Class 5A State Basketball Semifinals
Pleasant Valley 50, Dowling Catholic 33

If defense does indeed win championships, Pleasant Valley will have a great opportunity in the Class 5A title game.

The unbeaten Spartans smothered West Des Moines Dowling Catholic with their 2-3 zone and beat the Maroons 50-33 to put themselves in position to win their first state championship.

They’re meet defending champion Johnston at 6 p.m. Friday with a chance to not only win a title but avenge a humbling loss. Johnston beat Pleasant Valley 64-44 in last year’s semifinals en route to its second championship in three years.

Pleasant Valley, now 25-0, has dominated opponents all season with its size and length and the Spartans have kept it up in the state tournament. They held Dowling to 12 field goals and 28.6 percent shooting. That came after PV limited West Des Moines Valley to 25 percent shooting (9-for-36) in a 43-25 quarterfinal victory.

Only four teams have scored as many as 40 points on the Spartans this season and no one scored more than 51.

Halle Vice led Pleasant Valley with 18 points and the Spartans got a big lift offensively from Addy Maurer, who scored 10 points. She had been averaging only 2.5 a game. Reagan Pagniano added nine points and Jessie Clemons scored eight. Vice’s sister Quinn, a 6-foot-3 sophomore, blocked five shots and hit a 3-pointer.

Sophomore Ava Zediker led Dowling Catholic with 10 points and Marin Heller, also a sophomore, added seven. The Maroons had four sophomores, a freshman and only two seniors in their main rotation so they’re likely to be heard from again.

Dowling Catholic kept pace with the Spartans early despite its difficulty penetrating that zone defense. When freshman Ellie Muller scored inside midway through the second quarter, the Maroons led 17-4. But they would not score again until early in the third quarter and Pleasant Valley took control.

The Spartans scored the final 11 points of the half, a run that Maurer capped with a 3-pointer, then got a basket from Clemons to start the second half for a 27-17 lead. Dowling never got closer than seven points again and the Spartans put it out of reach when Halle Vice converted consecutive three-point plays to start the fourth quarter and Clemons scored on a drive to stretch the lead to 41-25.

Dowling Catholic, which has won five state championships and was in the tournament for the 24th time, finishes 20-6. Pleasant Valley made it for just the fifth time and had never won a state tournament game until beating Iowa City High in last year’s quarterfinals.