MASON CITY – After a 25-year wait, Southeast Polk is back in the state championship game.
Southeast Polk used a big run in the first half to get the lead, then held off second-ranked Ankeny for a 40-38 victory in the Class 5A semifinals. It was the rubber match for the two rivals after they split two regular-season games, and the seventh-ranked Rams prevailed in the game that counted the most.
They’ll play for the state championship at 8 p.m. Saturday, the school’s first appearance in the state finals since the Rams lost in the 1988 six-player title game. Southeast Polk also finished second in 1987 and won the six-player crown in 1977.
It was the final girls basketball game as a single high school for Ankeny, which has won nine state championships. The city will have two high schools next fall when Centennial High opens.
Annie Penquite led Southeast Polk with 13 points and sank five of six free throws in the final 1:27 to help her team protect its lead. Drake recruit Caitlin Ingle had eight points and five assists for the Rams and Victoria Bricker also scored eight. Jacey Huinker, a 5-foot-8 sophomore, led the Rams with eight rebounds and scored six points.
Sophomore Jaali Winters led Ankeny with 15 points on 6-for-8 shooting and grabbed eight rebounds. Brittany Hedrick added 13 points and Madi Robson scored six.
Both teams had to work hard for shots in the intense game. Southeast Polk took only 10 shots in the second half and made five of them, which proved to be just enough.
Trailing 18-12, Southeast Polk scored the final 13 points first half to take a 25-18 lead and stayed ahead the rest of the way.
When Ankeny got to within a point in the second half, Ingle led an 8-0 run that put the Rams back in control. She started it with a drive to the basket, hit a pull-up jumper, then stole the ball and fed Huinker for a layup.
Ankeny twice got to within two points at the end, the second time on Winters’ layup with 12 seconds left. The Hawkettes got a chance to tie or win it when Ingle missed two free throws with 5.3 seconds remaining, but they couldn’t get off a shot before the buzzer.
Southeast Polk advances with a 19-5 record. Ankeny finishes 20-5.