Spartan run at State sunk by Pirates 55-51

Grundy Center boys basketball fell to Hudson 55-51 in the Class 2A State quarterfinals in Des Moines on Tuesday, ending their season 20-4 and in the tournament for the first time since 2003.
CJ Eilers
Regional Sports Editor
DES MOINES - When Grundy Center and Hudson stepped onto the court at State on Tuesday, the two NICL conference rivals were completely different teams than when they last met in December. 
“I think we've matured a lot since the first time we played them,” senior Tate Jirovsky said. “We knew what we wanted to do this time.  But sometimes it just doesn't go your way.”
The outcome of Tuesday’s rematch under the lights of Wells Fargo Arena remained the same, a 55-51 loss to the Pirates to end a remarkable run for Spartan basketball in its first State appearance since 2003. 
“I was full of gratitude for all those guys because they've worked so hard to get to that moment,” coach Brent Thoren said. “They took me along for the ride this season. Being able to see them compete at this level is something I celebrate and appreciate.”
The Spartans came out the aggressors, hitting shots and with a dedicated effort on the glass, pulling down 19 boards to the Pirates’ 10 in the first half. Junior Jalen Kirkpatrick had the hot hand early, scoring 14 points and three of Grundy Center’s triples in the first half. 
“It was a great feeling walking out on that court,” Kirkpatrick said. “I’ve dreamed about this moment since I was a kid. It’s always been fun to come down to watch the tournament. Now that I got to play in it, this is something I'll never forget.”
Grundy Center took a 29-23 lead into the locker room with 10 of their 11 field goals assisted on, including junior Tiernan Vokes dishing out four of those assists. 
“Jalen did a nice job of finding his shot early,” Thoren said. “We did a good job sharing the basketball and really moving without the basketball early.”
More than three minutes were off the game clock before the Spartans got a much-needed three from Judd Jirovsky to regain a 32-30 lead. Judd would score eight of the 12 Spartan points as Grundy Center clung to a 41-36 lead after the third quarter. 
“We got sluggish and started to slow down a little bit in the second half,” Thoren said. “I thought our rebounding kept us in this quarter. Our guys always compete.”
The Spartans turned the ball over 11 times in the second half. While their rebounding helped provide extra possessions, the ultimate difference came at the free throw line. The Pirates went 20 of 25 at the charity stripe as Grundy Center committed 14 fouls, including two called as intentional.  Hudson slowly closed the gap late in the second half on the free throw line, going 12 of 16 in the final quarter and scoring nine of the last 13 points. 
“We allowed some easy buckets, but we kept the gas pedal down,” Vokes said. “As far as the end of the game, I think we just didn't take care of the ball too well, but that'll happen in basketball that happens every game.”
Kirkpatrick led the Spartans with 18 points, nine rebounds and two steals. Both Jirovsky brothers scored eight points and Vikes finished with eight points and six rebounds. 
“Making here means a lot, not just to us but also the fans and community,” Jirovsky said. “We played for them and I feel we represented Grundy well.”
Grundy Center concluded its season 20-4 at State for the first time since 2003. Tate Jirovsky, Colin Gordon both played pivotal roles for the Spartans in the lineup and seniors Sully Dirks and Tyler Venenga kept the bench energy high throughout one of the most successful seasons for Spartan basketball in recent memory. 
“Incredible group,” Thoren said. “They have done so much for our school. They were our leaders, doing everything possible to get us ready to play. I just can't say enough good things about them.”
The Spartans will return four of their five starters in Kirkpatrick, Vokes, Brayden Wallis and Brody Zinkula, as well as Judd Jirovsky and Ryker Thoren off the bench. Thoren acknowledged the Spartans would need to rebuild their depth for next year, but that would wait for later. 
“I want to celebrate our guys right now because this is an incredible team,” Thoren said. “Next year will come soon enough, but I really just want to celebrate these guys right now and the ride they took Grundy Center on this season.” 


The Grundy Register

601 G. Avenue - P.O. Box 245
Grundy Center, IA 50638
Telephone: 1-319-824-6958
Fax: 1-800-340-0805

Mid-America Publishing

This newspaper is part of the Mid-America Publishing Family. Please visit for more information.