Jaron Todd (left) sprints passed Elliott Dietzenbach in the district final. (Photo by Becky Walz)
Jaron Todd (left) sprints passed Elliott Dietzenbach in the district final. (Photo by Becky Walz)

It has been said it’s hard to beat the same team three times in a season. Tuesday night, (Feb. 25), the Turkey Valley boys’ basketball team (21-3) proved it can be done, as it defeated South Winn, 57-44, in Nashua in the District semifinal.

The Trojans turn their sights on the district final versus Janesville (19-4) which will be played tonight, Thursday, Feb. 27, at 7 p.m. at New Hampton. A victory in the district final would put Turkey Valley into the Class 1A Substate 2 contest Saturday, Feb. 29, at 7 p.m. in Charles City versus the winner of district three between Lake Mills (21-2) and West Hancock (14-10).

South Winn ends the season with a 14-9 mark.

“This was a tough one to take in for our guys and a tough way to end the season. We struggled a little too much against Turkey Valley’s pressure defense the last five minutes of the game and had some costly turnovers that led to their run late in the game which made the difference,” said South Winn Head Coach Blake Moen. “We also needed to rebound a bit better late in game and not give up as many offensive rebounds. With that being said, we executed our defensive game plan very well, and did a great job of creating opportunities for stops on the defensive side of the ball. Our guys played very sound defense and this is what gave us a chance as the game went along and opened up our offense. I am very proud of our guys, in how we competed against a good opponent and never gave up until the end of the game.”

Big game

Turkey Valley’s Keegan Balk got the party started in the first minute with a trey. With the help of an Ethan Leibold bucket and an Eli Reicks’ three-pointer, the Trojans were on top 8-0 by the 5:55 mark. Breaking through the scoring barrier first for South Winn was Jacob Herold with back-to-back baskets. Getting their feet under them, the Warriors pulled to within two, 11-9, when senior Noah Tieskoetter knocked his own long ball from beyond the arc. Shutting down the SW defense in the final 1:47, the Trojans claimed a 17-9 lead after the first eight minutes.

In the second period, the Warriors began to chip away at the Trojan lead,eventually tying the contest at 21-21 on a pair of free throws by Jaron Todd. After a TV turnover, South Winn’s Herold took the ball coast-to-coast to give the Warriors their first lead of the ballgame, 23-21. In the closing minute of the half, Trey Kriener connected for a pair a baskets, allowing SW to go to the locker room with a 27-23 lead.

Looking to swing the momentum back to the Trojans and narrow the margin, E. Reicks hit an open trey to open the second half. From there South Winn went on a 5-0 run before Turkey Valley Head Coach Chris Sullivan called a time out to settle his players down. The time out worked as the Trojans rattled off six unanswered points to tie the game again at 32. The Warriors’ Jaron Todd hit a bucket with time running down; however, the Trojans had just enough time for Ethan Leibold to find the rim as the UIC pair finished the third period in a 34-34 tie.

With eight minutes standing between winning and losing, the excitement continued to build for both squads. It took just over a minute for the first points to be scored by TV’s Keegan Balk, which was quickly matched by South Winn’s Tieskoetter. After the two teams exchanged baskets once again to keep the score knotted at 38-all, the Trojans began to pull away with a pair of quick baskets by Leibold and a trio of lay-ups by E. Reicks. South Winn tried to slow the clock with fouls, which only allowed TV to extend its lead, connecting on 4-of-6 in the final minute.

Numbers for both

Eli Reicks shouldered much of the Trojan offensive responsibilities with 21 points. The senior added five rebounds, seven assists and three steals to his stats for the contest. Coming through with a double-double was Ethan Leibold, providing 12 points and pulling down 11 boards. Also, in double figures was Keegan Balk with 11 points, to go with six rebounds and three assists. Adding eight points was Eli Nymeyer, while Kannon Leuenberger had five points and five steals.

Jacob Herold led the Warriors with 14 points, four rebounds and three blocked shots, while senior Jaron Todd was there for 10 points, five boards and three assists. Noah Tieskoetter concluded the night with seven points and two rebounds.

Final thoughts

“At halftime we talked about the importance of being disciplined and being three dimensional; we also talked about there being no tomorrow and how we need to be diving on the floor and have the mindset that every loose ball is ours,” said Trojan Coach Chris Sullivan. “Our kids’ energy was fantastic in the fourth quarter but what stood out the most was the attention to detail down the stretch. We didn’t shoot well at all and got caught up in the moment during a few spurts throughout the game but when it mattered the most our kids grinded and showed a lot of grit in securing a win versus a very good South Winn team.” 

“I am sad to see the season come to an end and see our seniors leave our program. We have a great group of kids and I was honored to have been able to coach these seniors. I would like to thank these five (Jaron Todd, Noah Tieskoetter, Kody Kleve, Tony Hanson, and Carter Wenthold) on giving everything they have to South Winn basketball. They have set us up for success in the future years to come,” concluded SW Coach Moen.