Sectional crown for Harvest Christian
With just one senior on the roster and two sophomores in the starting lineup most of the year the Harvest Christian girls basketball team wasn't a favorite to make it downstate this season. However, the young Lions have grown by leaps and bounds and will be headed to Pontiac Monday night with a Class 1A state trip on the line after knocking off visiting Walther Christian 58-47 in the sectional championship at Harvest on Thursday night.
Alyssa Iverson, who was a member of the team as a freshman two years ago when the Lions advanced to the Elite Eight round, had a game-high 23 points. The Lions lost in the sectional finals a year ago. Harvest (28-3), which will play Heyworth on Monday, has now won 24 straight games.
"I'm having a flashback to two years ago," Iverson said. "It feels really great. I just feel lucky to have great teammates and coaches that have put us in a position to advance this far."
Harvest found itself in a hard-fought battle all night against a very physical Walther Christian team. The Lions had to feel like they dodged a bullet in the first half after they shot just 5-of-24 (21 percent) from the field and were outrebounded 30-20, but still managed to lead 20-18.
"These are exactly the kind of games we have been preparing for in practice," Harvest coach Rich De Tamble said. "We have been trying to get the girls with being comfortable with being uncomfortable. Teams are always trying to take you out of your comfort zone and you have to be able to respond and I thought we did a great job tonight of keeping our composure when things got rough."
The Lions got rolling in the third quarter with a 10-0 run to pull out to a 32-22 advantage. Senior Katie Kaldenberger got the run started with a 3-pointer. Sophomore Jen Kasper ended the run with a 3-pointer. Iverson had 3 points in between. The Lions had a 12-10 advantage on the boards in the third quarter.
The Broncos (24-6) rallied early in the fourth quarter to get to within 39-36, but could get no closer.
"We are so young," DeTamble said. "But we play with so much maturity. These girls have just taken everything in this year. Every time they step on the court now they feel like something good is going to happen. They just play with no fear."
Iverson had a pull up jumper to stop the Broncos' rally in the fourth quarter. She also made 5 of 6 free throws down the stretch to help seal the win.
"Once we get the lead Alyssa just takes over," DeTamble said. "She's a phenemonal player to have to close out the game. She knows exactly what to do with the ball."
Junior Isamar Garcia also had a big game off the bench with 15 points, including four 3-pointers. She knocked down 2 of those in the fourth quarter.
"My teammates just do a great job of moving the ball around and it gave me some open shots," Garcia said. "This feels amazing. We weren't able to get this done last year for our teammate Paulina Castro in her senior year, but we are dedicating this to her."
Castro, the school's all-time leading scorer, is now battling cancer in her freshman year at Northern Illinois University.