DES MOINES | Superstars?

If you play it right, this game of basketball doesn’t necessarily require them.

Not that this Boyden-Hull basketball team lacked for talent. The Comets just didn’t have players with the big numbers like Luke Lenhart and Kennedy Drey, the two prolific scorers who led Storm Lake St. Mary’s to 102 wins the last four seasons.

As of Friday night, when Boyden-Hull clipped St. Mary’s 49-45 to make it back-to-back Iowa Class 1A state championships, the Comets’ well-balanced, well-disciplined approach was looking more and more like the way to go.

“It’s just unbelievable that we went back-to-back,’’ said Boyden-Hull Coach Bill Francis, savoring his third title in 11 years with a program that had carted home runner-up trophies from four previous title games before reigning for the first time in 2003.

Capping off a 25-3 campaign with another of its signature defensive gems, Boyden-Hull became the fourth Siouxland Conference team in five years to reign over an enrollment division consisting of the state’s 159 smallest schools -- just 50 fewer than the other three classes combined.

Matching the consecutive titles won by league rival Rock Valley in 2009 and ’10, the Comets simply fed off the steady diet of difficult games they’re accustomed to playing in what is almost certainly the state’s strongest small-school league.

“We’re in these kind of games all the time in our conference,’’ said Francis, the all-tournament captain in 1983 for the first of what became four championship teams for tiny Palmer High School.

So, with the score knotted at 35-all after three quarters, the Comets rolled up their sleeves much like they had done all winter against teams like two fellow state tournament teams with which they tied for the league crown -- MOC-Floyd Valley, a Class 3A semifinalist, and Sheldon, which played in the 2A title game later Friday.

And, while St. Mary’s came up empty on its first three fourth-quarter chances, turning it over twice, Boyden-Hull put up a game-breaking 7-0 run on a three-pointer by Colin Bolkema, a layup by Brandt Van Roekel and two free throws from J.C. Koerselman.

Opening up a 42-35 lead with 6:11 to play didn’t exactly salt things away. However, it became the ultimate difference for a team that featured a 20-point night from junior guard Riley Francis, the coach’s second eldest of four sons.

St. Mary’s, which had duplicated a 2011 state championship game victory with a dramatic semifinal win Thursday over another previously undefeated Danville squad, wasn’t dead yet, though.

While Boyden-Hull missed 3 of 5 free throws in a three-minute stretch, the Panthers crept within 46-45 with 1:21 to play and then had a shot at the lead after a steal by point guard Dillan Smith.

That potential go-ahead shot was a misfire by Drey and then Boyden-Hull made it a 48-45 lead on two Riley Francis free throws with 46 seconds to play.

The last chance for St. Mary’s was a missed three-pointer with 33 seconds remaining by Lenhart, the all-tournament captain whose 26 points gave him a tournament-high 85.

Riley Francis hit 1 of 2 gifters with 28 seconds on the clock and it was essentially over.

“I think they applied defensive pressure that we haven’t seen,’’ said Lenhart, an Upper Iowa recruit. “It was a battle all the way through and we knew it would be. It just came down to a few possessions. Give or take, we might be hoisting the other trophy.’’

With undersized 6-foot-1 post player J.C. Koerselman leading the defensive effort on the 6-6 Drey, the talented St. Mary’s forward was limited to 12 points, or barely half his average, while also snaring a game-high 12 rebounds.

“Help defense has always been instilled into our team,’’ said Koerselman. “I mean, I’m a 6-1 post. You don’t see that very often.’’

Especially not on a team that outrebounds nearly everyone even though its tallest starter is its point guard, the 6-3 Van Roekel, an all-state quarterback headed for the University of South Dakota to play football. The Comets claimed the board battle yet another time, 23-20.

The three-year Boyden-Hull playmaker, who led three straight teams to Des Moines, contributed 10 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists and three steals.

Koerselman and Bolkema each chipped in eight points for the champs, who are 0-4 the last two seasons against MOC-Floyd Valley and 51-1 against everyone else.

“Honestly, we love playing St. Mary’s,’’ said Bill Francis. “They’re one of our favorite teams to play because they play like us. They’re a hard-nosed team and they work hard and they’re well coached. It’s just a fun game.’’

Francis, of course, has the benefit of a 3-0 record the last four seasons against a program that is 102-2 otherwise during that span. For St. Mary’s, this was a repeat of a 69-61 state semifinal loss a year ago and also a district final loss from three seasons ago.

“They just are really physical,’’ said St. Mary’s Coach Brad Wilkening. “They really moved us around and it kind of intimidates our kids. Except for Luke (13 points for a team that trailed 26-22 at the half) we had kids with open looks that were a little bit tentative in putting shots up.’’



Riley Francis 32 6 12 6 9 2 0 2 20

Miguel Alvarado 18 1 1 0 0 2 0 4 3

Colin Bolkema 32 3 6 0 0 1 1 3 8

Brandt Van Roekel 32 4 10 2 6 10 8 2 10

J.C. Koerselman 32 3 6 2 2 3 2 4 8

Chris Sietstra 14 0 0 0 0 3 0 0 0

Team 2

Totals 160 17 35 10 17 23 11 15 49

ST. MARY’S (45)


Dillan Smith 29 0 0 0 0 0 2 5 0

Luke Lenhart 32 9 17 5 5 4 2 3 26

Josh Scruffham 9 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

Joe Sandhoff 22 1 3 0 0 3 1 4 2

Kennedy Drey 32 5 13 2 2 12 2 2 12

Josh Demers 13 0 1 1 2 0 0 2 1

Trevor Landgraf 23 2 4 0 0 0 2 0 4

Team 1

Totals 160 17 38 8 9 20 9 16 45

Score by quarters:

Boyden-Hull 8 18 9 14 - 49

St. Mary’s 12 10 13 10 - 45

3-point shots – Boyden-Hull 5-11 (Francis 2-6, Alvarado 1-1, Bolkema 2-4), St. Mary’s 3-10 (Lenhart 3-6, Sandhoff 0-2, Drey 0-1, Landgraf 0-1). Turnovers – Boyden-Hull 10, St. Mary’s 9.


Check out a photo gallery of the Class 1A championship game at

Iowa Boys State Tournament

Friday, March 8



Bettendorf 39, Cedar Falls 36

Iowa City West 52, Dubuque Senior 36



Danville 80, North Tama 56


Boyden-Hull 49, Storm Lake St. Mary's 45



Carroll Kuemper 80, MFL/Mar-Mac 52


West Fork vs. Sheldon, late