DES MOINES — North Scott’s boys basketball team spent plenty of time in the past week prepping for West Des Moines Valley’s zone defense.
What the Lancers couldn’t replicate in practice was their opponent’s length in that zone.
After carving up Valley’s man-to-man defense in the opening quarter Wednesday morning, second-seeded North Scott had trouble solving Valley’s 2-3 zone in the middle two quarters.
The result was a long dry spell that ultimately led to a 52-44 Class 4A quarterfinal setback at Wells Fargo Arena.
“I just felt their zone, with that length, threw us off a little bit,” North Scott sophomore Ty Anderson said. “It’s a lot different when you’ve got a 6-7 guy out there.”
North Scott (20-4) scored 15 points in the opening quarter. It managed only five in the next 11 minutes, 31 seconds of game time — including a six-minute drought — as a five-point lead turned into an eight-point deficit.
“They’re really, really long,” North Scott coach Shamus Budde said. “When we attacked the short corner, we had success. But we got a little too extended in that second quarter and didn’t attack the short corner.”
“In the man, we were swinging it really well, penetrating and knocking down shots,” senior Corvon Seales said. “The zone slowed us down. We were taking great shots, but they just weren’t falling.”
Valley coach B.J. Windhorst said his team added the zone defense in the middle of the season when it had trouble defending opponents man-to-man.
It has turned into a game-changer. The seventh-seeded Tigers (17-7) have run off 11 straight victories and are in the semifinals for the third consecutive year Thursday night against third-seeded Cedar Falls.
“(The zone) created a little bit of an identity for ourselves, and our kids bought into that,” Windhorst said. “We were able to keep North Scott out of enough offensive rhythm that they weren’t able to spurt on us.
“Down here, if teams are taking 24- and 25-footers, sooner or later, those aren’t going to go in.”
North Scott, in fact, was 3 of 14 from beyond the arc.
Besides the outside shooting woes, the Lancers had 11 turnovers — double their season average.
“We usually don’t do that,” Anderson said. “When that starts happening, everyone gets stagnant and doesn’t want to touch the ball.”
Three of those miscues came at pivotal moments.
Budde’s team rallied from the 28-20 deficit to eventually grab a 37-35 lead with 5:43 remaining on Sam Kilburg’s corner 3-pointer.
North Scott turned it over on its next three possessions. The last came when an official called Cortaviaus Seales for an offensive foul on a baseline drive to the basket.
“It looked like we were a little hesitant rather than just going and being aggressive and making basketball plays,” Budde said. “We turned it over at some key times.”
Valley delivered the knockout punch, scoring 10 of the next 12 points. It was punctuated by 6-7 Blake Brinkmeyer’s dunk on a lob pass from Michael Bryan.
The Tigers connected on 7 of 12 shots from beyond the arc, three apiece from Carter Frey and Bryan.
“You’re not going to get anything easy against North Scott,” Windhorst said. “They play at a level of intensity we haven’t seen all year with maybe the exception of Des Moines Hoover.
“We’re starting to play some good ball, but I don’t think we’ve played our best basketball.”
Corvon Seales led the Lancers with 17 points, five steals and four assists in what was his final high school game. The Minnesota State-Mankato recruit finished his career with 963 points.
“This program helped me become a better man, really,” Seales said. “It wasn’t just on the court but off the court."
Budde said afterward it felt as if Seales has been with the program for eight or nine years.
“We wish we had him for another eight or nine,” he remarked. “He’s definitely going to be missed. He’s left a good legacy here at North Scott.”
Anderson had 14 points and six rebounds for the Lancers, who return everybody in their top seven with the exception of Seales.
“We’re going to have this in the back of our minds the whole time for next year,” Anderson said.
The Lancers don’t plan on waiting another three years to get back here.
“We like where our program is at,” Budde said. “We’ve got a group of guys coming back that don’t seem too happy in (the locker room) right now.
“Because of kids like Corvon and ones before him, we’re going to have a target on our back for years to come. Our kids know that, but they’ll put in the work, and they know what it takes.”