HULL, Iowa | Life wasn’t easy in the paint for Jacob Vis Thursday night.
Usually, the 6-foot-6 Western Christian post dominates inside, entering the contest with a .708 field goal percentage in his two varsity seasons. Vis often found himself double-teamed by the likes of Unity Christian’s 6-4 Micah Goslinga and 6-6 Damon Dekkers during the course of this non-conference boys basketball game between state-ranked Class 2A squads.
Vis got rewarded with a dunk off an alley-oop pass from Caleb Harmsen midway through the third quarter. He scored eight of his 18 points in the third, as the No. 1-ranked and two-time defending 2A state champion Wolfpack rallied for a 55-42 win over the No. 10 Knights.
“We really didn’t come out strong at the start of the game,” said Vis, who was held to 2 of 9 field goal shooting for a team that trailed 26-23 at halftime.
“At halftime, Coach just told me to turn around, face up a little more to see what the defense was doing. We have to come out, play hard and defend home court and just play hard.”
The dunk launched a stretch of three consecutive third-quarter baskets for Vis, who was primarily a reserve last season. Vis also grabbed seven rebounds in the Wolfpack’s 15th consecutive victory in the series against its Sioux County rival.
“Jake had to make a conscious decision in the second half to play through contact and play physical,” said Coach Harmsen. “He’s not built that way, physically. But in a game like this, he had to grow up again. It was really good to see him play through that contact in the second half and play determined. He played with a lot of energy in the second half and that was good to see.”
En route to its 21st consecutive victory dating back to the close of the 2016-17 season, Western Christian (10-0) shot 65 percent (13 of 20) in the second half. Caleb Harmsen scored a game-high 19 points while Ben Granstra added 12.
Unity Christian (8-5), was unable to get a player into double-digit scoring. Micah Goslinga became the ninth different Knight to become the scoring leader in a game this season, coming off the bench for eight points while Jordan Vander Kooi and Austin Van Donge each added seven.
Vis and the 6-5 Broek each struggled in the paint in the first half as Coach Cliff Warner’s Knights, in their bid to post their first win over Western since the 2006-07, held the hosts to 8 of 23 shooting.
“We thought we’d try to do something to get (Vis) a little away from the rim,” said Warner, who played collegiate basketball at Dordt. “I thought our guys executed that well. (Western) made nice adjustments. We’ll make adjustments to that the next time. That’s where I was a little disappointed in our execution because we made the adjustments and we didn’t execute as well in the second half, defensively.”
Unity’s Ryan Fedders snapped a 16-all tie with a free throw midway through the second quarter and VanderKooi added a pair of free throws for a 19-16 lead and from there, the visitors led by three the remainder of the half.
Vander Kooi’s basket gave the Knights a 28-25 lead 28 seconds into the third quarter. Vis then began an 8-0 run with a pair of free throws for a team that outscored the Knights 18-9.
Harmsen’s son also made a key play late in the third quarter. Immediately after going coast-to-coast for a basket after a defensive rebound, he recorded a steal under the Wolfpack basket and scored for a 41-35 lead.
“We thought Unity outplayed us in the first half,” said Coach Harmsen. “We just had to get back to what we do well because I didn’t think we showed that in the first half. In the second half, it was good to see us get into an offensive rhythm. The other thing, defensively, for us to hold them to 16 in the second half, our guys came out more determined after halftime.”
Tonight, Western Christian will host another state-ranked team, No. 9 (Class 3A) Le Mars, a squad that on Tuesday night, defeated previously undefeated and No. 2 (2A) Sioux Center 65-64. Both Western and Le Mars are 5-0 in Lakes Conference play.