DES MOINES — The North Scott boys’ basketball team’s defense was more than adequate enough to win Thursday night.
Conversely, its offense picked the most inopportune time to have its longest scoring drought of the season.
Second-ranked North Scott did not convert a field goal and tallied only two free throws in the final 10 minutes, 8 seconds as Cedar Falls squelched the Lancers’ championship aspirations with a 35-27 victory in a Class 4A semifinal at Wells Fargo Arena.
“That was one of the most grind-it-out basketball games I’ve ever played in my whole life,” Cedar Falls senior Logan Wolf said. “They’re a great defensive team, we’re a great defensive team.
“We won that on the defensive side of the ball.”
When Ty Anderson scored with 2:08 remaining in the third quarter, North Scott (23-2) had a 25-20 lead. The Lancers followed with 11 straight empty possessions — four turnovers and seven missed shots.
Held below 40 points for the first time this season, North Scott was 9 of 36 (25 percent) shooting. It misfired on 14 of 17 tries from beyond the arc, including its last seven.
“It was just execution,” Anderson said. “We never really had that (kind of scoring drought) happen before, but it did in this game, and we didn’t respond to it very well. This is what you get.”
The 27 points were the fewest scored by a team in an Iowa state semifinal since 1950 when the Iowa High School Athletic Association held a one-class tournament at the Iowa City Field House.
“We defended them probably the best we could,” senior Carson Rollinger said. “They run a lot of things that we took them out of, but we couldn’t make shots when we needed to.
“We had open looks but couldn’t hit them.”
Anderson had a game-high 15 points and pulled down 10 rebounds, but the rest of North Scott’s lineup was a collective 5-for-28.
Fifth-ranked Cedar Falls, which has three Division I athletes in its starting lineup, has six players in its rotation between 6-2 and 6-9. That size and length gave North Scott’s guards difficulty.
“Their length and athleticism changed a lot of shots in the paint for us,” North Scott coach Shamus Budde said. “They were able to contest our 3-pointers, too, and that was a big difference.
“They did a great job defensively on us. I was happy with how we played offensively. We got into the paint and got the defense to collapse, but we didn’t knock down shots.”
It was a turnover that swung the game.
With North Scott up five and in possession late in the third quarter, Iowa football recruit Jack Campbell stole a Lancer pass near the top of the key, took it down and dunked it. It seemed to invigorate the Tigers, who will try and defend their championship at 8:35 p.m. Friday.
“We were struggling to find the basket, so for him to get one there, it brought our bench back to life,” Cedar Falls coach Ryan Schultz said. “It gave us a little belief at that point and brought our crowd back to life.”
North Scott had nine turnovers in the game, seven in the second half.
“The turnovers, they killed us,” Anderson said. “We’re usually a solid team, but some balls got away from us. They jumped us (in the passing lanes) a few times. It was great plays on their part.”
The Lancers held the Tigers to a season low in points and to 38.9 percent shooting. Cedar Falls was just 2 of 15 from the 3-point line.
“They defended us better than anyone has all year,” Schultz said. “I give our kids a lot of credit for keeping their heads in the game. It was one of those games when you’re down five, it felt like 20. We needed to get back to our identity and make sure we get stops and the rest would take care of itself.”
Wolf was the X-factor to get Cedar Falls over the hump.
The Northern Iowa football and basketball recruit scored Cedar Falls’ last eight points of the game. He had two 3-point plays — including one off an offensive rebound — and drained two free throws.
“He’s really aggressive,” Rollinger said. “We did a good job on him in the first half, but he just kept putting pressure on our defense.”
Wolf finished with 14 points and seven rebounds, but nobody else had more than seven for the Tigers (21-3).
“They’re as explosive of a team as I’ve ever seen with their size and athleticism,” Budde said. “For a one-day prep, I was really, really proud of how we guarded. We didn’t back down.
“We knew both teams were going to throw punches. We wanted to give ourselves a chance to throw that last punch, and we had a chance, but it didn’t go our way this time.”