For the first time since 1999, Algona boys basketball is headed to state after defeating MOC-Floyd Valley 61-58 in the class 3A – substate 2 final.
To qualify for state, it would take an outstanding defensive effort to slow down the top three point shooting team in the state, an Algona advantage on the glass, physical play on offense, and the ability to withstand a late Dutchman run. Algona checked all of those boxes to book themselves a ticket to Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.
By the time Bulldog sophomore Alex Manske rebounded an intentionally missed free throw and threw the ball into the rafters to run the final two seconds off the clock, Algona had withstood a furious push by the Dutchmen to take what was once a 13 point Bulldog lead and turn it into a one possession game late.
With exactly one minute left in the fourth quarter, Algona senior Caden Weber made the first foul shot of a one and one to give Algona a 58-53 advantage. After missing the second free throw, Weber briefly rebounded his own miss, but had it ripped away by Dutchman senior Ayden Klein, who ran the floor and hit a layup on the other end to trim Algona’s lead to three with 51 seconds left. After an Algona timeout, two Tristian Larsen free throws would give Algona a five point lead, but a quick layup by Dutchman senior Luke Korver on the other end trimmed the score back down to 60-57.
Continuing to play the foul game, MOC-Floyd Valley sent Bulldog junior Landon Welp to the charity stripe for another one and one, but Welp missed the first shot, giving the Dutchman a chance to tie it on their next possession with under 20 seconds left in the ballgame. Sophomore Blake Aalbers got off a good look for three to try to tie the game, but was off target slightly to the right, as Welp snatched the rebound with five seconds left. With Algona in the double bonus, Welp missed the first of two free throws, but the second one touched every part of the rim before dropping in to give Algona a four point lead.
Before the late rally by MOC-Floyd Valley, Algona used a rally of their own to dig out of a first half deficit. After the Bulldogs scored the first four points of the ballgame, the turnover bug bit, and the Dutchmen ripped off an 11-0 scoring run, punctuated by back to back dunks by junior Jesse Van Kalsbeek. Algona turned the basketball over eight times in the first quarter, trailing 15-7 at the end of one.
The Dutchmen extended their lead to double digits, as an Aalbers three ball made the score 25-15 with 3:30 left in the first half. From that point on, Algona would score on eight of their final nine possessions of the first half. Alex Manske and Ben Helmers both buried three pointers at the start of the run for the Bulldogs. Helmers continued to engineer the run, attacking for a quick two with 1:03 left to tie the game at 26. After two MOC-Floyd Valley free throws, Helmers went back into attack mode, patiently working into the lane for a bucket and a foul, finishing a three point play to give Algona their first lead since the first quarter. On the other end, Klein received a friendly rubber rim on a two point jumper to put the Dutchmen back in the lead, but Larsen finished the half with a highlight reel three for Algona, shaking loose from Austin Oolman and drilling a triple to put Algona up 32-30 at the break.
After the halftime break, the Bulldogs continued their momentum, forcing tough shots by the Dutchmen, and offensively taking the ball into the heart of the MOC-Floyd Valley defense. After a Weber layup with 2:49 left in the third, one of several field goals in the paint by Algona in the third, the Bulldogs led 46-33, their largest lead of the night. In total, Algona would outscore MOC-Floyd Valley 20-9 in the third stanza, bringing a 52-41 lead into the fourth.
The final push by MOC-Floyd Valley began with just over 4:30 remaining in the fourth, as a corner three by Korver deflected off the rim, hit the backboard, and dropped in, trimming Algona’s lead to 55-47. On the next Dutchman possession, Klein would find a wide open Tyeson Vaas under the basket for a quick two. Larsen would briefly quell the momentum, putting back his own miss to put Algona up 57-49.
Just as they had throughout much of the season, Algona used balanced scoring to get the job done, as Helmers finished with 18, Manske with 15, Larsen with 11, and Weber with 9. Van Kalsbeek led MOC-Floyd Valley with 23, while Klein chipped in 15, and Korver added 9. The Dutchmen came into the ballgame with the top three point percentage in the state, but were held to just four three point makes by Algona. The Bulldogs are just the second team to hold MOC-Floyd Valley under 60 points this season.
Algona, who now has eight wins in a row, will play in the state quarterfinals at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines on Tuesday, March 7th, continuing their quest for the program’s first state title. MOC-Floyd Valley ends the season with a record of 21-3. You can hear all of the Algona state basketball action from Wells Fargo Arena on KLGA 92.7 FM.