DES MOINES — Aplington-Parkersburg demonstrated the conventional route isn’t the only way to reach a destination Monday night in the quarterfinals off the Class 2A boys’ state basketball tournament.
Brushing a method of sealing wins at the free throw line aside, Aplington-Parkersburg senior Alec Oberhauser put back a missed free throw with six seconds remaining, and South Hamilton’s talented point guard Marco Balderas missed a potential game-tying 3-pointer off the left side of the rim as time expired, giving the Falcons a thrilling, 54-51 victory inside Wells Fargo Arena.
A-P (24-1) handed South Hamilton (24-1) its first loss since a setback to eventual champion Western Christian in the opening round of last year’s state tournament. The Falcons will face top-seeded Treynor at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday in a rematch of a semifinal game A-P lost when it previously qualified for state in 2015.
“I knew it was going to be a battle,” A-P coach Aaron Thomas said. “Their guards are really quick and athletic, and their post players are really strong and physical. They play such good man-to-man. ... We really struggled to run things offensively, but our guys kept grinding.”
That grind included a fourth quarter in which Aplington-Parkersburg — just a 63 percent free throw shooting team — missed all five of its attempts from the line.
Adding to the frustration were an unusually high eight turnovers from Oberhauser. His final miscue landed in Thomas’ hands, prompting the coach to spike the ball to the court in frustration.
“Our guys did good,” Thomas said. “I got a little wound up and was intense. I just wanted it for these guys so bad after they put in so much effort and worked so hard.”
Despite struggles at times, Oberhauser remained engaged and still found ways to make an impact. He finished with a team-high 14 points and used his 6-foot-6 length to block four shots to go with 10 rebounds and two steals as part of a valuable defensive effort.
It was Aplington-Parkersburg’s defense, combined with timely plays on offense, that ultimately made the difference in a game that saw 11 lead changes after the first quarter with no team leading by more than five points throughout.
Balderas, who recorded his 1,000th career point early in this game, led South Hamilton with 24 points on 11 of 23 shooting. He helped the Hawks build five-point advantages twice in the second half only for A-P junior guard Aaron Price to immediately rein them back in with a 3-pointer and a traditional three-point play on the ensuing possessions.
Price, who finished with 13 points, scored off a drive with 4:55 remaining for the game’s final lead change. Down the stretch, he added an uncontested layup off a lengthy pass from Dylan Ellis that broke the Hawks’ press and made it a four-point game with 19 seconds left.
Balderas answered with a traditional three-point play off a drive to pull within one before Oberhauser’s timely putback on a pair of missed free throws.
“We’re a tough team,” Price said. “We’re a competitive team. We just knew we had to keep competing, keep working hard, and we could come out with a victory.”
Defense was the prevailing theme throughout much of the fourth quarter as A-P brushed its missed free throws aside by holding South Hamilton scoreless for a six-minute stretch in which a three-point deficit turned into a four-point lead.
“We were able to contain the ball, get a hand at their shooters, really box out and get defensive stops,” Oberhauser said.
While it wasn’t always pretty, Aplington-Parkersburg did enough to survive and advance.
“Guys stuck with it and found a way to get a win,” Thomas said.
Apl.-Park. 54, S. Hamilton 51
APLINGTON-PARKERSBURG (24-1) — Aaron Price 5-7 2-4 13, Coby Hoff 2-5 0-2 5, Carter Cuvelier 5-7 2-6 12, Grant Truax 1-4 3-4 5, Alec Oberhauser 7-11 0-1 14, Dylan Ellis 1-6 0-0 3, Sam Bachman 0-0 0-0 0, Junior Bodden 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 22-42 7-17 54.
South Hamilton (24-1) — Marco Balderas 11-23 2-2 24, Cole Berg 1-6 4-4 7, Logan Peters 3-9 0-0 7, Logan Klemp 0-2 2-2 2, Conner Hill 3-10 3-4 11, Quinton Grove 0-2 0-0 0, Cade Balvanz 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 18-53 11-12 51.
Aplington-Park. 8 17 14 15 — 54
South Hamilton 11 13 19 8 — 51
3-point goals — A-P 3-13 (Price 1-1, Hoff 1-4, Truax 0-2, Oberhauser 0-2, Ellis 1-4), SH 4-17 (Balderas 0-2, Berg 1-2, Peters 1-4, Hill 2-8, Grove 0-1). Rebounds — A-P 31 (Hoff 8), SH 31 (Peters 7). Assists — A-P 10 (Oberhauser 3), SH 8 (Balderas 3). Turnovers — A-P 12 (Oberhauser 8), SH 10 (Balvanz 4). Blocks — A-P 5 (Oberhauser 4), SH 0. Steals — A-P 6 (Oberhauser, Truax 2), SH 4 (Hill 3). Total fouls — A-P 13, SH 16. Fouled out — none.