West High paid tribute to its state championship boys basketball team Monday night, and no one was about to forget that the school had won back-to-back titles with both trophies sitting prominently near the podium.
“Both trophies are up here because it represents not only exemplary performance on the part of our teams and coaches and parents and everyone included in our basketball family, but it’s not a one-hit wonder,” Principal Jerry Arganbright said. “It’s a program that has existed on a lot of success, a lot of high expectations, and a lot of commitment by our kids.”
With the players and coaches seated to one side, athletic director Scott Kibby opened the ceremony and said this was the first state championship during his 11 years as an athletic director. Of course Kibby was employed elsewhere before succeeding Marv Reiland beginning last fall.
He told the players and the audience that they should appreciate how special West High is and cited figures that less than 5 percent of the student-athletes in the state even make it to the state tournament and less than one percent actually win a state championship. He then urged the players to thank their parents and all the coaches who have helped them along the way.
Arganbright told about how nerve-wracking the quarterfinal game against West Des Moines Dowling was.
“I wasn’t worth anything on Thursday; I was wasted,” Arganbright confessed. “That was two hours of pain. Someone said, ‘I saw you pacing back and forth.’ And I said, ‘At least I’m not one of those parents who had to leave.'”
That drew a big laugh from the crowd because Cris Morgan, Jeremy’s mother, left the game for a very short time before returning just in time for the team’s miraculous rally. More on that later.
Arganbright said he let his guard down with about 9 seconds left in overtime, and junior Alli Peterson took a picture of him that flew throughout social media. “I think I remember I stuck my tongue out in kind of an obnoxious manner, and Thursday morning a student who was walking down the hall said, ‘Hey, Dr. Arganbright, look,’ and on his screen saver on his phone he had this picture of me with my tongue out.
“My wife came home Thursday and said ‘I saw your picture.’ I said, ‘Yeah.’ She said, ‘What were you thinking?'”
Probably what every West fan was thinking at the time. “Whew.”
Arganbright mentioned several memories from the season: Austin Swank’s game-winning 3-pointer against Davenport Assumption in the first game of the year; the dedication of the scoreboard and video board with the Found family; Morgan’s ferocious dunk in the overtime against Dowling; and Myzeah Batie-Gaddy’s joyous heave into the rafters of the game ball at the end of the championship game.
“It was really wonderful to see a young man who keeps things pretty personal let it loose… And I’ll tell you, Myzeah, in this role that I’m in you never tend to leave that role. So as much as I enjoyed watching you, when I saw the basketball go up into the air, twice by the way, I thought I hope it doesn’t hit the scoreboard and break something.”
He thanked coach Steve Bergman and his assistants and mentioned how they kept a team of 23 kids.
Bill Baker, President of the Club West booster club, noted that fans got to see how quickly Bergman could move off the floor at halftime of the Dubuque Senior game. Of course West came back with a vengeance in that second half and won going away.
Cris Morgan told the story about her leaving the Dowling game for a bathroom break. Upon returning to the arena she thought she knew a man on the aisle and rubbed his bald head as she went back to her seat. Turns out it was not someone she knew. But that was right when the team made its stunning rally. She decided she needed to go over to that guy again.
“This is going to sound really weird, but do you mind if I rub your head again?” she asked. He consented and the rest is history.
Bergman paid tribute to his coaches and players.
“This wouldn’t have happened without all 23 guys,” he said. “Every one of them had a role. Everyone on the team helped.”
He said from day one the team had to fight the perception that victory was inevitable. He paid tribute to Jeremy Morgan and Wyatt Lohaus, whom he said took over the leadership of the team in the last two months.
“This is a very special bunch of guys,” Bergman said. “You’re a great team. If any of you make the NBA, I need a check.”
Morgan and Lohaus finished with short speeches thanking coaches, parents and teammates. Then the trophies took center stage with everyone getting a picture with the two.