DES MOINES– The Iowa City West High Trojans are still the reigning Class 4A Champions after a three-game campaign at the Boys State Basketball Tournament in the Wells Fargo Arena.
The team, coached by Steve Bergman, went on a rollercoaster ride, which ended with its second consecutive state tournament trophy, the fifth for the program and the fourth for Bergman.
But it almost didn’t happen.
A huge sigh of relief from Trojan Nation went up along with cheers as West pulled-off a 63-59 win Wednesday night in a quarterfinal round contest with West Des Moines Dowling. The Trojans entered the fray with a perfect record and 49 consecutive wins to the Maroons’ 18-5 showing for the season.
Lackluster play combined with a very physical Maroons team for a nail-biter finish that had to go into overtime to be settled. West trailed 16-13 after the first quarter, but rebounded to a 25-all tie at the half. The Maroons had a 1-point advantage after three periods before the game knotted up at 54-all at the end of regulation.
A pair of free throws by senior Jeremy Morgan gave the West fans hope, giving the squad a 56-54 boost but it was Morgan’s slam dunk in the final minute that really had the crowd going as the Trojans were up 59-56. Four points from the charity stripe by Morgan, Wyatt Lohaus and Austin Swank made the difference.
“We just made some plays,” Morgan said afterward. “We weren’t ready to be done. We weren’t ready for the season to be over.” For having won and advancing to the semifinal round on Friday, Morgan, Myzeah Batie-Gaddy, Lohaus and coach Steve Bergman were somewhat sullen in the media room. “It was frustrating to watch because I know we’re better than that,” said Bergman.
“For 39-1/2 minutes, it wasn’t very fun,” Lohaus conceded, admitting, “I wasn’t playing very well.”
Batie-Gaddy agreed, noting the team hadn’t shown up to play but was able to turn things around when it counted. “We picked it up on our defense,” the senior said. “Jeremy’s dunk gave us a lot of momentum.”
Morgan led all with 19 points, Lohaus had 18 and Swank put in 11. Batie-Gaddy added 9 while Chike Ukah put up 4 and Jason Stewart had a 2-point showing for the fans in their “Stew Crew” T-shirts.
The win advanced the Trojans to a Friday afternoon showdown with Dubuque Senior. The Rams gave West a battle early in the season before being put down, 66-56, in Iowa City.
A 10-5 Trojan lead after the first period deteriorated into a 23-17 deficit at the half. A 14-0 run in the third rocketed West past the Rams and they never looked back, putting 35 points on the scoreboard in the second half on their way to a 52-36 victory.
Morgan and Lohaus combined for 30 points with a game-high 17 for Morgan and 13 for Lohaus, who appeared to be suffering from some kind of ailment through much of the game. Morgan hit four of six 3-pointers, Lohaus was two for two and Batie-Gaddy put the Trojans on the board with a three-bomb, his only of the contest. Batie-Gaddy gave West a 13-10 lead with a slam-dunk as well. Stewart had a 7-point effort, Swank had 6 and Batie-Gaddy put in 5. Ukah was 3-4 at the free throw line, giving him 3 points in the contest while Mark Lowe rounded out the scorers with a free throw.
The win set the table for a battle between No.1 Bettendorf and No.2 West, both boasting a 25-0 record, on Saturday night for the Class 4A Championship. The Bulldogs escaped from the grasp of the Cedar Falls Tigers 39-36 to advance to the championship round.
While on paper it looked to be a clash of the titans, it turned out to be the Trojans putting on yet another clinic on the art and science of high school basketball. West took home the gold champions’ trophy after beating the Bulldogs, 54-36.
From the start, the Trojans played their trademark “West High Basketball” on the way to a 14-7 lead after the first period, and a 28-13 advantage at the half.
West employed a balanced attack with shots from Morgan (9 points), Ukah (5 points), David Dileo (3 points), Lowe (5 points), Stewart (6 points), Swank (2 points and Batie-Gaddy (2 points) as well as the team’s leading scorer; Lohaus. Lohaus was on fire, putting up 22 points including a trio of 3-pointers.
“These last three games I felt I haven’t shot as well as I have been,” Lohaus said after the game. “One of my things was, don’t worry if you miss. Just keep shooting, keep shooting, and they’ll go in.” Lohaus and Morgan were named to the Class 4A All-Tournament team with Morgan named as Team Captain.
“Doing what we did, going undefeated for two years, there’s not any words you can describe it with,” Morgan said. “I’m very blessed to be a part of this team.”
The team is everything, according to Bergman. “They could have let their egos get in the way, but they didn’t. They are ultimate team guys. You can’t do what we just did on talent alone. It isn’t all about talent, it’s all about attitude.” The season had some drama with a pair of suspensions for Dondre Alexander before he quit the team just before the postseason campaign. “No, it hasn’t been totally smooth,” Bergman said. “But it never will be. These are 17-year old kids, 16-year old kids.”
“We came together as a team,” Stewart said. “We didn’t let the outside things affect us and we circled the wagons, that’s a phrase we used to describe it, and just came together.”
With 52 wins, the Trojans will enter next season minus Drew Haas, Justin Fleming, Lowe, Morgan, Batie-Gaddy, Swank and Stewart.