DES MOINES — In a matchup of two teams with plenty of state tournament experience, Monday’s Class 1A state quarterfinal game between West Hancock and Grand View Christian was going to be all about who got out in front first.
Grand View Christian used its defense to do just that as it threw West Hancock out of its rhythm throughout on the way to a 59-36 win.
The Thunder used a 10-0 run to start the game, and forced West Hancock into nine first-quarter turnovers and West Hancock was never able to recover.
“It’s tough taking the loss like we did today, but I thought this year alone a lot of people didn’t expect us to make state, and that alone is a great accomplishment,” West Hancock senior Dylan Eckels said. “It’s been a fun four years. You couldn’t ask for anything better than a third-place finish at state and two qualifiers.”
For West Hancock, which was led by a high-scoring offense all season, Grand View’s defense was the problem. That coupled with a cold-shooting night meant the Eagles couldn’t get their backs off the wall.
It wasn’t until the second quarter when an Eckels’ layup gave the Eagles their first field goal of the game. After scoring one point in the first, the second went off a little bit better but Grand View answered every big shot with a basket of its own.
“They’re a good team, they’re very well coached, they’ve got some good shooters.” Grand View coach Dave Stubbs said. “It’s just some of their shots didn’t fall like they had earlier in the season for them. We were encouraged that we had the opportunity to get our shots and make the guys work real hard and they didn’t let up.”
West Hancock finished 12 of 43 on the evening (27.9 percent) and turned the ball over 18 times.
Meanwhile, the Thunder were busy making more than 40 percent of their shots, and their pressure and length on defense made it hard for West Hancock’s offense to find any offense.
“We tried to simulate that pressure in practice and we must not have done a good enough job to have the kids prepared for it,” West Hancock coach Brian Peterson said. “I thought defensively we were sound but we weren’t prepared for their pressure.”
Grant DeMeulenaere led the Thunder, who face Remsen St. Mary’s in Thursday’s semifinals, with a game-high 21 points, Mach Nyaw scored 12 off the bench and Arturo Montes scored 11 and added 12 rebounds.
“They’ve got a lot of really good shooters, they can spread it out, they’re really fast, long and athletic, and it’s really hard when you go out to defend a 3-point shot and they go right by you, put it on the deck and go to the hoop,” West Hancock senior Ben Eisenman said.
Eckels paced the Eagles with 11 points and nine rebounds and Eisenman chipped in 10 points and handed out four assists.
West Hancock, which was at the state tournament for the third straight year, finishes it season 19-7.
“Even in middle school the seniors ahead of us and the seniors this year, we were good,” Eckels said. “We knew we had a chance to do something special during our high school careers and I think we did that. A lot of teams respect us now as a program.”