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Trojans escape Cougars and return to state

IC West beats CR Kennedy to 4A substate
West High’s Seybian Sims puts up a shot Tuesday, Feb. 27, in a Class 4A substate final game at the U.S. Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids. The Trojans escaped the Cougars, 49-40, and advanced to the state tournament in Des Moines.

CEDAR RAPIDS– Bergie was almost at a loss for words. Bergie is Steve Bergman, Iowa City West High head varsity boys basketball coach, and rarely is he left struggling to find the words to express himself.
However, after his Trojans struggled against Cedar Rapids Kennedy Tuesday, Feb. 27, in a Class 4A substate final at the U.S. Cellular Center, Bergie seemed to be processing the game as he met with reporters after the 49-40 win.
“We were kind of asleep a little… I can’t explain what we were doing,” he said. “They switched defenses and we did a lot of standing around, and we didn’t attack the glass. A couple of our guys looked tired, so I got to figure out, we need a little rest, I think.”
Basketball season is a grind, Bergman said. Especially at the end of the season during the battle for a state tournament berth.
“We’re trying to get better, so we’re practicing, but maybe we need to give some guys a little bit of time off the court and off their legs,” he said. “We just looked a step slow, offensively.”
The Trojans and Cougars both struggled in the first quarter with West High taking the period, 8-5. West had a 17-14 advantage at halftime and picked up the pace in the third quarter with a 13-point effort for a 30-24 lead going into the final eight minutes. Kennedy rallied back in the fourth quarter, cutting West’s lead to one point, 32-31, with 5:30 remaining. A Kennedy 3-pointer gave the Cougars their first lead of the game at 36-35.
Patrick McCaffery nailed a pair of free throws for a 37-36 lead before Dante Eldridge drained a 3-point shot for a 40-36 lead. The final nine points, from McCaffery, Jacob Anderson and Evan Flitz, came at the free throw line.
The game was a stark contrast to the 72-35 drubbing the Trojans administered to the Cougars on Jan. 30, in Iowa City.
“Kennedy was always tough,” Bergman said. “We just kind of got momentum in the first game there at home and it just kind of steam-rolled on them. So, over the past three-four weeks, I felt like they’ve improved.”
McCaffery led all scorers with 24 points, Seybian Sims produced 10, Eldridge had six (two 3-point baskets), Anderson scored five, Flitz had three and Paul McGee put up one point for West High. Jackson Foley led Kennedy with 11 points, while Caleb Schlaak had 10.
“It was… ugly. I can’t say anything else. All credit to them (Kennedy) for making it ugly. That’s what they had to do to make it a game, and we… just had a hard time. I give them all the credit,” Bergman said. “I knew Jon (Kennedy head coach Jon McKowen) would have something up his sleeve and it wasn’t anything crazy, played a little 2-3 zone, (we) hadn’t played much of that, and we just stood around too much.”
But, Bergie said, “We’re going, there’s a lot of teams that would like to be in our situation, and we got to figure out how to play a little bit better.”
The No.1-ranked Trojans took a 19-4 record into the Class 4A Quarterfinal Round Tuesday, March 6, facing No. 8 Muscatine (16-8). The Muskies edged past Linn-Mar, 58-55, in the substate final before the West-Kennedy game. Joe Wieskamp led Muscatine with 36 points against the Lions. Wieskamp, a senior, was the top scorer in the state with 774 points and 33.7 points per game going into the tournament.