It’s been a little more than eight months since West High lost to North Scott in the semifinals of the 2015 Class 4A basketball tournament.
The six-point loss to the Lancers that snapped West High’s 30-game winning streak and three-year run of 4A state titles was more than 250 days ago.
Plenty of time to erase the memory of the 57-51 loss, right?
Not if you’re West High senior Tanner Lohaus.
“I think it stings a little more all the time,” Lohaus said. “After the season you have time to reflect on everything that you could have done, and you think, ‘I could have done this and we might have scored more and we could have ended up winning.’ All that time just gives you more time to reflect, and that makes it even harder.”
Lohaus and his West High teammates are intent on not letting a loss linger following this season.
West High brings back four starters and five of its top six scorers from last year’s team that won 24 consecutive games to start the season before the semifinal loss to North Scott that just doesn’t seem to fade.
“I think about it too much, actually,” senior Wali Parks said of the semifinal loss. “We had a great year, 25-1. But we didn’t finish our ultimate goal, and that has stayed on our mind. I think that kind of fires us up for this year.”
West High has the talent and experience coming back to make last year’s disappointing semifinal loss a distant memory.
Throw in the motivation of the stunning, streak-stopping semifinal defeat, and West High has the ingredients of another state title team.
“I knew we had some things that we had to get better at, but I don’t think they were really buying it. Maybe afterwards, they said, ‘Oh, that’s what he was talking about,’” West High coach Steve Bergman said. “We had the loss maybe that opened their eyes a little bit, because we did not defend like we have in the past.”
The returning talent for West High talent is impressive.
The Trojans return four starters who each averaged in double figures last season led by the junior backcourt tandem of Connor McCaffery (13 points per game) and Devontae Lane (12.9 ppg.).
The 6-foot-6 Lohaus (11 ppg) returns alongside 6-foot-5 senior Parks (10.9 ppg) in the frontcourt, where 6-foot-6 freshman Patrick McCaffery is expected to make an immediate impact.
Senior guard Alex Henderson also returns after averaging 6.2 points per game off the bench.
“After we lost, everyone talked about how we didn’t want to have that feeling again,” Parks said. “I think we are really motivated this year to get things done. We know we are a really talented team. We just fell short last year.”
With the offensive firepower that returns from a team that averaged better than 71 points per game, scoring is hardly a concern.
Where the Trojans do need to improve, according to their veteran coach, is on the defensive end.
West High held opponents to 50.7 points per game last season, but that number increased to 54.7 points at state.
State tournament opponents shot 53 percent against the Trojans, including a 56 percent shooting performance by North Scott in the semifinals.
“What I told them last year is the same story they are getting this year. If you are great defensively, you are going to be really, really hard to beat, because you are going to score,” Bergman said. “I think we are a year older, and we are better equipped to handle things.”
Reach Ryan Murken at 319-339-7369 or email@example.com and follow him on Twitter at @rmmurken.