DES MOINES — A large contingent of spectators kept waiting for top-seeded Treynor to take over and cruise to victory.
The problem was a group of 13 young women from Grundy Center whose resolve was strong as iron.
The Cardinals kept coming after the fifth-seeded Spartans Friday in a Class 2A girls’ state basketball semifinal at Wells Fargo Arena, but when the final buzzer sounded, Grundy Center was headed to Saturday’s state championship game with a 42-39 win.
“We believed,” forward Kylie Willis said.
Not many gave Grundy Center much of a chance to get out of the first round against fourth-seeded Iowa City Regina and fewer gave the Spartans a chance Friday against a team that returned its top three scorers after losing in the state finals a year ago..
“We take those things personally,” said point guard Hailey Wallis of the Spartans’ doubters. “We came in with a lot of motivation. We knew a lot of people didn’t think we could win, but one of our favorite things to do is prove them wrong.”
Despite 17 turnovers and scoring droughts of 5 minutes, 53 seconds in the first half and 5:38 in the third quarter, the Spartans never wavered from their game plan to be patient offensively and play shutdown defense.
That, ultimately, was how Grundy Center reached the 2A title game for the first time since winning it all in 2005. The Spartans held Treynor to 27 percent shooting (4-for-21 from 3-point range) and 23 points below its season average of 62.
“It was more of a defensive game and before the game we talked about how we wanted to be the ones who controlled the tempo,” Wallis said. “We wanted to keep it in the low 40s and we did a good job of that.”
After giving up the first five points of the game, Grundy Center rattled off a 9-0 run capped by a steal and layup by Wallis with 3:52 left in the first quarter. The Spartans led 12-8 at the end of the first.
Grundy Center didn’t score again for nearly six minutes, but Treynor couldn’t capitalize. The Spartans finally broke the drought with a deep Wallis 3-pointer that made it 15-10.
The Spartans led 19-13 at halftime as Treynor closed the half without a field goal in the final 5:38.
“I’m not sure if that is the first time that has happened,” Grundy Center coach Matt Lindeman said of the scoring droughts. “When you consider the quality of opponent we were playing it just shows our girls will not give up. They will not get down.”
The here comes Treynor moment came in the third. Wallis hit a 3-pointer to open the half, but the Cardinals rattled off the next 11 points to take their first lead, 24-22, since 5-0 with 6:42 to go in the first quarter.
“We are a mentally tough team,” Willis said. “That has been ingrained in us. You have to stay in the moment, stay focused on what you have to do and what your team wants to do.”
The teams traded 6-0 runs to open the fourth, and the deciding moments came in the final 60 ticks of the clock.
The Cardinals’ Konnor Sudmann drained her second consecutive NBA-length 3-pointer with 56 seconds left to tie the game at 39 with 46 seconds left. But Wallis drove the length of the court and scored on a running bank shot with 34 seconds left.
“Absolutely huge to answer after that 3,” Lindeman said.
“At that time I just knew we needed to attack the basket, make the shot or get free throws and not settle for a long shot,” said Wallis, who led all scorers with 18 points.
Brooke Flater hit one of two free throws with 17 seconds left, and Treynor missed three cracks at the game-tying shot in the closing seconds.
“It’s unbelievable,” Lindeman said. “You just never know, but if you get girls playing hard for four quarters and do everything you ask of them and then finish down the stretch, that is what we have been able to do.”
“It means the world,” Willis added. “It is a dream come true. We put the work in and it is happening.”
Grundy Ctr. 43, Treynor 39
GRUNDY CENTER (24-1) — Hailey Wallis 6-12 3-4 18, Maddie McMartin 1-5 0-0 3, Sydney Matthews 0-1 0-0 0, Kylie Willis 1-4 4-6 6, Brooke Flater 2-5 1-2 5, Reegen Zinkula 1-2 0-0 3, Sarah Lindeman 3-5 0-1 7, Cora Saak 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 14-35 8-13 42.
TREYNOR (23-2) — Sydney Carmen 1-6 0-0 3, Konnor Sudmann 6-17 2-3 16, Kayla Chapman 5-17 3-3 14, Madelyn Deitchler 1-5 1-2 3, Sydni Huisman 0-0 3-4 3, Tori Castle 0-2 0-0 0, Mandy Stogdill 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 13-48 9-12 39.
Grundy Ctr. 12 7 5 18 — 42
Treynor 8 5 13 13 — 39
3-point goals — Grundy Center 6-10 (Wallis 3-5, McMartin 1-3, Zinkula 1-1, Lindeman 1-1), Treynor 4-21 (Carmen 1-6, Sudmann 2-5, Chapman 1-8, Castle 0-2). Rebounds — Grundy Center 31 (Flater 9), Treynor 28 (Deitchler 5). Assists — Grundy Center (Matthews 4), Treynor 5 (Deitchler 2). Turnovers — Grundy Center 17 (Matthews 4), Treynor 12 (Sudmann 5). Total fouls — Grundy Center 14, Treynor 16. Fouled out — Deitchler.