Woodward-Granger (21-2) proved records don’t mean everything Tuesday against Van Meter (22-1).
“When we play our game, we think we can compete with any team in the state,” Woodward senior Kaya Bowlsby said after beating Van Meter 51-38.
In front of a packed house for the Class 2A Substate 6 semifinal, the Hawks handed Van Meter its first loss of the season in extraordinary fashion. The last time Woodward beat the Bulldogs was all the way back in 2012 when both schools were mid-tier programs. And most of the games in-between then and now haven’t been by close margins. Even the first meeting this year was 54-45 in favor of Van Meter.
Tuesday night turned the whole narrative on its head as W-G played a game unlike any other this season, controlling the tempo to push the Bulldogs to the edge. The previously undefeated Bulldogs that post 62 points a game hadn’t faced a double-digit margin all season as the Hawks showed considerable growth since the last meeting.
Woodward head coach Brent Achenbach said he couldn’t be more happy with the team’s defense.
“Can’t say enough about what we did defensively,” Achenbach said. “We did a fantastic job and when you hold a team like that to 38 points? Yeah, it’s good!”
That’s been a trend for Woodward all season and continues to push that narrative into the postseason. In the first round, Woodward squared off with a Pleasantville team that pushed the Hawks to overtime earlier in the season. The Hawks swept the floor with the Trojans by 25 points in response.
The previous game against the Bulldogs, Achenbach said the team learned to force Van Meter’s stars into bad situations. Not only did Woodward hold Van Meter to its second-lowest mark of the season, star Anthony Pothoff was limited to just eight points. He put up 23 in the previous showing. It was Bowlsby’s hand at play.
“He’s a great player. I had to look at film over time and over the games to find what I needed to improve in,” the senior said. “He’s one of those guys that’s gonna get points. So I just gotta do what I can to limit that as much as I can for the team.”
Even though Woodward’s offense itself was just a shade of a normal performance as the No. 14 offense in Class 2A (65.6 points per game), the Hawks had some flair that was absent in the first matchup. Keith Braunschweig and Alex Bice hit back-to-back threes to drive the dagger in during the third quarter to take a nine-point lead.
“That was a big difference in the game. That first game we were 1-of-12 from three-point range. We’re too good of shooters to do that and we came out and knocked them down tonight,” Achenbach said.
Bice (8 points) and Braunschweig (9) were half of a concerted effort on offense. Only four players total got on the board with Bryce Achenbach (17) and Bowlsby (9) also chipping in major shots.
Bowlsby also had high praise for the fan support and said the team could feel the energy “before we even stepped on the court.”
“As happy as we are to beat Van Meter tonight, that’s not the pinnacle of where we want to be,” coach Achenbach said. “We want to take another step and this team made it to the substate game as sophomores and lost to the state runner-up. So we know what it’s like to get there. Now we just need to win that game.”
Those fans won’t have to travel far as the Hawks will play Albia on Saturday, Feb. 29 at Valley High School in West Des Moines. Tip-off for the Sub-State 6 Final game is at 7 p.m. and all tickets are $8.
Woodward had already played in the Wells Fargo Arena earlier in the season for a regular season game hoping to return in March. The Hawks are now one step away.