Denison-Schleswig’s bid to reach the state tournament for the first time in 34 years fell just short on Monday night, as the Monarchs suffered an emotional 60-58 loss to Hawkeye 10 Conference-rival Harlan in the Class 3A, Substate 8 title game at Atlantic.
D-S Charlie Wiebers scored on a driving layup with just over 10 seconds remaining to tie the game at 58-58.
Harlan then called a timeout with 7.6 left having to go the length of the court.
The ball was inbounded to Cyclone Johnathan Monson.
The senior dribbled 94 feet and missed a layup on the left side of the basket, but sophomore teammate Connor Frame on the right side of the rim rebounded the miss in the air and tipped the ball in right before the buzzer sounded for the win.
It was the only basket of the game for Frame, who finished with three points on the night.
A tough way to end the year for a D-S squad that lost to Harlan for the third time this season in finishing 15-9 overall after falling one game shy of a state tournament appearance for the second consecutive winter campaign.
The Monarchs, which lost 51-48 to Winterset in a substate final a year ago, defeated the same Huskies’ club in a substate semifinal contest last Friday night to earn a championship matchup against Mitch Osborn’s Harlan outfit.
Harlan improved to 18-6 overall with its two-point victory on Monday night. The Cyclones will be making their 18th trip to the state tournament in school history.
Harlan jumped out to an 8-2 lead early in Monday’s game and led 12-5 after one quarter.
D-S trailed 15-7 when the Monarchs scored 10 straight points to take a 17-15 lead midway through the second quarter.
Harlan then responded with an 8-0 run to go up 23-17 en route to a 25-20 advantage at halftime.
D-S outscored Harlan 12-9 in the third to pull to within 34-32 going into the fourth.
Wiebers opened the final quarter hitting a three-point basket to give D-S at 35-34 lead.
Tied at 35-35, the Monarchs then got a three-point drain from Bryce Fink to give them their biggest lead of the game at 38-35 with six minutes remaining.
A layup by Harlan’s Connor Bruck eventually tied it at 39-39 and a Monson three-pointer put the Cyclones up 42-39 with 4:27 left to play.
Harlan then led twice by seven with leads of 53-46 with 1:33 left and 55-48 with 1:12 remaining.
D-S didn’t fold, though, as Wiebers sank a floater in the lane and junior Braiden Heiden followed with a three-pointer to cut the lead to 56-53 with 36 seconds left.
Down two at 58-56, Wiebers found an opening on the right side of the lane and scored on a layup to tie the game at 58-58, setting up Harlan’s length-of-the-court final play for the win.
"Definitely a tough way to lose. There wasn’t a lot I could say in the locker room that could console the guys. It’s only going to take time for them to be able to sit back and reflect on everything they accomplished," commented Denison-Schleswig coach Derek Fink.
"I think we just ran out of time. Obviously, they (Harlan) made the big play at the end. You know, we’ll probably go back and microscope everything that happened during the game, but at the end of the day, this team in the locker room is the team that I want to coach," he added.
"This group of seniors gave everything they had and they set the bar high for classes to come."
"Obviously, we would have liked to finish the season a week later than we did, but it just didn’t happen for us. I liked how we battled back and gave ourselves a chance at the end, though. We just needed a few breaks to go our way, but unfortunately, the breaks didn’t go in our favor tonight," noted Fink.
"Again, I liked how the guys didn’t quit and I knew they wouldn’t, because they’re all competitors. There were a couple of times we trailed by seven late in the fourth and the guys could have folded up the tents, but they didn’t and battled back to give themselves an opportunity. That’s all you want at the end of the game," Fink said.
"I’m very proud of the guys. I wish it would have been a different turnout for them, but at the end of the day, they’re Monarchs and always will be Monarchs," Fink stated.
After not scoring in the first half, Wiebers wound up leading D-S with 20 points, including 16 in the fourth quarter alone to spark the Monarch comeback.
Wiebers also led the team with nine rebounds.
Fink stepped up in his final game with 12 points on four, three-point baskets to his credit. He sank three long-range bombs for nine points in the second half alone.
Heiden also had 11 points off the bench for the Monarchs, draining two of his three-point baskets after halftime.
Senior Damien Magnuson added 10 points, draining two shots from three-point territory and netting all 10 in the first half before fouling out late in the contest after another stellar defensive effort on Harlan’s offensive standout Bruck, who led the Cyclones with 18 points, but had only three two-point baskets all game after going 12-of-15 at the free throw line, including 8-of-11 in the second half.
In Harlan’s substate semifinal win over Glenwood, Bruck went off for 41 points and hit all 20 of his free throws.
Senior Goanar Biliew fought through foul trouble and finished with only three points, all in the second half with one basket in the third quarter and a free throw in the fourth.
Junior Evan Turin rounded out the scoring for D-S with two points in the first half of play.
Harlan, for the game, was just 2-of-4 from three-point range, but 19-of-28 overall from the floor for a blistering 68 percent.
The Cyclones were 20-of-29 at the foul line, including 15-of-23 in the second half.
Bruck was one of three Harlan players to reach double figures.
Monson finished with 16 points and Michael Erlemeier added 10 points.
Michael Heithoff also had eight points for the Cyclones.
Harlan’s Osborn felt very fortunate to win the game in responding to an interview following Monday’s contest.
"It’s very exhilarating, as I’ve been very spoiled in my coaching career, but this is what you fight and battle for. It’s not about me, though, it’s about the kids, the parents and the community," Osborn remarked.
"It was just a great, great win over a very good Denison-Schleswig team. And I mean that, as we just couldn’t get a knockout punch. They just kept battling and fortunately for us we were able to hit some free throws down the stretch," he added.
"Give the Monarchs a lot of credit. Wiebers was not going to let his team go down without a fight."
"And then they had some other kids step up and hit some big three-pointers. Just when we thought we were going to pull away, they would hit a big shot. It was definitely a battle and we knew it was going to be like that," stated Osborn, whose Cyclone team beat D-S 68-60 in overtime in December at Harlan and 54-48 in late January at Denison during the regular season.
"They (D-S) put intense pressure on us throughout the game, but I thought we handled the ball pretty well and made just enough free throws at the end," Osborn said.
Score by Quarters
Harlan...............12 13 9 26 - 60
D-S.....................5 15 12 26 - 58
D-S Individual Statistics
Scoring: Charlie Wiebers 20; Bryce Fink 12; Braiden Heiden 11; Damien Magnuson 10; Goanar Biliew 3; Evan Turin 2
Rebounds: Wiebers 9; Biliew 5; Fink 3; Magnuson 2; Turin 2
Assists: Magnuson 5; Wiebers 2; Turin 2; Biliew 2; Fink 1; Heiden 1
Steals: Wiebers 2; Fink 2; Heiden 2; Jack Mendlik 1
Blocks: Biliew 3; Austin Korner 1; Heiden 1; Magnuson 1; Wiebers 1
Three-Pointers: Fink 4; Heiden 3; Magnuson 2; Wiebers 1