Class 5A State Championship Game
Pleasant Valley 59, Johnston 56

Pleasant Valley’s defense rose to the occasion again and this time, it carried the Spartans to a state championship.

Thriving on its 2-3 zone defense all season, Pleasant Valley held Johnston scoreless for the first 6 minutes of the fourth quarter and opened a lead just big enough to hold on for a 59-56 victory over the defending champions and claim the Class 5A title.

Jessie Clemons scored 18 points to lead the Spartans, who until last year had never won a state tournament game and lost to Johnston in the semifinals a year ago. All-tournament captain Halle Vice added 14 points, Reagan Pagniano scored 13, including four key free throws at the end, and Addy Maurer finished with 12 as Pleasant Valley put the finishing touches on a 26-0 season.

Johnston’s Aili Tanke drained seven 3-pointers to tie a 5A tournament record and finished with 23 points, a figure matched by teammate Aaliyah Riley. Emma Hampton added seven for the Dragons, who played in the championship game for the fourth straight year. They won in 2020 and finished second to Waukee in 2021.

It was a game worthy of a championship contest. The lead changed hands 13 times in the first half before ending in a tie at 30. Pleasant Valley never trailed after Clemons and Vice hit back-to-back 3-pointers for a 42-38 lead midway through the third quarter, though the Spartans had to work to stay ahead.

They finally opened some breathing room when Johnston missed its first 15 shots of the fourth quarter, enabling PV to open a 55-45 lead. Freshman Jenica Lewis ended Johnston’s drought with a 3-pointer with 1:55 left and Riley’s two free throws drew the Dragons to 55-50 with 1:08 to go.

Pleasant Valley pulled ahead 57-50 on Pagniano’s two free throws with 30.9 seconds remaining, but Johnston still wasn’t through. Tanke drilled a 3 with 24 seconds left, then made another from deep after a turnover. Suddenly, PV’s lead was down to 57-56 with 15 seconds remaining.

Johnston, which finished 24-2, had to foul, Pagniano made two more from the line with 12 seconds to go, the Dragons missed two contested shots and Pleasant Valley had its title, putting Jennifer Goetz in the rare class of coaches who have won championships at different schools. A Hall of Fame player at Keokuk Cardinal Stritch, Geotz guided Davenport Assumption to 3A championship in 2011.

Pleasant Valley held Johnston to 35.2 percent shooting, including 3-for-22 in the fourth quarter. The Spartans’ three state tournament opponents shot just 30.3 percent.

Clemons, Tanke and Riley also made the all-tournment team, along with Dowling Catholic’s Ava Zediker and Ankeny Centennial’s Jaeden Pratt.