Des Moines Iowa — A thriller in the Class 2A finals led to a second consecutive state championship for Unity Christian. Josie Blankespoor hit the go-ahead basket with 2 minutes left and Unity held on through a hectic final minute to beat Western Christian 42-41.
Blankespoor’s shot, a jumper from the left baseline, gave Unity a 41-40 lead and was the fifth lead change of the fourth quarter. Unity’s Anna Kiel then rebounded a Western Christian miss and the Knights had the ball most of the way from then on, coming up with two big offensive rebounds to keep possession.
Alyssa Fedders rebounded her own miss and teammate Chanda Zomermaand was fouled. Zomermaand missed the front end of a 1-and-1 but Blankespoor slipped in for the rebound and Zomermaand was fouled again. She made one and missed the second, giving Western Christian a chance with 27 seconds left.
Western’s Ashtyn Veerbeek made the first of two free throws with 6.5 seconds remaining and Blankespoor rebounded the miss. But she was tied up and Western Christian had the possession arrow, so the Wolfpack kept the ball. The Wolfpack missed a layup and the Wolfpack couldn’t get off another shot before the buzzer.
Kiel led Unity with 13 points and had another monster effort on the boards, grabbing 15 rebounds. That gave her a record 53 for the tournament, breaking the old mark of 50 set by Exira’s Hallie Christofferson in 2010. Christofferson is going into the Hall of Fame this weekend.
Kiel was voted captain of the all-tournament team. She played in nine state tournament games in her career and piled up 107 rebounds. Deidra Noteboom added 10 points for Unity and
Veerbeek led Western Christian with 13 points and nine rebounds.
The two schools have combined for the last five 2A championships. Western Christian won three in a row before Unity captured last year’s title and repeated this year. Unity finished 25-1 and avenged its only loss, a 59-48 setback at Western Christian on Jan. 16. Western finished 24-3.
Keil was joined on the All-Tournament Team by Chanda Zomermaand. Western was represented by Kaira Moss and Ashtyn Verbeek. Emily Wintz of Okoboji earned a spot on the team as well.