IOWA CITY — You weren’t just seeing things. That really, truly was a zone defense the Iowa City West Trojans were playing in the fourth quarter last night.
A 2-3, to be specific. What in the world is going on anyway?
“I don’t think they were ready for that,” smiled Dondre Alexander, after West survived a big-time rally to topple Dubuque Senior, 66-56, in a matchup of Class 4A’s top two ranked boys’ basketball teams.
West (8-0) has built one of the state’s best programs thanks to the consistent excellence of its man-to-man defending. If you’ve watched the Trojans play over the years, you’d find it hard to believe there’s a zone at all in Coach Steve Bergman’s defensive playbook.
There is, and it came out from absolute necessity. Alexander and Jeremy Morgan were nagged with four fouls each, and Senior was cleaning up on the interior.
A 17-point lead had been cut to four with four minutes to go. Something had to be done, so why not play zone?
“First time all year,” Alexander said.
Maybe the first time in two years.
“We threw a little curveball at them, and it worked,” said West’s Myzeah Batie-Gaddy.
West got stops, picked up crucial driving buckets from Alexander and Morgan, made free throws and hung on for its 34th consecutive victory.
“I think this brings us together,” said Batie-Gaddy, who finished with 18 points and eight rebounds. “It’ll really help us in the long run, playing a game like this against a tough team. There was a lot of hype going into this game, and I think we handled it pretty well.”
West played probably its best quarter of the season to build a 26-14 edge after one. The lead stayed in the safe 11-to-17 range most of the way, until Senior (6-1) made one final push.
Josh Weeber’s jumper made it 55-51 with 4:23 left.
“We were really, really good that first quarter,” Bergman said. “Then we just kind of lost focus and let them feel a little bit better about themselves.”
Weeber and wing Kyle Haber finished with 18 points apiece for Senior, with Haber missing the final minute plus after taking an accidental elbow to the face from teammate Seth Bonifas.
“The first quarter they just kicked our butts,” said Senior Coach Wendell Eimers. “They took it to us, and you burn a lot of energy trying to get back. But I was proud of our guys. We played an awfully good second half, and I thought we played a good second quarter. To beat a team like West, you’ve got to play four quarters. Playing three is not going to do it.”
“I think this will make us stronger as a team,” said Alexander. “Brings us more together, proves that we need each other. Like at the end of the game.”
Here is the game boxscore:
AT IOWA CITY
DUBUQUE SENIOR (56): Josh Weeber 7-15 4-6 18, Seth Bonifas 4-10 1-3 9, Kyle Haber 6-13 6-7 18, Kyle Holdridge 1-3 0-0 3, Lucas LeGrand 1-1 1-2 3, Parker Hammel 1-2 0-1 2, Luke McDonnell 1-3 1-2 3. Totals 21-47 13-21 56.
IOWA CITY WEST (66): Jeremy Morgan 4-6 2-4 11, Myzeah Batie-Gaddy 6-9 6-6 18, Austin Swank 1-4 0-2 2, Wyatt Lohaus 4-9 0-1 9, Dondre Alexander 6-11 4-5 19, Mark Lowe 2-3 0-0 5, Jason Stewart 1-2 0-0 2, David DiLeo 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 24-45 12-18 66.
Halftime – West 39, Senior 29. 3-point goals – Senior 1-6 (Weeber 0-2, Haber 0-1, Holdridge 1-2), West 6-15 (Morgan 1-1, Swank 0-2, Lohaus 1-4, Alexander 3-5, Lowe 1-2, DiLeo 0-1). Rebounds – Senior 32 (Bonifas 10), West 22 (Batie-Gaddy 8). Total fouls – Senior 13, West 20. Fouled out – None. Technical foul – Batie-Gaddy. Turnovers – Senior 15, West 13.