An admittedly exhausted Steve Bergman stood in a near empty media room Saturday night at Wells Fargo Arena and tried to put into words exactly what his West High basketball team had just accomplished.
The task of trying to describe the Trojans’ most recent in a long line of historic feats wasn’t easy, even for a veteran coach like Bergman.
West became just the sixth school in state history to win three consecutive state titles Saturday with its 57-45 win over West Des Moines Valley in the Class 4A title game.
Bergman, who became the third coach to win five state titles, offered some context for the Trojans’ latest conquest.
“People don’t do what we just did,” Bergman explained. “People see 60 straight wins or three straight, well what we did is hard.”
Calling it a three-peat hard is a little like calling the Grand Canyon big or saying that West senior Wyatt Lohaus is pretty good, it’s an understatement of epic proportions, but who’s going to argue with a coach that’s won 475 high school games and five state titles?
However you choose to describe West’s recent domination of big school basketball in Iowa, Saturday’s win capped a run that hasn’t been witnessed in Iowa basketball in decades.
No team had ever won three straight state titles in Class 4A and no big school team had won three in a row since Paul Moon coached Davenport to three straight titles from 1950 to 1952.
“It’s an incredible feeling knowing that it’s something that hasn’t been done in so long,” West senior Wyatt Lohaus said after earning tournament Most Valuable Player honors. “Just all the effort that we have put into it the last four years, so to finish it off like this is special.”
What made some outside of the Iowa City area take the Trojans’ excellence for granted is how Bergman and his West teams have made a something so incredibly difficult seem so easy.
West cruised to its previous two state titles unbeaten, won a Class 4A-record 60 straight games, and are 75-3 over the past three seasons.
West’s three titles have come in a meticulous and dominate fashion that has rarely been matched.
During its current nine-game state tournament winning streak, West has won its games by an average of 14 points per game and had just two games decided by single digits.
West has won its three state title games by an average of 15 points, the closest being Saturday’s 12-point win in which West led by 20 in the waning minutes.
“I just think it’s our preparation,” Lohaus said of the Trojans’ state tournament success. “Our coaches do a great job of preparing us and we see a lot of stuff during the season that prepares us for the state tournament, and I just think we have a lot of confidence due to the time we put in.”
The only player to see the floor in all three of the Trojans’ consecutive state title wins, Lohaus has been the constant force behind West’s excellence.
The Northern Iowa recruit finished his prep career as a four-year starter with a 94-9 record and a 10-2 mark in state tournament games.
Lohaus scored in double figures in eight of the nine state tournament games during the Trojans’ three-peat averaging, 14.9 points during the run.
The Iowa Mr. Basketball candidate led or tied for the team high in scoring in four straight state tournament games over the past two seasons.
“Some of the most confident feelings I’ve had before a game have come before the state championship, so when we won that state semifinal (Saturday) I figured we weren’t going to lose this one,” Lohaus said. “We’ve gone through too much to come this far and not close it out.”
Lohaus was the lone returning starter this season from last year’s state tournament, causing some people around the state to question whether a third straight title was achievable.
That doubt was fueled by a resounding 20-point loss to Dubuque Senior on Jan. 10 that snapped West’s 60-winning streak and started a stretch that saw the Trojans go 2-2 with a loss to Minnesota powerhouse Minneapolis DeLaSalle.
Rather than fill the Trojans with doubt, the loss to Senior seemed to bolster West’s resolve.
“When we lost, I said I could really care less that we lost, I just really hated why we lost, the way we lost,” Bergman said. “We really started looking at why we were bad that night and we worked to fix it.”
West lost one more game, to Class 3A champion Dubuque Wahlert before finishing the season with seven straight wins and an unprecedented third Class 4A title.
“This was the ultimate goal the whole way, it always has been and it always will be for West,” Lohaus said. “The win streak, this team wasn’t really so much a part of it. That was more the last couple of seasons, so it was not something we felt a lot of pressure out of. We were just always working toward this point.”