WAUKEE, Ia. — Defense is largely the reason why the Waukee and Hoover boys’ basketball teams climbed their way into the Class 4A AP Poll.
Entering Tuesday night’s matchup, the seventh-ranked Huskies boasted the best defense in 4A while their second-ranked counterparts ranked seventh. Both units paved the way for winning streaks of 12 and five games, respectively.
That trend held serve on Tuesday night inside the Waukee Fieldhouse, where the Warriors outlasted Hoover, 33-32. Waukee is now 16-3 on the year, the best record in the CIML, while the Huskies fell to just 14-4.
“I thought we gave a tremendous effort,” Waukee coach Justin Ohl said, “and you have to do that against Hoover. They’re so well coached and so disciplined. We gave a good effort and showed a lot of toughness down the stretch.”
The Huskies, long known for their defense since coach Courtney Henderson’s been at the helm, had pummeled teams since mid-December. Over their 12-game winning streak, they allowed 30 points or fewer six times.
But Waukee has been Hoover’s toughest challenge to date. The Warriors have lost to just two teams all season — Mason City and Ames (twice) — while running through the state’s fourth-toughest schedule in the process.
“We knew we’d have to defend well, and we knew we’d have to make a few shots,” Henderson said. “They’re big and physical, and they do a really good job of getting to the ball and playing the gaps. They really have a good ball club.”
Waukee claimed a quick 6-2 lead, but Doug Wilson keyed an 8-0 Hoover run that gave the Huskies a 10-6 lead at the end of the first quarter. Wilson finished with 10 points and recorded two second-half blocks — but scored just two points after halftime.
The Warriors snatched the lead back in the second after Drew Johnson drained a triple — the first of seven second-quarter points for the senior. He finished the first half 4 of 5 from the field for nine points, helping Waukee to a 19-16 halftime lead.
“We knew they were going to play slow and that they were a really good defensive team,” said Johnson, who finished with 11, second only to Nathan Johnson’s 13 for Waukee. “They’re just solid. They have quickness on the outside and they’re just a threat on the inside with Doug. They’re just a solid team all around.
“They made some shots early, but we didn’t back down.”
Once the second half began, shots were at a premium. Waukee’s largest lead was 29-24 late in the third quarter, but Aldreias Campbell Jr., responded with a three at the buzzer to bring the Huskies within two. Both teams combined to score just four field goals the rest of the way.
Campbell Jr. hit another triple in the fourth to give Hoover a 32-31 lead with a little more than two minutes to play. He finished with 16 points. The rest of the game featured many missed shots — Campbell Jr. and Wilson both missed front ends of 1-and-1’s that would’ve extended Hoover’s lead.
With less than 10 seconds left, Waukee’s Jacob Rau got the ball under the net. He put the ball off the glass, after which Wilson slapped it away. The ref called goaltending, giving the Warriors a 33-32 lead. The score held after a pair of Hoover shots failed to go through.
“My hat goes off to Waukee,” Henderson said. “They just did a better job than us tonight.”
The win was Waukee’s fourth against teams currently ranked in the 4A poll — and second in its last three games. Ohl believes his team is still capable of improving with just two games to play before the postseason.
And that’s when the real fun begins.
“I just hope we keep improving,” Ohl said. “I don’t want to put a ceiling on this group, and I thought we were able to do some of that tonight.”
Hoover (32) — Thedford 6, Campbell Jr. 16, Wilson 10. Also played — Quinn, Sabastiano, Jefferson, Edwards. Totals: 14-30, 2-5.
Waukee (33) — Longnecker 3, D. Johnson 11, N. Johnson 13, Rau 6. Also played — Nelson, Jones, Hart. Totals: 14-37, 1-4.
Waukee 33, Des Moines Hoover 32
Hoover…10 6 11 5 — 32
Waukee…6 13 10 4 — 33
3-pointers — Waukee 4 (N. Johnson 2, Longnecker 1, D. Johnson 1), Hoover 2 (Campbell Jr. 2). Fouls — Waukee 11, Hoover 11. Technical Fouls — None. Fouled Out — 1 (Sabastiano).
Cody Goodwin covers high school sports, college basketball recruiting and Drake athletics for the Des Moines Register. Reach him at (816) 582-0633, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or send him a tweet at @codygoodwin.