball team there," Schulte said of Winterset. "Well coached, they've got some really good guards that are very quick and active and that's what makes their 2-3 zone effective because of how active and engaged they are with that. Then they've got some size in the middle so we know it will be a great challenge. They play in a great league, we play in a great league and they finished their season with some really good wins. It's going be a tough test on Monday, but we're in the round of 16 with a chance to go to the state tournament. You've got to beat excellent teams at this point and we're excited for the opportunity on Monday."

Colin Peters can be reached at 641-672-2581, by email at cpeters@oskyherald.com or on Twitter @ColinPetersOH.