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Comets stopped in Substate semis with 62-52 loss to No. 1-ranked Vikings

Press Staff Report

DECORAH — When you’re facing the No. 1-ranked team in the state in an elimination game, you can’t help but hope that the favorites will pick the wrong time to have a bad shooting night.

Such wishful thinking was dashed early during Thursday’s Class 3A-Substate 2 boys basketball semifinal featuring Charles City and heavily favored host Decorah.

The Vikings came out of the gate going seven of eight from beyond the 3-point arc while taking a commanding 27-6 lead early in the second quarter.

Decorah managed to extend that lead to 22 midway through the third quarter and appeared poised to slap the Comets with another one-sided loss this season.

But Charles City rallied valiantly to make a game out of it, and nearly got within two possessions with less than a minute remaining in regulation only to have Decorah hold on to advance in a 62-52 final.

The Vikings (21-1) will face Clear Lake (17-5) on Monday (Feb. 28) at Waterloo East High School for the Substate championship and the State Championships berth.

The Lions defeated Waverly-Shell Rock in their semifinal on Thursday.

Decorah was led by senior Jacob Pipho, who scored a game-high 19 points for the winners, who also got 14 points from sophomore Trey McCain.

Conversely to the Vikings’ hot hand early on, the Comets started out cold in the first quarter allowing their opponents to go on a 20-0 run.

But Charles City was able to find its range during the waning minutes of its season. Jack Hanson’s 3-pointer made it a 10-point game (54-44) with a little more than two minutes remaining in regulation.

Then two 3-pointers by junior Drew Martin on consecutive possessions brought the Comets within 9 (59-48) with 1:18 left.

A steal by Charles City on the ensuing Viking possession gave the Comets a shot to get within two possessions with another 3-pointer. Due to the Comets scrambling for their missed shots, they got several good looks for another 3-pointer but didn’t get one to fall.

Charles City tried to extend the game by putting the Vikings on the line, but Decorah made enough of its free throw attempts to finally put the Comets away.

Seniors Jose Hernandez and Mario Hoefer scored 16 and 10 points, respectively, in their final game as Comets.

Hanson (9), Martin (9), Jeb Wandro (3)and Chase Low (2) rounded out the scoring for the Comets (13-10), who lost to the Vikings by 32 and 22 points in the regular season.

“I’m very proud of the way our guys battled back after digging a first quarter deficit,” Charles City head coach Ben Klapperich said. “Give credit to Decorah for shutting down a couple of our key players and making some tough shots.

“Decorah is a challenging matchup as they have a plethora of solid inside and perimeter players.

“It’s been fun to see the growth of these seniors through the years. They’ve meant a lot to the program and will be missed immensely.”

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