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Freshman Veerbeek helps defending champs into semifinals

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DES MOINES | As the old adage goes, at the state tournament it is all about winning and advancing. It doesn’t matter if it’s one or 100 points, you survive to play another day.

Three-time defending Class 2A state champion Hull Western Christian struggled mightily on offense in its opening game here Tuesday, but nonetheless staved off an upset bid by Iowa City Regina, 50-45, at Wells Fargo Arena.

The second-ranked Wolfpack, looking to become just the second school to win four consecutive state titles, prevailed by making 18 of 25 free throws. No. 12 Regina converted half as many charity tosses (nine) and had trouble getting its top offensive player – freshman Mary Crompton – open for any attempts.

“We knew it was going to be a really tough game, Iowa City Regina is a very good team,” Western Christian Coach Bill Harmsen said. “That’s a team that is very dangerous just because their guards are so good. Their posts were tough matchups for us because they were so good off the dribble.

“I thought our girls were really prepared but when you get out on the stage we missed quite a few layups in the third quarter. It was just one of those games where we really had to grind and take what they gave us.”

Freshman Ashtynn Veerbeek came off the bench to score 17 points and grab 10 rebounds. The 6-foot-2 Veerbeek was the only Western player who had any success around the basket, making 6 of 9 shots.

“She has, in the last seven or eight games, really come into her own,” Harmsen said. “She is feeling so much more comfortable and she’s really coming into her own physically. This is what we’ve seen in practice from the start of the year and now everybody else is starting to see it.”

Senior Jamie Gesink, last year’s all-tournament captain, was 9-for-12 from the free throw line and scored 11 points to go along with 10 rebounds. Payton Harmsen had the hot hand early, tallying eight of her 12 points in the first half for Western (22-3), which plays North Linn (24-1) in a semifinal at 1:30 p.m. Thursday.

Veerbeek and Kaira Moss registered four blocked shots apiece. Two of Veerbeek’s came at key moments late in the game.

With Western clinging to a 45-42 lead with 1:13 left, Veerbeek swatted away Hannah Stein’s shot and Gesink was fouled, making the first of two free throws. The Wolpack made five free throws in the final minute while Regina missed a couple.

The Regals, though, twice pulled within a point. Veerbeek answered with a bucket the first time at the 3:09 mark, then after a Hannah Stein basket cut it to 43-42 with 2:42 remaining, Gesink made two free throws.

Veerbeek put the icing on the cake, so to speak, by calmly converting two free throws with 11 seconds left, then blocking a three-point attempt just before the buzzer.

Regina’s Crompton, a 5-7 freshman averaging 11.3 points, was shadowed by Kenzie Bousema most of the contest, managing just three shots and scoring seven points.

“My job is always to guard the best player and to face guard them as much as possible,” said Bousema, a Dordt College basketball and soccer recruit. “She’s a very good player and is going to be really good someday. What they try to do is she feeds the high post and goes to either corner and I had to stay with her all the time.”

Bousema and Gesink shot a combined 2-for-17 from the field.

“We came out there a little nervous with the younger girls and stuff, but you have to give credit to them, they’re a good team,” Gesink said. “I think it was just lack of concentration, especially on my part. I missed a lot of those easy shots and it’s just frustrating. But we have to go back to practice tomorrow and work on that.”

Western built an 18-10 lead after one quarter, but from there on, had to battle against the young and determined Regals, who started two freshmen, a sophomore and a junior.

“We had several chances when we had shots that could have gone down and we had a chance to take the lead on those shots, but they just wouldn’t go down,” Regina Coach Matt Bolger said. “If we would have made some of those it would have been a great psychological lift for our kids if we could have gotten the lead.

“We didn’t rebound very well because of their great size and on paper I don’t imagine too many people thought we could be where we were, with a chance to win the game. About a month ago I told the girls, you know the sky’s the limit, and we had a great game. This is hard to take, but we’re looking forward to next year.”

As for Western Christian, the Wolfpack kept their hopes alive for equaling Ankeny, which won four Class 4A crowns from 2002-05. However, they will have to perform better the rest of the way to do so.

“I don’t know if I’m going to call this a bad one,” Harmsen said. “I’m going to call it a game we just had to learn and win differently. We didn’t shoot it exceptionally well, but we continued to play defense, get valued stops, and took pretty good care of the ball in the second half. It doesn’t matter right now, you just have to win by one and that’s what we’re trying to do.”

Iowa City Regina (45)


Mary Compton 28 2 3 2 2 1 1 2 7

Sarah Lehman 29 4 9 1 5 7 1 0 11

Kennedy Brown 20 4 6 2 3 4 2 5 10

Cammy Verducci 26 1 8 0 0 3 0 4 3

Hannah Stein 28 4 20 4 5 7 1 3 12

Lauren Gaardt 9 1 1 0 0 1 0 1 2

Greyson Dumont 15 0 3 0 0 2 2 3 0

Christina Hora 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0

Megan Wick 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

Katie Dunn 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

Team 7

Totals 160 16 50 9 15 32 7 19 45

Western Christian (50)


Payton Harmsen 24 4 9 1 2 5 1 2 12

Kaira Moss 17 1 3 0 0 5 0 1 2

Kenzie Bousema 25 1 8 2 2 2 3 3 4

Jamie Gesink 40 1 9 9 12 10 2 3 11

Abbie Wolterstorff 18 1 1 1 2 2 0 0 4

Erika Feenstra 11 0 2 0 1 2 0 2 0

Erica Bousema 14 0 2 0 0 2 4 1 0

Katie Scholten 2 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0

Ashtyn Verbeek 19 6 9 5 6 10 0 4 17

Team 1

Totals 160 14 43 18 25 40 10 16 60

Score by quarters:

Iowa City Regina 10 12 9 14 -- 45

Western Christian 18 11 5 16 -- 50

Three-point goals – Iowa City Regina 4-14 (Lehman 2-4, Compton 1-1, Verducci 1-5, Dumont 0-3, Stein 0-1), Western Christian 4-15 (Harmsen 3-8, Wolterstorff 1-1, Feenstra 0-1, E. Bousema 0-2, K. Bousema 0-3).


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