Three in a row, way to go!
DES MOINES– In 1952, the Davenport High School’s boys’ basketball team won their third consecutive state tournament championship. In 1984, the Royals of Cedar Rapids Regis achieved the “three-peat.” No other team has done that since.
Until last week, when Bergie’s Boys rolled into “The Well.”
Steve Bergman and his Iowa City West Trojans became the third team in state tournament history to achieve that rare feat as they took the Class 4A championship trophy Saturday night at Wells Fargo Arena with a 57-45 win over West Des Moines Valley. It was the fifth championship for Bergman and the third in the last four years.
“It’s hard to get a smile out of me,” the often gruff Bergman said after the historic win. “I’m still worried with 30 seconds to go, after they (West Des Moines Valley) rained in three 3s. I was like, ‘Oh boy.’ It’s almost a relief. I know I’ll appreciate it more a week later.”
The Trojans’ tourney started Wednesday, March 12, with a quarterfinal round game against Southeast Polk and a 69-51 win.
Wyatt Lohaus, a senior who has played in State Tournaments all four years of his high school career, led all scorers with 22 points despite battling a form of the flu. “You’re not going to find a better competitor than that kid,” Bergman said Wednesday. “He hasn’t eaten food in two days, and he comes out and plays like that.”
For his part, Lohaus said, “We can play better.”
The Trojans trailed the Rams late in the first period, but unleashed an eight-point barrage to take an 18-13 lead. West opened the second period with a nine-point onslaught and took the half 31-20. The Trojan defense, which has been a work in-progress this season, shut down the Tigers for nearly seven minutes in the first half. “That was most of our emphasis in practice all week, defense,” junior David DiLeo said.
In the third, Southeast Polk went on an 8-0 run to narrow the gap to 36-30 and threatened with a 3-pointer to start the final eight minutes, but another eight-point run by West brought down the curtain on the Rams’ season. Southeast Polk ended its season with an 18-5 record. Southeast Polk’s Nick Jeffries led the opposition with 15 points.
Connor McCaffery, a freshman, had 11 points, David DiLeo put in 10 points, Chike Ukah had nine points, and Devontae Lane scored six points while Adam Klein and Marquise Yarbrough scored two points apiece as the reserves took the floor in the final minutes.
The win advanced West to a semifinal game against Bettendorf on Friday afternoon. The Trojans had overhauled the Bulldogs 54-36 in the 2013 State Championship game.
West took the opening period 18-11 and had a 10-point lead (30-20) at the half. The Bulldogs battled back to a four-point deficit at the end of the third period. The Trojans held on for the 49-46 win, sending Bettendorf back home with a 23-2 record.
This time it was the opposing force with the top-scorer as Bettendorf’s Nicholas Baer led all with 22 points. Lohaus put up 16 to lead the Trojans. DiLeo had a 12-point outing for the Trojans; Nick Gallagher scored 10 points. Gallagher nailed two out of three 3-point shots; DiLeo hit four of six. Chike Ukah put up seven points and Connor McCaffery had a four-point game.
On the opposite side of the brackets West Des Moines Valley disposed of Dubuque Senior 42-41 in a quarterfinal round upset. Senior ended the Trojans’ 60-game winning streak in January. Valley took on Sioux City North in the semifinal game and pulled off a 53-49 win, also an upset as the Stars of Sioux City had a 22-3 record to the Tigers’ 16-8.
The stage was set for Saturday night’s showdown for the championship.
West was the No. 4 seed coming into the tournament with a 20-3 record while Valley was the No. 7 team.
“We were under the radar, I think, most of the year,” Lohaus said after the championship win. “We were a lot different personnel-wise from the last two teams we had, so coming to the state tournament, and be heavy favorites, and be able to pull it off feels really great.”
The Trojans took a 14-5 lead after the first period and held a 21-13 lead at the half. After three periods of play West was up 33-20. In the final quarter the Trojans were up 46-26 with 3:45 left to play.
And then the Tigers mounted one last final charge, including the trio of 3-pointers Bergman referred to earlier. However, the West High crew managed to hold them off, and even put the reserves in at the end for the 57-45 win.
Lohaus, Gallagher, DiLeo and Ukah all scored 13 points each, while Valley’s Tyler Williams and Trei Mitchell both had 11 points.
McCaffery and Nick Spiess had three and two points respectively for West.
DiLeo and Lohaus were named to the 2014 All-Tournament Team for Class 4A with Bettendorf’s Baer, Daniell Tillo of Sioux City North and Valley’s Turner Scott. Lohaus was named the captain of the honorary team.
“It’s an incredible feeling knowing that it’s something that hasn’t been done in so long,” Lohaus said. “Just all the effort that we’ve put into it the last four years, so to finish it off like this is special.”
“People don’t do what we just did,” Bergman said after all was said and done. “People see 60-straight wins, or three straight (championships). Well, what we did is hard.”
The Trojans will celebrate the historic achievement Monday, March 24, at 7 p.m. at West High School.