Des Moines Iowa — A wild win in a game that will go down as a classic has given Pocahontas area another chance to win a state championship. With both teams playing at a breakneck pace, top-ranked Pocahontas outlasted No. 4 Cherokee 102-91 in a Class 3A semifinal that produced one amazing moment after another.
Three players scored at least 35 points as the two teams combined for the most points ever — 193 — in a five-player state tournament game. The 102 points by Pocahontas were the second most in the five-player tourney and the unbeaten Indians needed almost every one of them to earn a return trip to the title game.
Elle Ruffridge, who is chasing the state’s career scoring record, led Pocahontas with 36 points and just missed a triple-double. The 5-foot-4 junior handed out 10 assists, grabbed eight rebounds and made all 15 of her free throws. The current record is held by Rock Valley grad Deb Remmerde Lusink who went on to star at Northwestern College.
Payton Hjerleid, who came into the tournament averaging 10.5 points, made 12 of 19 shots and scored 35 for Pocahontas. Grace Meyer added 15 points and grabbed 11 rebounds.
Cherokee stayed with Pocahontas’ high-energy offense step for step and got 35 points form senior Kaely Hummel. Hummel shot 5-for-7 from 3-point range and showed her versatility with seven rebounds and four assists. Paityn Hagberg added 19 points for the Braves, MaKenna Carver scored 13 and Payton Slaughter had a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds, plus five assists and two steals.
Cherokee led 85-80 with 3 1/2 minutes left, but 30 seconds later, it was tied after Hjerleid hit a 3-pointer and sank two free throws. Another Hjerleid 3 and two Ruffridge free throws made it 90-86 and Pocahontas led the rest of the way, thanks to perfect free throw shooting.
The Indians made their final 16 free throws, including 12 in the final 1:39.
Pocahontas will take a 26-0 record into the title game at 4 p.m. Saturday. Cherokee played at state for the first time and it was a memorable performance. The Braves finished 23-3.