Rebels halt Spartan tourney run in substate final

Exira-EHK’s early lead dissipates quickly in 80-69 loss; sixth-ranked Sioux Central earns first state berth; Spartans finish with 22-3 overall record; talented senior class goes 72-23 during four-year run

 CARROLL (Feb. 26) -- It’s been eight years since the Exira-Elk Horn-Kimballton boys basketball team went to state in its first season as a consolidated school.
 On Tuesday night, the Spartans’ most accomplished four-year senior class fell one win shy of joining that coveted fraternity.
 In a Class 1A, Substate 8 final twice postponed and once relocated due to winter weather, sixth-ranked Sioux Central overcame a rough start to beat No. 7 Exira-EHK 80-69 in the Carroll High gymnasium, clinching the Rebels’ first state berth since a 1991 consolidation.
 Sioux Central (22-2) earned the number two seed in the 1A state tournament bracket and met  No. 7 seed Alburnett (18-5) in a Monday quarterfinal inside Wells Fargo Arena.
 Exira-EHK, led by a talented and experienced six-member senior class, closed an outstanding 22-3 season with a bitter pill to swallow.
 “One more step... I didn’t have them ready to go for that one more step, but they’ve been a joy to coach,” said E-EHK head coach Doug Newton. “This is probably one of the more fun years we’ve had... We’ve just got to get through (these) first couple days and be able to swallow this a little bit and look back and understand what kind of career they had and what kind of legacy they left.”
 That legacy for seniors Cole Burmeister, Dakota Rold, Josh Pettepier, Trever Schulz, Trey Nelson and Ian Leader includes a record of 72-23 during the last four years. Rold and Burmeister both surpassed 1,000 career points this winter and Pettepier set a Spartan school record with more than 200 made three-pointers.
 According to head coach Stephen Tjaden, the Rebels had never won a district title until beating Newell-Fonda last Thursday. Now, thanks to a 25-7 first-half run and a 57 percent shooting night (8-of-13 from three-point range), they will be finishing their season in Des Moines.
 “They’re a heck of a ball club,” Tjaden said of E-EHK. “We knew we’d have to play our best game of the year tonight to win this one, and I thought this one was our best. If it wasn’t, it was a close second."
 The Spartans couldn’t have asked for a much better start on Tuesday, taking early leads of 11-3 and 14-6 as Pettepier and Burmeister both hit a right-corner three and all five starters got on the board quickly. The Rebels never flinched, however, and Tjaden never called a timeout. Soon enough, Sioux Central had shaken off some possible early nerves and gradually taken over the game, turning an eight-point deficit into a 10-point lead. The margin grew as high as 17 in the second half.
 Hunter Decker, a quick, left-handed point guard, makes the Rebels go and did so again Tuesday with 21 points, eight assists and four steals. Blake Cavanaugh, who entered the night averaging less than five points per game, scored 17 and Jake Hanson added 12.
 Schulz, who fouled out with 3:14 remaining, put together two good halves and led the Spartans with 18 points. Rold had success on several lob plays to the post and finished with 17 points, followed by Burmeister with 16, Pettepier nine, Trey Nelson five and Creighton Nelson four.

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