DES MOINES — As Sioux City East iced the game at the free-throw line Wednesday night, JMichael Young stood alone at one end of the court with his hands on his head.
Reality set in that his Bettendorf basketball career was coming to an end.
The three-year starter poured in a season-high 20 points, but it wasn’t enough to extend his career and the Bulldogs’ season.
Fourth-ranked Sioux City East held Bettendorf without a field goal for the first 5-plus minutes of the fourth quarter and converted 24 of 27 free throws to record a 61-53 victory in a Class 4A quarterfinal at Wells Fargo Arena.
“I do like to think we’re one of the best defensive teams in the state of Iowa, and it is hard to defend the free-throw line,” said Bettendorf coach Curtis Clark, whose team was whistled for 24 fouls. “They capitalized, obviously. You’ll win a lot of games shooting like that.”
Bettendorf (18-6) had the advantage in size and athleticism. East (22-2) was not intimidated.
“We knew we had to come down here and fight,” East coach Ras Vanderloo said. “(Bettendorf) is physical, big and strong guys. Warming up, I was ready to get the bus warmed up.”
Junior post Van Rees tallied 25 points and 10 rebounds as the Black Raiders held their own on the glass and outscored the Bulldogs in the paint.
If Rees wasn’t getting points off putbacks, he was scoring at the line. The all-stater made 13 of 15 attempts, including 6 of 7 in the final quarter.
“Our coaches were telling us in practice that these guys were one of the best rebounding teams in the state,” Rees said. “That gave me a lot of motivation going in to grab as many rebounds as I could for our team.”
East, which plays second-seeded West Des Moines Valley in the semifinals Friday afternoon, played primarily a 2-3 zone defense.
“It was a good zone, physical and long,” Clark said. “They did a good job of not allowing us a lot of second-chance points in that zone.”
Other than a 21-point third quarter, mostly fueled by Young, the Bulldogs couldn’t get settled in offensively. They were undone by 11 turnovers in the first half, resulting in a 27-20 halftime deficit.
In the third quarter, Young scored a dozen points. The last of those came on a 3-pointer in the closing seconds to give the Bulldogs a 41-40 edge.
“I feel like if I hit my first couple shots, I’ve got a good rhythm for the rest of the game, and that’s what happened tonight,” said Young, the first Bulldog to score 20 points in a game this season.
Bettendorf had the momentum with eight minutes remaining. It couldn’t seize it.
The Bulldogs didn’t make another field goal until the 2:12 mark of the fourth quarter. By then, the Black Raiders had built a three-possession advantage.
“I felt like we had a lot of energy and momentum coming off the third quarter,” senior Suni Lane said, “but we got too excited. We probably should have calmed ourselves back down. We had a few turnovers and a few bad shots.”
Bettendorf, which came in allowing just 45.5 points per game, had a couple defensive lapses, too.
Aiden Vanderloo, East’s top outside shooting threat, buried a wide-open 3-pointer during the early fourth-quarter surge. He finished with 18 points.
“If his feet are set and he has a catch-rhythm three, it is going in almost 100 percent of the time,” Clark said. “We had a communication breakdown there.”
The Bulldogs also were beat on penetration. That allowed Rees to swoop in and get second-chance opportunities.
“We didn’t do a great job with our second rotator helping the helper to get that box out,” Clark said. “A lot of (Rees’) points were layups off offensive rebounds or free throws.”
Sophomore D.J. Carton joined Young in double figures for the Bulldogs with 12 points. Dylan Clearman came off the bench to score nine and Lane finished with eight.
It was the final game for 10 Bettendorf seniors. Carton is the only player returning who saw significant minutes.
“These seniors, they taught me a lot to get here,” Carton said. “These guys taught me everything I need to know about life and basketball. It makes me very thankful to follow in their footsteps.”
The Bulldogs were just 8-16 two seasons ago but won 14 games last year and collected a Mississippi Athletic Conference title this season.
“This locker room is full of great guys, and we had a lot of memories that we won’t forget,” Lane said. “I’m very thankful to be able to play on this team the past three years.”