Boys State Basketball: Vinton-Shellsburg's Dream Season Ends

By Jeff Johnson, Reporter


By Grant Burkhardt

This game was televised live on KCRG 9.2, as every game of the boys state basketball tournament will be.

DES MOINES, Iowa — “Shock the world!” they shouted in glee. “Shock the world!”

Sorry, Harlan student section. This result may have been slightly surprising but calling it a shock is a stretch.

The Cyclones’ 67-56 Class 3A state tournament quarterfinal victory over Vinton-Shellsburg was a top-ranked top seed losing for the first time this season, to an unranked eighth seed. But consider the traditional toughness of Harlan’s Hawkeye Ten Conference and state tourney mastery of Harlan coach Mitch Osborn.

He has taken a record 17 teams to Des Moines over the years and is 17-2 in first-round games.

“I thought our schedule prepared us for this game,” Osborn said.

“They do a tremendous job of making you uncomfortable offensively and taking you out of what you want to do,” said Vinton-Shellsburg coach Joe Johnson. “Obviously, coach has been here many, many times. There’s not an offense or a team he hasn’t seen before. We knew coming in it was going to be tough to prepare for them. They have so much to prepare for.”

Putting aside all that tough-competition, veteran-coach stuff, this game was decided by Harlan’s physical play. The Cyclones (19-6) have tall and thick bodies in 6-foot-6 center Trey Lansman and 6-4 forward Nathan Cave, and they dominated the interior offensively and defensively, combining for 26 points (13 each), 18 rebounds and six blocked shots (all by Lansman).

Harlan went to the free-throw line 37 times, making 27. Guard Adam Juhl led the Cyclones with 17 points.

A 10-0 run to start the third quarter put Harlan up, 37-26. The lead grew to as many as 16.

“We wanted to push tempo, that’s what we always do,” said Vinton-Shellsburg’s Maxton Kearns, who had a team-high 19 points. “But they had the size in there, and they turned it into a physical game.”

Harlan did a good job keeping Grant Sagan, V-S’s leading scorer at bay most of the way, holding him to 11 points, nine under his average. The Vikings (24-1) shot just 33 percent, 24 percent in the second half.

A rough end to a great season.

“It stings right now, but it’s great that we got here for the first time since 1996,” said Vinton-Shellsburg’s Chris Merchant. “It was just one of those days.”

“One night can’t define what we’ve done this year. I told our kids that,” Johnson said. “They need to be proud of what they did this year. We came from nowhere and put Vinton on the map, finally. I’m proud of that.”

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