Devontae Lane exploded into the lane, spun past one Valley defender and muscled the ball up for a bucket off the glass. Two possessions later, Patrick McCaffery forced a pass to the right wing, where his older brother Connor forced a turnover and turned the other direction.
Coach B.J. Windhorst and the rest of the Valley boys’ basketball team could only watch at times as Iowa City West spun them around in frustration on Saturday night inside Wells Fargo Arena. The Trojans’ many playmakers were too efficient, too quick and too good for the Tigers.
“When they’re able to spread it out with the kind of players they have,” Windhorst said, “it makes it really tough.”
Iowa City West beat Valley, 64-50, for the Class 4A state championship on Saturday night. The Tigers end the season 21-5 overall, and are the state runners-up for the second time in four years. Both losses came against the uber-talented Trojans (23-3).
That Valley reached Saturday night’s final was a surprise, even to Windhorst. He lost four starters from last year’s state championship squad, and the one returner, senior Quinton Curry, missed all but the final nine games while recovering from a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
Without Curry, Valley still went 13-4, but lacked a true playmaker. Windhorst said that forced the team to come together and play more as a unit. Entering this week, only one Valley player averaged more than 10 points per game, but another four averaged between eight and nine.
Curry returned in early February, a miraculous development considering his injury, and helped the Tigers reel off eight straight victories. His presence demanded the attention of opposing teams, and turned Valley into a true state title contender.
His addition also helped free up Charley Crowley, Windhorst’s all-conference senior. Crowley soon became one of the tournament’s brightest stars — he didn’t score 20 points in a single game all season, but did so in back-to-back games to lead the Tigers into Saturday’s final.
“I’ve been proud all week of just how we found a way to put ourselves in this position,” Windhorst said. “A lot of great stories within our group. Our guys just found ways to win a lot of basketball games this year. We feel very proud to be here.”
Against the Trojans, Valley met its match. Everything the Tigers did to reach the final — crisp passing, stiff defense and make shots — West simply did it better on Saturday. Three Division I talents are in the Trojans’ starting five, and budding potential crowds their bench.
“They’re hard to match up to,” Iowa City West coach Steve Bergman said. “We saw guys out there that we didn’t think could stay in front of our guys. We just have skill guys at every position, and some have that length.”
It didn’t take long for West to assert itself, using a 10-0 run to go up 16-7 after just five minutes in the first quarter. Crowley was flustered by the length of Patrick McCaffery, and Lane did nothing but hound Valley’s guards, recording four of the Trojans’ 11 total steals.
“We knew we needed to get off to a great start,” Windhorst said. “I’m not so sure that we got off to a poor start as much as they just got off to a great start. Basketball is a little bit easier when the shots go in, and they put us on our heels for the rest of the game.
“I equate it to like football, getting down 28-0 quick when you’re a running team. Then you can’t really get into what you want to do.”
Once the game settled, West switched to a 1-3-1 defensive zone, putting Patrick McCaffery up top and Lane and Connor McCaffery on the sides. Tigers eventually made some progress, hitting 7 of 17 first-half shots, but they still trailed by 10 at the intermission.
It didn’t get much easier in the second half. Lane struggled with fouls, but scored 13 points. Connor McCaffery led all scorers with 19 along with eight boards and three steals. Patrick McCaffery added 12, five assists and two blocks, keeping Valley at a distance the whole way.
Early in the fourth, the Tigers inched to within five, the closest they had been since the middle of the second quarter. But the Trojans soon distanced themselves by way of turnovers and easy buckets in transition. For the game, they forced Valley into 13 turnovers, which led to 21 points.
“It’s frustrating, but they’re good, and we knew they were going to be good,” Curry said. “They’re long, and we struggled a little bit with that. They got out and blocked a lot of our shots. Some of our plays didn’t go our way. Some shots didn’t fall that usually do.
“It’s frustrating. Really, really frustrating.”
Valley simply couldn’t answer the Trojans’ depth of talent. West shot 21 of 38 from the field and recorded 16 assists. Even more, the Trojans shot 15 of 21 from inside the 3-point arc. The Tigers simply couldn’t keep pace, shooting 18 of 40 for the game and 3 of 13 from deep.
Curry and Austin Hinkle were the lone Valley players to finish in double figures, scoring 15 and 13, respectively. Crowley added seven on 2 of 5 shooting. Carter Frey provided a boost off the bench, scoring seven as well. During the season, that could be enough. On Saturday, it wasn’t.
“It’s not fun,” Hinkle said. “Just the run we went on to get here, and it was easy to get motivated to win it, and it’s tough to be on the losing side this year. It happens.”
The horn sounded after reserves from both sides made their way onto the court. Curry accepted the second-place trophy and raised it up to the Valley crowd, then retreated into the locker room, where an assistant coach said there’s no shame in losing to a team that talented.
W.D.M. Valley (50) — Hinkle 13, Skinner 2, Dennis 4, Crowley 7, Curry 15, Jensen 2, Frey 7. Also played—Jeffers, Whipple, Sueppel, Samples, Rodruck, Brinkmeyer. Totals: 18-40, 11-14.
Iowa City West (64) — Lane 13, Disterhoft 4, P McCaffery 12, C McCaffery 19, Ono-Fullard 4, Flitz 6, Sims 4, Anderson 1, Odunsi 1. Also played—McGee, Eldridge, Nasr, Barnes, Henstrom, Van Roekel. Totals: 21-38, 16-20.
W.D.M. Valley…9 15 15 11—50
Iowa City West…16 18 11 19—64
3-pointers—ICW 6 (C McCaffery 2, Flitz 2, P McCaffery 1, Lane 1), Valley 3 (Hinkle 3). Fouls—Valley 16, ICW 14. Technical Fouls—None. Fouled Out—None.
Cody Goodwin covers high school sports, college basketball recruiting and Drake athletics for the Des Moines Register. Follow him on Twitter at @codygoodwin.
Class 4A All-Tournament Team
Quinton Curry, W.D.M. Valley
Charley Crowley, W.D.M. Valley
Van Rees, Sioux City East
Devontae Lane, Iowa City West
Connor McCaffery, Iowa City West (Captain)