Prep Basketball

City High up, then down, then up at the end in girls' state basketball semifinal

Little Hawks make the final surge in 58-52 win over Johnston

Iowa City High players celebrate their 58-52 win over Johnston in a Class 5A semifinal Thursday at the girls’ state basketball tournament at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
Iowa City High players celebrate their 58-52 win over Johnston in a Class 5A semifinal Thursday at the girls’ state basketball tournament at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

DES MOINES — Up eight. Down nine. Up 12. Then dead even.

Iowa City High’s herky-jerky Class 5A semifinal with Johnston came down to the final 90 seconds. And when it mattered most, the Little Hawks were golden from the free-throw line.

Top-ranked City High made 9 of 10 free throws after the No. 4 Dragons had drawn even, and prevailed, 58-52, Thursday afternoon at Wells Fargo Arena.

“Getting to the championship game, it’s a great feeling, especially with this team,” Iowa State recruit Ashley Joens said.

The Little Hawks (25-0) face No. 9 Iowa City West (18-7) for the title at 6 p.m. Friday. The Women of Troy defeated No. 10 Indianola, 58-45, Thursday.

It will be City’s third battle with West. The Little Hawks claimed regular-season verdicts, 53-40 and 79-70.

“We just need to come out like it’s any other game,” Joens said.

As for Thursday’s semifinal, it was nothing like any other.

“A lot of momentum swings,” Johnston Coach Chad Jilek said. “(City) persevered and fought through it.”

City High got off to a 12-4 lead, then Johnston scored the next 17 points to flip it. The Dragons held leads of 21-12 and 24-15 before City came back.

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“We weren’t playing up to our ability, but once we picked up the defense, that really helped,” Joens said.

City was within 30-28 at halftime, then ruled the third quarter and took a 44-34 advantage to the fourth.

But just like that, the momentum shifted again, and it was 49-all as crunch time approached.

Joens’ two free throws put City back in front with 1:17 left, then it was Rose Nkumu’s turn.

Nkumu, who missed five of her first six foul shots, hit both ends of a one-and-one to make it 53-49.

“I was frustrated that my shots weren’t falling,” Nkumu said. “But my coaches looked me in the eye and said, ‘We need these.’ That built up my confidence, and I was able to knock them down.”

Joens hit two more foul shots, Nkumu 1 of 2, and Paige Rocca two more as the Little Hawks wrapped it up.

It was a mixed bag for Joens, who finished with 24 points, nine rebounds and seven steals, but committed 10 turnovers. Nkumu added 13 points.

Jennah Johnson paced Johnston with 19 points. Regan Nesheim added 17.

IOWA CITY HIGH 58, JOHNSTON 52

Class 5A State Semifinal, at Des Moines

JOHNSTON (52): Maya McDermott 4-10 0-0 9, Macy Thompson 1-2 0-0 2, Jennah Johnson 6-13 6-8 19, Maddie Mock 1-5 0-0 3, Megan Nesheim 7-8 3-4 17, Brooke McKee 0-0 0-0 0, Natalie Kahre 0-0 0-0 0, Kendall 1-2 0-0 2, Alma Hodzic 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 20-40 9-12 52.

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IOWA CITY HIGH (58): Rose Nkumu 3-14 4-9 13, Ashley Joens 8-12 6-6 24, Paige Rocca 1-6 4-4 7, Aubrey Joens 2-3 0-0 5, Samantha Greving 2-6 0-0 4, Ayana Lindsey 0-0 0-0 0, Ella Cook 2-3 0-0 5. Totals 18-44 14-19 58.

Halftime: Johnston 30, City 28. 3-point goals: Johnston 3-9 (McDermott 1-3, Johnson 1-4, Mock 1-2), City 8-19 (Nkumu 3-9, Ash. Joens 2-4, Rocca 1-4, Aub. Joens 1-1, Cook 1-1). Team fouls: Johnston 18, City 14. Fouled out: Mock. Rebounds: Johnston 24 (Mock 9), City 24 (Ash. Joens 9). Assists: Johnston 12 (Johnson 5), City 8 (Nkumu 4). Steals: Johnston 14 (Nesheim 5), City 16 (Ash. Joens 7). Turnovers: Johnston 23, City 19.

l Comments: (319) 368-8857; jeff.linder@thegazette.com

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