DES MOINES — It’s insignificant now. But if you remember, the vagaries of the IHSAA’s seeding system for the boys’ state basketball tournament had Iowa City West behind Bettendorf.
Seems pretty laughable, doesn’t it?
Inpenetrable defense and the offense of Wyatt Lohaus, among many other things, lifted West past Bettendorf, 54-36, in the Class 4A championship game Saturday night at Wells Fargo Arena, a battle of unbeatens that wasn’t close to a battle. West (26-0) was just that dominant in securing its 52nd consecutive victory and second consecutive unbeaten season, just the second large-class school to accomplish that.
There will be a public reception for the team Monday night at 6:30 at West’s Little Theatre.
“Amazing,” Lohaus said. “I think we had a target on our back the whole year. We’ve been through so much adversity, even in these first two tournament games we were down. But I just thought we hung together as a group really well.”
West overcame the in-season loss of Division I college signee Dondre Alexander, not to mention West Des Moines Dowling in overtime in the quarterfinals. It was even down at halftime in the semifinals to Dubuque Senior before a huge second half put it over the top.
Stifling man-to-man defense keyed that particular comeback, and it carried over to this game, as Bettendorf (25-1) was held to just 13 first-half points. There was no suspense or drama Saturday night, just great team basketball and another gold trophy.
“Doing what we did, going undefeated for two years, there’s not any words you can describe it (with),” West’s Jeremy Morgan said. “I’m very blessed to be a part of this team.”
“It hasn’t been totally smooth, but it never will be,” West Coach Steve Bergman said. “These are 17-year-old kids, 16-year-old kids … 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 did with just talent. It isn’t all about talent, it’s about attitude.”
If you’re looking for the next potential milestone for this program, it’s Ames’ mark of a 4A-record 54 straight wins. That was Harrison Barnes and Doug McDermott, of course.
This team was Lohaus and Jeremy Morgan, UNI recruits named to the 4A all-tournament team. Morgan was selected the captain.
Point guard Lohaus led Bettendorf at one point in the third quarter, 20-17. He finished with 22 points, including 14 of his team’s final 17 of the first half, taking over offensively after Morgan picked up his second foul and sat the final 5:17.
That included a dagger 3 just before the halftime buzzer that made it 28-13.
“These last three of four games, I felt I haven’t shot as well as I have been,” Lohaus said. “One of my things was don’t worry if you miss your last five. Just keep shooting, keep shooting, and they’ll go in. I thought I took good shots tonight. I had confidence in them, and they were falling.”
“He shot the ball good,” said Morgan, who finished with nine points. “When he’s making shots, you’ve got to get him the ball. That was really huge to help us keep our momentum.”
By the way, this is West’s fifth boys’ state basketball championship, its fourth under Bergman. “Bergy” is now second behind legendary Davenport coach Paul Moon for most big-school titles.
Moon has seven. Can Bergman, 54, eventually catch him? He laughed at that.
“This just tells you I’ve coached a heck of a lot of good guys. That’s what I see,” Bergman said. “I’ve had a lot of good assistant coaches. I work hard at it, and the kids work just as hard. They work harder. I suppose I’ll think about it sometime, but I haven’t really thought much about it.”
West certainly won’t be favored next season, though it will be in the “sleeper” category with Lohaus and key reserve pieces Chike Ukah and David DiLeo coming back. Important graduation losses besides Morgan are starters Austin Swank, Jason Stewart and Myzeah Batie-Gaddy and backup guard Mark Lowe.
The mantle of 2014 favorite probably belongs to Bettendorf, considering it started four juniors.
But that’s the future. The here and now is what’s important, and West owns that.
“I’m a basketball historian. My uncle (Bud) was a coach for about 40 years, and I grew up going to state tournaments,” Bergman said. “So (going back to back) is very special to me. We talked about it a little bit after last year, how hard we were going to have to work to get it done. You never knew. They rose to every occasion. Ultimately, I was sitting on the bench (tonight) thinking we were about done Wednesday night (against Dowling). We were as close as you could get. Then we end up beating a couple of teams pretty handily to get a state title. It’s a very big credit to them.”
Here’s the game boxscore and official play by play: