The City High boys basketball team got a much-needed Mississippi Valley Conference victory Tuesday, 55-47, on the road at Waterloo East. The Little Hawks were 0-8 in the MVC to that point, but coach Don Showalter said he saw the kind of progress during the season that led him to believe the breakthrough was near.
“We knew it was coming because we’ve really been improving,” Showalter said. “We’ve been leading a lot of games; we just haven’t put the final touches on to finish games. It’s nice confirmation for the kids that if they keep working and hanging in there, good things happen.”
Andrew Hein led the City High scoring with 17 points, and Lonnie Chester had 15. Each had three assists. Hein made 4-of-7 threes and also grabbed six rebounds. City made 68 percent of its free throws, good enough to hold onto its second-half lead, and forced East into 14 turnovers. Rebounding had been another issue, but City was within two of East.
“We pretty much controlled the game from the onset,” Showalter said. “Lonnie Chester, our point guard, did a tremendous job of running our offense, and we got some easy baskets, and our press really gave East some problems. They couldn’t really get into a running game or a continuity game against our press. Tony Perry probably had his best game with 11 rebounds.”
City won five MVC games a year ago under Adam Loria, but this year it had been a struggle as Showalter and his new staff took over. But diligent practices — Showalter said the team hasn’t had a bad one all year — and relentless play during games set the stage for the win.
The Little Hawks enter a portion of the schedule where they match up a little better in terms of talent with Cedar Rapids Jefferson, Prairie and Hempstead next.
“We’d like to put together a little run here,” Showalter said.
* WEST SEEKS OUT COMPETITION: The top-ranked West High boys basketball team has steamrolled most of its opposition this season as it tries to win a second state championship in a row. West’s average margin of victory is 24.8 points, and it is ranked No. 12 in the country by MaxPreps.com.
The Trojans have had only two close games against Iowa competition, a last-second 3-point victory in the opener over Davenport Assumption and a 10-point victory over No. 2 Dubuque Senior in a game that was as close as four points late in the fourth period. It’s hard to imagine the Trojans being stressed for the rest of the regular season.
Coach Steve Bergman scheduled a game against Sun Prairie, Wis., played earlier this month, that provided a challenge his team needed. Sun Prairie coach Jeff Boos was a college teammate of Bergman’s, and the teams scrimmaged in the summer. West was asked to play Sun Prairie in “Border Battle” games between Wisconsin and Iowa teams.
“It was a good game; it’s as good a team as we’re going to play any time,” Bergman said of the 59-55 victory. “We didn’t shoot it very well, but we kind of showed some guts and won the game. Wyatt (Lohaus) had two steals down the stretch, but it was just a good team win.
“We figured out a way to win. It was a good game for us. We needed it. We haven’t played a ton of close games, so anytime we can get in those games I think it’s a good experience.”
According to the game account by the Wisconsin State Journal, West trailed by three with 2:06 left to play. But a steal by Jeremy Morgan and feed to Lohaus cut the lead and Lohaus’ steal of an inbounds pass and basket put the Trojans ahead. Nebraska recruit Nick Fuller missed a foul shot with the game tied at 55, and West ran a play for Lohaus, who canned a jumper with 3 seconds left in the game.
Sun Prairie has a second Division I recruit, sophomore Nick Noskowiak, so West had the rare experience of playing a team with comparable talent.
* CVC GIRLS RACE UP IN THE AIR: The Cedar Valley conference girls basketball race was a muddle last week after leader Regina dropped two road games to its closest pursuers, Mid-Prairie and West Branch, to put the three teams in a virtual tie in the loss column, each with two.
But then Durant upset the Golden Hawks, 52-43, Tuesday night to muddle the situation further. Regina is 10-2, West Branch 8-2 and Mid-Prairie 8-3. The three leaders won’t play each other again. Durant and North Cedar appear to be the teams in the best position to play spoiler in the final few games.
TOURNAMENT PAIRINGS IMPACT PLAY OF REGULAR-SEASON GAMES? Pairings released by the IGHSAU put the girls teams from West and City in the same regional. The odds are the teams will meet in the regional final for the third meeting of the season.
Knowing that and playing the second matchup early in February, do coaches change their approach for game No. 2?
“There’s a lot of basketball to play between (those games),” West coach B.J. Mayer said. “If you have new things you probably don’t use them as much in that game or at all. But potentially, if things play out where everybody takes care of business and everybody is winning (game two) could possibly be a chance to play for a conference title.”
* WEST LIBERTY’S FELDMAN HITS MILESTONE: West Liberty senior Kristi Feldman eclipsed the 1,000-point mark for her career recently. She joins her sister Taylor, a much-decorated multi-sport athlete who graduated in 2009. Taylor racked up 1,331 points in her career and left school as the career scoring, 3-point and assist leader.
Kristi is a 5-foot-11 forward, though, and Taylor was the point guard, so they are different kinds of players.
“Kristi obviously scores more in the paint, and Taylor was a 3-point shooter,” Comet coach Nick Heath said. “Both of them are very competitive and hard workers.”