It’s easy to wonder what else Iowa City West could accomplish at Wells Fargo Arena.
Coach Steve Bergman’s program has already tied a state record by winning three straight titles and enters this week’s tournament undefeated and ranked first in Class 4-A.
Basketball fans know the future might be even brighter, as the Trojans have just one senior on the roster and Bergman agrees, but he’s heard enough about hypotheticals and history. There are games to be played.
“I wouldn’t coach an extra day to break a record,” he said.
Three of the eight teams making repeat appearances at this week’s four-class boys’ basketball state tournament are defending champions.
Iowa City West, Dubuque Wahlert and Western Christian of Hull all won title games by double digits in 2014, but are doing their best to pique interest and intrigue for the on-court action that begins Monday morning.
STATE BOYS’ BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT: Brackets
They are setting historical marks for dominant consistency while avoiding the topic entirely.
“We try not to talk about it too much because we know the kids are hearing it from 1,000 other sources,” Wahlert coach Tom English said. “They know the pressure that comes with playing basketball at Wahlert and the tradition we’ve had. I don’t need to put emphasis on it.”
Western Christian’s Class 2-A triumph last season tied coach Jim Eekhoff with legendary Davenport boss Paul Moon at seven titles, the most in Iowa history. This season’s team is led by rock-solid center Josh VanLingen and has only lost to 3-A qualifier LeMars. Tuesday’s quarterfinal against Pella Christian is all Eekhoff is concerned with.
“We don’t talk a whole lot about history,” Eekhoff said. “It’s about these guys, this year’s team, and this tournament, so we don’t spend time worrying about it.”
The tournament trip from Hull is about routine, as Eekhoff says the Wolfpack (22-2) will stay in the same hotel, eat the same food and pull over at the same rest stops as in previous years. But even if Western Christian can’t break history against a wide-open 2-A field — including repeat visitors Cascade and Treynor — he wouldn’t change a thing.
“I can go to my grave being really, really happy with what I’ve done,” Eekhoff said with a laugh. “I want a title for this team. I don’t really care about the other stuff.”
Wahlert has worn the label of 3-A Goliath since Hawkeye commit Cordell Pemsl raised the trophy as a sophomore last March.
After struggling through parts of this season’s schedule, the Golden Eagles arrive to their record 28th state tournament at 15-9.
“You can talk about the proverbial target-on-your-back all you want, but until you live through it, I don’t think you’re ready for the kind of effort and game that teams want to prove against you,” English said.
“We had one of the toughest schedules in Iowa and we had to keep telling ourselves that. Once in a while you have to use measuring sticks other than wins to check your progress. Hopefully we’re peaking at the right time.”
The path to Iowa City West’s record fourth consecutive title starts Wednesday against Sioux City North, northwest Iowa’s 4-A representative making its third tournament appearance in a row.
“We explain to the kids that there’s a reason it’s never been done,” Bergman said. “It must be hard to do. But we don’t bring it up much, because there’s no reason to add any pressure.”
Getting past the Stars and their senior star Daniel Tillo would earn a meeting with either North Scott or Waukee, hungry squads with seniors headed to play college hoops. It will be challenging, but the Trojans (23-0) are obviously pretty talented too.
“We have some great young players, and it helps that no one lets their ego get in the way,” Iowa City West senior forward David DiLeo said. “It’s important to get started right on Wednesday and get the nerves out for everyone.”
DiLeo’s only varsity classmate in last year’s title run was Adam Klein. He transferred to Williamsburg and became the top scorer for the 3-A qualifiers, putting DiLeo in an important leadership role on a young squad.
“It was a little weird, but I’ve bonded well with them,” DiLeo said. “We think of it as a new team. There are new guys and everyone has new roles and this team hasn’t won a state championship yet.”
The Trojans are fully capable of making history. But there’s a reason they play the games.
“I haven’t spent one second thinking about next season or our legacy,” Bergman said.
“We have to win one game first.”
State tournament play begins with 1-A quarterfinals at 10:30 a.m. on Monday.
Teams tied for state record with three consecutive championships
Cedar Rapids Regis, 1982-84
Sioux City Heelan, 2009-11
Iowa City West, 2012-14
Schools with most all-time state tournament appearances [including consolidations]
Coaches with most championship teams (career years)
7—Paul Moon, Davenport (26)
7—Jim Eekhoff, Western Christian (Hull) (33*)
5—Steve Bergman, Iowa City West (29*)
4—Dick Breitbach, Cedar Rapids Regis (27)
4—Marlo Griebel, Paullina (21)
4—Paul Loos, Newell-Fonda (27)
4—Alden Skinner, Palmer (22)
*—Active, including this season
6-7, forward, senior
If Nebraska recruit Michael Jacobson is Waukee’s silk in the post, Nelson is the steel. His averages of 14.9 points, 9.3 rebounds and 2.0 blocks are all good for second on the team, but he’s shooting nearly 60 percent from the field and posted 45 points and 22 rebounds in the Warriors’ two playoff wins. Coach Justin Ohl says the Hawkeye football recruit “might be one of the best all-around kids I will ever coach.”
6-1, guard, senior
One of the state’s most experienced guards has scored 88 points in seven games at Wells Fargo Arena. That makes Tuesday’s game his fourth tournament appearance and he’s putting up nearly identical numbers from last season: 18.3 points, nearly 50 percent field-goal shooting and more than 50 makes from 3-point range. Velky scored 50 points in the Go-Hawks’ three playoff wins, on just 27 shots.
6-0, guard, senior
The Briar Cliff commit’s career of outstanding shooting is being rewarded with his first trip to Des Moines. Erdman is scoring less per game than last season — from 26.7 to 22.3 — but his splits are absurd: 59.7 percent from the field, 51.9 from 3-point range and 89.8 from the free-throw line. Even his threat of shooting or driving opens the floor for the small Indians (23-2), and Erdman has 135 assists on the season.
5-9, guard, senior
A highly anticipated Siouxland district matchup between Central Lyon and Boyden-Hull never happened because Jalas and the Wolverines tore through the playoffs as part of their 16-game winning streak. Jalas scored 26 and 23 points in the district and substate finals after sharing lead duties with junior Damon Struve all season. The senior is averaging 21 points with nearly three made 3-pointers per game.
6-0, guard, senior
The quarterback for Class A’s runner-up football team broke his collarbone in the fall semifinals and didn’t join the eventual No. 1 team in 1-A basketball until January. He’s made up for lost time, averaging 16.7 points and 5.4 assists per game to get the Raiders to their first state tournament. Kickbush is still one of the state’s top 3-point shooters, hitting 62 at a 46 percent clip in just 19 games.
North Scott has been away from the state tournament since 2003, the longest drought in the 4-A field. The talented Lancers (20-3) have won 13 games in a row by an average of 26 points…Senior Daniel Tillo led Sioux City North (14-9) to a 13-3 record against in-state opponents and its third straight appearance at state…A knee injury kept Pleasant Valley star Will Carius out the last five games of the regular season, but the junior rejoined the lineup in the playoffs… In its last four tournament appearances, Ames left with the state title… Cedar Rapids Kennedy’s only loss in the last 11 games was a 64-54 defeat to Iowa City West…Hoover (21-1) has the No. 2 seed in the bracket, the same spot it held in 2011’s runner-up finish…Known for its post play, Waukee has gotten 41 percent 3-point shooting from its top four backcourt scorers.
After losing its last five games, Glenwood (12-12) avenged three straight regular-season sweeps in the playoffs to qualify for its first tournament since 1952…Pella is the highest scoring offense (76.5 points per game) outside Class 1-A since Ames in 2010…Senior Tyler Borchers leads LeMars in points (18.3), rebounds (10.0), assists (5.1) and blocks (2.3)…2013 champion Waverly-Shell Rock has qualified for its fifth consecutive tournament… Dallas Center-Grimes is seeking its first tournament win in its fourth appearance. Senior center Austin Rix is the lone returning starter from a 2013 loss to Davenport Assumption…Defending champion Dubuque Wahlert played as many 3-A opponents in the regular season as it has in the playoffs…It’s a team effort for Williamsburg as five different players have racked up more than 100 rebounds this season…Following an 8-8 start, Cedar Rapids Xavier has won eight straight games to make its first tournament appearance since 2006.
Treynor is back after last season’s third-place finish. It’s the same balanced attack: coach Scott Rucker’s top four scorers shoot 56 percent from the field…Cascade beat Iowa City Regina 52-47 on Feb. 3…Josh VanLingen had 50 points and 32 rebounds for Western Christian in last year’s tournament. He’s averaging 18.4 points and 12.6 rebounds this season…Forest City has won 21 straight games, including a district final over last year’s runner-up West Fork…Aplington-Parkersburg’s last tournament win came in 1997, when coach Aaron Thomas was a senior. Ross Cooper leads the top-seeded Falcons (24-1) in points, rebounds, blocks and steals…Four of Pella Christian’s seven losses came to Class 3-A state qualifiers…Woodward Academy‘s treatment program turned over its entire roster from last season’s 5-17 team.
Nodaway Valley junior Jackson Lamb is the top scorer in the tournament field, averaging 25.4 points per game…South O’Brien’s last five victories came against teams with a combined record of 88-28…Belle Plaine is making its first state appearance after winning the South Iowa Cedar League for the first time in 39 years. Seniors Trey Squiers and Justin Jacobi average 30.5 points and 18.1 rebounds per game…In four of the last five seasons, Danville has had the highest scoring offense in the state and qualified for the tournament…Gladbrook-Reinbeck is making its tournament debut unbeaten, ranked No. 1 and owning a win over Class 2-A qualifier Aplington-Parkersburg…Maple Valley/Anthon-Oto (24-1) has had just two wins decided by single digits…Trevor Nalan, Nate Paulus and Connor Sonius average between 19.7 and 17.7 points per game for West Hancock…Earlham won its four postseason games by a combined 107 points to earn its first state tournament appearance.
1:05—Iowa City West (23-0) vs. Sioux City North (14-9)
2:45—North Scott (20-3) vs. Waukee (18-5)
6:35—Pleasant Valley (21-2) vs. Cedar Rapids Kennedy (18-5)
8:15—D.M. Hoover (21-1) vs. Ames (17-6)
1:45—Consolation, semifinal losers
8:05—Championship, semifinal winners
2:00—Dallas Center-Grimes (20-4) vs. LeMars (20-4)
3:45—Williamsburg (23-1) vs. Glenwood (12-12)
6:35—Waverly-Shell Rock (22-2) vs. Dubuque Wahlert (15-9)
8:15—Pella (21-2) vs. Cedar Rapids Xavier (16-8)
12:05—Consolation, semifinal losers
6:05—Championship, semifinal winners
6:35—Forest City (23-2) vs. Treynor (21-3)
8:15—Aplington-Parkersburg (24-1) vs. Woodward Academy (16-7)
10:30—Cascade (22-2) vs. Iowa City Regina (20-4)
12:15—Western Christian (Hull) (22-2) vs. Pella Christian (16-7)
11:45—Consolation, semifinal losers
8:05—Championship, semifinal winners
10:30—Gladbrook-Reinbeck (25-0) vs. Nodaway Valley (19-6)
12:15—Belle Plaine (24-1) vs. Earlham (23-2)
2:00—MVAO (24-1) vs. South O’Brien (22-3)
3:45—Danville (25-0) vs. West Hancock (22-4)
10:00—Consolation, semifinal losers
6:05—Championship, semifinal winners