The Ankeny boys’ basketball team was clinging to a 52-45 lead in the fourth quarter of Tuesday’s non-conference game at Waukee when Carson Johnson launched a 3-pointer for the Hawks from the top of the key.
The shot bounced off the front of the rim and then hit the backboard, giving Waukee a chance to grab the rebound and perhaps cut its seven-point deficit down to four or five points.
But the Warriors never got that chance.
Ankeny senior Ryan Crandall soared through the air, grabbed the ball with two hands and dunked it through the net to give the Hawks a 54-45 advantage with 4 minutes 30 seconds remaining.
“I timed that up pretty well,” said Crandall, who called it the best dunk of his high school career.
Crandall then followed with a 3-pointer about 1 minute later and the eighth-ranked Hawks went on to post a 65-58 victory in a matchup of two of the CIML’s hottest teams.
Ankeny (9-2) posted its fifth consecutive win. The loss ended a four-game winning streak for the Warriors (7-6).
“That’s a very good team, and they’re playing well,” Ankeny coach Brandt Carlson said of Waukee. “We love this gym. We’ve had some good experiences over here, so it’s fun. Obviously, our free throws were an issue in the fourth quarter, but you hope those are fixable issues for us. (I) love our team. Our defense was really good, and our rebounding was tough. It’s nice to come out of here with a win.”
Ankeny held on for the win despite making just 11-of-21 free throws. The Hawks missed eight consecutive attempts in the final period before Lio Aguirre hit the second of two tries with 53.4 seconds left to make it 62-54.
Aguirre led Ankeny with 14 points, while his brother Alex had 12 points and eight rebounds. Crandall scored 10 points–all in the second half–while also contributing 12 rebounds and two steals.
Crandall led the way as the Hawks won the battle of the boards, 40-21.
“We’ve got a lot of big guys,” Crandall said. “We dominate the offensive glass and we went to that in the second half, and that showed on the scoreboard.”
Johnson had eight points and four assists for Ankeny, which built a 19-11 lead in the first half before Waukee rallied. Cooper Randall made a trio of 3-pointers in the second quarter, then connected on two free throws with 1.7 seconds left to tie the game at halftime, 30-30.
The Warriors made seven 3-pointers in the first half and finished 12-of-31 from behind the arc (38.7 percent).
“We kind of expected that coming into the game,” Crandall said. “But we didn’t expect (Randall) to have three of them in the second quarter. Stuff like that happens, but we adjusted well in the second half.”
Cade Littlefield opened the third quarter with another 3-pointer to give Waukee its only lead of the game, but Johnson answered with a 3-pointer of his own to spark an 11-0 run. Crandall followed with two more baskets, then Lio Aguirre and Braden Simonsen each had one as the Hawks took a 41-33 lead.
A basket by Vance Peiffer later pulled the Warriors within 42-40, but Ankeny then scored the last five points of the third quarter–three of them by Alex Aguirre. Waukee simply didn’t have an answer for the Hawks’ superior size and depth.
“There’s no question (our physicality was the difference),” Carlson said. “We were really trying not to give them 3s, but we were trying to keep them out there if we could because Peiffer’s pretty good. Just being solid and our communication was better in the second half. Again, it was fun to come out of here with a win when we faced some adversity, so it was a good learning lesson for us.”
Littlefield led the Warriors with 17 points, going 4-for-6 from 3-point range. Randall had 14 points–all in the first half–while Peiffer added 13 points, 10 rebounds and three assists.
Ankeny will travel to Marshalltown on Friday for a CIML Iowa Conference game against the Bobcats. The Hawks won the first meeting, 65-53, on Dec. 10.