A group of youngsters came through at the end Thursday for Harlan, and helped put the Cyclones in the Class 4A championship game. Liz Riessen, the only senior on the floor for Harlan at the time, hit a tie-breaking 3-pointer on a pass from sophomore Taylor Wagner and the eighth-ranked Cyclones went on to upset No. 2 Waverly-Shell Rock 41-36. Wagner drove into the lane, found Riessen in the right corner and the 5-foot-10 senior buried the shot to give Harlan a 37-34 lead with 1:26 left. Wagner then made four of seven free throws in the final 45.9 seconds, enough for the Cyclones to hold on. Harlan is in the state tournament for the 10th time but has never won the championship. The Cyclones, now 23-2, will get their chance at 6 p.m. Saturday.
Wagner led Harlan with 13 points, six rebounds and five assists. Josie Esser and Jordyn Moser each scored seven points and Moser, a 5-foot-5 freshman point guard, hustled for six rebounds. During the closing minutes, with a trip to the state championship game on the line, Harlan coach Zach Klaassen trusted his team’s fortunes to Moser, Wagner, Riessen and sophomores Elle Kloewer and Jess Schaben. Schaben, a 6-foot-1 post player, gave the Cyclones a nice lift with seven rebounds and four blocks.
Aftin Phyfe led Waverly-Shell Rock with 11 points. Morgan Neuendorf added nine points for the Go-Hawks and Noami Phillips scored eight to go with 11 rebounds. Waverly-Shell Rock reached the state tournament for the first time in the five-player era and finished 21-3. Harlan led by as many as 10 points in the first half and was up 24-17 at the break. Waverly-Shell Rock then began chipping away but got the lead only once, at 31-30 on Neuendorf’s pull-up jumper in the lane at the start of the fourth quarter. Harlan regained the lead on freshman Taylor Frederick’s turnaround jumper.