ATLANTIC — One wait lasted 28 years, the other one year. Now both are over.
One season removed from a heartbreaking 73-70 overtime loss in the substate finals, Perry earned their first trip to the boys state basketball tournament since winning the championship in 1988 with a 73-71 victory over No. 6 Glenwood Monday in Atlantic in the Substate 8 Final.
“I am so happy for our boys, because they earned it and they deserve it,” head coach Ned Menke said. “I am also very happy for our students and all our Perry fans. I cannot believe how many of them came down here tonight, making a long drive on a Monday night, to cheer for us. This win is for them, too, and for (assistant) coach Jim Richmond, who has given so much to this school for 31 years and now he finally gets to go to state.”
The statistics showed the two school nearly even in most categories, hinting at exactly the kind of barnburner that ensued. Perry held slight edges in third quarter points and rebounds, while Glenwood shot better at the foul line and in scoring fourth quarter points. Those four factors, among others, played out exactly as expected in front of a boisterous and capacity crowd from both schools that threatened to fill every available seat in the Atlantic gym and which created an electric atmosphere befitting an outstanding and well-played contest.
Perry (15-9) used five consecutive points from Janier Puente and two Shammond Ivory free throws to open a 59-51 lead midway through the fourth quarter, but Glenwood (19-5) refused to wilt and grabbed a 63-61 on an Aaron Bertini put-back with 1:09 to play.
Shammond Ivory had fouled out two minutes earlier on one of many numerous questionable calls against the Bluejays. Without their scoring leader on the floor, Perry turned to junior Kyle Nevitt, who scored on a driving layup with 32 seconds left to tie the contest.
Glenwood missed twice with a chance to win the game, with Solomon Pierce winning a held-ball possession for Perry on a key rebound with three seconds to go. A desperation three-quarters shot from Rashon Ivory was short, forcing overtime.
A Puente 3-point play and three foul shots by Nate Mohr on another questionable foul call moved the score to 66-all. Nevitt scored for Perry and Adam Blum for Glenwood, with a Rashon Ivory free throw and a Blum foul shot moving the score to 69-all.
Senior Ryan Rathje — who had splashed a 3-pointer at the third-quarter horn for a 50-44 Perry lead — blocked a shot on the defense end, then drained another trey moments later for a 72-69 lead, with Rashon Ivory hitting one of two at the stripe for a 73-69 edge with 32 seconds left.
Christian Stanislav hit 1-of-2 at the free throw line for the Rams, who stayed alive when Nevitt missed two at the line with 24 seconds left and still had life after a Puente defensive rebound when the junior post missed twice at the line with 7.2 ticks remaining.
Sophomore guard Mohr had burned Perry with five 3-pointers and 25 points and raced up court with the ball on the inbounds pass, but Bluejay senior guard Alex Long smartly fouled Mohr before he could shoot, allowing for only two free throws.
Mohr sank the first with 3.2 on the clock to make the score 73-71, then missed — intentionally or otherwise — his second. The rebound was tipped away, with Long grabbing the ball as time expired, setting off an explosive celebration by the Bluejays and their huge following.
“I wanted to make sure he never even got in position to even try and fling something up,” Long said of fouling Mohr as soon as he crossed mid-court.
Perry was nearly undone by their struggles at the foul line, where they finished just 13-of-26 while Glenwood connected on 15-of-22 (68 percent), below their season average of 74 percent. The Bluejays converted on just 3-of-9 at the line in the overtime period while the Rams drained 6-of-9.
Asked how he felt when the final loose ball fell into his hands, Long said “Incredible. It is the most amazing feeling. We have worked so hard for this, and after last year, it just makes it sweeter.”
Glenwood had experienced the same thrill last season, as their appearance in the 2015 state tourney had been the first for the school in 63 years.
Rathje said he was thrilled his critical block/trey played such a large role in Perry’s win.
“I had not done much up until then,” he said, “but somebody needed to make a play for us and I said ‘why not me?’ Fortunately it worked out for us.
“This is the greatest feeling in the world,” Rathje added. “I have dreamed about what this moment might feel like and it is even sweeter than I expected.”
Both Shammond and Rashon Ivory were the victim of several foul calls when it appeared Rams players were flopping to the floor in exaggeration. The whistles clearly irritated the Perry bench, but Menke kept his calm on each such call, and his reaction clearly helped to calm and redirect his players.
The loss of Shammond Ivory to fouls with 3:02 left in the fourth quarter could have proven deadly, but the Bluejays rose to the occasion and prevailed despite having the school’s all-time leading scorer sitting on the bench.
“We have had to play without Shammond at different times this season, so it was not a situation we were unfamiliar with,” Menke said. “Obviously we didn’t want it to happen, but it did. The key was that we did not panic. We knew how to handle the situation and we did.”
Ivory said he was confident his teammates would pull out the victory.
“I just kept saying at every timeout that we needed to lock down on defense and tried to keep us fired up,” he said. “I knew we could do it, and even when we went into overtime I knew we were going to win, because this is not a one-man team. Look at this game and how many players made big plays. We are a team and we are a good one and I just could be happier or more proud.”
Perry was off to a fast start, taking a 14-5 lead on a Rashon Ivory trey, 10 Shammond Ivory points and a Pierce free throw. Glenwood closed to within 14-13 when Shammond Ivory hit a trey, only to have Mohr sink the first of his five triples — all of which came from at least two steps beyond the arc — to put the score at 17-16 in favor of the Jays after one period.
The lead changed hands five times in the second quarter, with the Rams taking a 33-31 lead into break thanks, in part, to two more long-range bombs from Mohr.
Glenwood threatened to launch an extended run to start the second half by taking a quick six-point lead, but Shammond Ivory countered a Stanislav 3-point play with one of his own and then added two triples for a 45-42 Perry lead. Andrew Blum moved the score to 45-44 with a layup, but Nevitt scored and Rathje landed a trey at the buzzer for a 50-44 Bluejay advantage entering the fourth frame.
Mohr led all scorers with 26 points, with Blum adding 14 and Connor Weis 10. Stanislav had seven points, Carter Von Essen and Aaron Bertini six points apiece and Kobe Rhodes two points.
Shammond Ivory had 25 points to lead Perry. He had two steals, two assists and a block while grabbing six rebounds.
Rathje had 14 points, five boards, two steals, two assists and two blocks, Puente provided 12 points and 11 rebounds and Nevitt had 12 points, eight caroms and six assists. Rashon Ivory had seven points, five assists and two blocks and Pierce had three points and four boards while Long contributed two steals and Conner Nielsen three rebounds.
Perry is the seven-seed in the tourney and will face second-seeded Pella (22-1) Tuesday, March 8, at 8:15 p.m. Pella routed RRC team Ballard, 81-56, in their substate final. The other game at the bottom of the bracket features third-seed Spirit Lake (21-3) against six-seed Cedar Rapids Xavier (16-8) at 6:35 p.m. The winners will meet at 8:15 p.m. March 10.
Afternoon games in 3A March 8 include fourth-seed MOC-Floyd Valley (21-3) facing five-seed Dubuque Wahlert (19-5) at 2 p.m. while top-seed Chariton (23-1) played eight-seed Solon (10-14) at 3:45 p.m. MOC-Floyd Valley walloped Carroll, 81-29, to eliminate the other RRC team playing Monday.