It’s been a week of absorbing lessons for the West High boys basketball team. Eight days ago, West lost by 21 points to now-No. 1 Dubuque Senior in the Rams’ gym before beating a good Sun Prairie, Wis., team the next day in Wisconsin.
The magnitude of the loss was a shock to the system after 60 consecutive victories, but coach Steve Bergman hopes it will be a springboard to improvement.
This week, the Trojans didn’t play until Friday’s game against Cedar Rapids Jefferson. They face another powerful out-of-state foe, Minneapolis DeLaSalle, today in LaCrosse, Wis.
The Trojans took care of business fairly easily against Jefferson, winning 79-49, while using every available player and not straining the starters in the least. The victory improved West to 10-1 overall and 6-1 in Mississippi Valley Conference play, while the J-Hawks are 3-7 overall and 1-5 in the MVC.
“It’s a tough situation,” Bergman said. “We dealt with it last week, and we didn’t handle the first game very well. We need a game like we have (today) because the last time we played someone real good, we didn’t handle it real well.”
As plucky as the J-Hawks and their senior guard, Jacob Olson, are, they are not the kind of competition that Senior was and DeLaSalle will be.
“We need to be challenged,” Bergman said. “We need to learn from that.”
“It’s awesome that we get another really good team and good challenge,” West senior Wyatt Lohaus said. “I think we had a really good week of practice. That loss helped (younger players) to see that if they don’t do a certain thing the right way that that’s going to happen.”
Work this week centered on defense and rebounding. Senior’s height and experience really exposed the Trojans in a hostile road setting and, if anything, DeLaSalle promises to be even better.
“(DeLaSalle) has a great big man, and Senior, that’s all they are is big men,” Lohaus said. “Bergie said they have three D-I guards, and they’re all tall and long.”
“I thought our defense is what let us down, primarily at Senior,” Bergman said. “Other than the way we guarded Olson, we played pretty good D. That’s two Fridays in a row that we did not guard one particular person well, and that’s a problem. You have to limit the really good players you’re playing against and make them earn it all.”
Olson scored a game-high 28 points, making 10-of-14 shots and all six free throws. But the rest of his team was 6-for-20 from the field.
West initially opened up a good lead with its full-court press. Jefferson committed 14 first-half turnovers. Bergman wants to see the Trojans speed up other teams to disrupt their style of play. He also wants to see better help defense inside and better communication.
“We want to be more poised,” junior David Dileo said. “We didn’t handle pressure very well (at Senior). And rebounding, we gave up too many offensive rebounds to Senior. DeLaSalle has some pretty good big men and athletes, so we really have to box out and rebound.”
Offensively, West was very good Friday night. The Trojans made 17-of-23 shots in the first half and began the second half making the first 11-of-12 shots. They used their height advantage to feed the post, and Chike Ukah scored 15 points, making all seven of his attempts. Lohaus also scored 15 for the Trojans. The starters played perhaps half the game or a little less.
“We had a ton of open shots, and we really passed the ball,” Bergman said. “We’re a good shooting team. If we can figure out our defense we’re good enough offensively to be fine.”
C.R. JEFFERSON (49) – Jacob Olson 10-14 6-6 28, Jacob Van Oort 0-2 0-0 0, Brandon Wiederin 1-1 2-2 4, Lucas Larson 1-3 3-6 5, Tyler Konigsmark 2-6 3-8 7, Bryce Cardis 2-7 0-0 4, Adam Van Oort 0-0 0-0 0, Brock Hunt 0-0 0-0 0, Davis Hall 0-0 1-2 1, team 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 16-34 15-24 49.
WEST HIGH (79) – Garrett Grimsman 1-1 0-0 2, Wyatt Lohaus 6-7 0-0 15, Connor McCaffery 3-4 3-4 9, David Dileo 2-4 3-3 7, Chike Ukah 7-7 1-2 15, Tanner Lohaus 4-5 2-2 10, Nick Gallagher 3-5 2-3 8, Devontae Lane 1-2 2-2 4, Wali Parks 0-1 0-0 0, Marquise Yarbrough 1-2 0-0 2, Nick Spiess 0-1 4-5 4, Alex Henderson 0-2 1-2 1, Harley Shear 1-2 0-0 2, Ahmed Ismail 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 29-44 18-23 79.
3-point goals – Jefferson 2-8 (Olson 2-6, Konigsmark 0-2), West 3-10 (W. Lohaus 3-3, McCaffery 0-1, Dileo 0-1, Gallagher 0-2, Spiess 0-1, Henderson 0-2). Total fouls – Jefferson 18, West High 18. Fouled out – Konigsmark (2:23).