What many hoped for as a long week of basketball was cut short early Tuesday morning for the Van Meter boys’ basketball team who fell in the class 2A curtain raiser of the State Basketball Tournament to Cascade of Western Dubuque 60-47.
The veteran laden Bulldog basketball squad was looking to continue the winning trend set forth on the gridiron by the football team and were poised to do just that entering Wells Fargo Arena as 2A’s top dog in shooting percentage (55.4 percent). Unfortunately, what turned out to be the main storyline revolved around a matchup between the Bulldog defense and a hot Cascade offense.
The Van Meter defense was certainly put to the test and the test came early courtesy of 15 Cascade points from beyond the arc in quarter number one alone. The Cougar’s 3-point attack proved strong throughout the game with Cascade ending the first half shooting 6-of-15 from beyond the arc while rounding out the contest 11-of-21 from three point land which helped Cascade acquire and maintain a lead throughout the duration of the game.
The normally potent Van Meter offense was held in check for the most part by an opportunistic Cascade squad who capitalized on 19 points off of seven first-half Bulldog turnovers while ending the game with 25 points off of 14 total Bulldog turnovers. Van Meter did win the rebounding battle throughout the first stanza but they still found themselves down at the half 27-17.
Despite the slow first half however, Van Meter proved why they belonged at the state tournament with a surging second half highlighted by a 20-point third quarter. After the game, Van Meter head coach Jed Alexander mentioned the big reason for the second half surge was simply getting back to true Bulldog basketball.
“We were getting a little tentative on offense, we weren’t looking to attack (and) get the ball inside as well as we should have in the first half,” Alexander stated. “I said we’ve got to be a little nastier, we’ve got to go after rebounds with a little more emphasis, (and) we’ve got to do things just a little bit harder. Things won’t come easy for us and I think we established ourselves more in the third quarter and cut the lead down.”.
Senior leader JJ Durflinger led the third quarter charger pouring in 10 of his 15 total points while as a team, the Bulldogs once again won the battle of the boards. Van Meter would go on to shrink the Cascade lead to as little as two points but could never manage to get past that mark. When the final buzzer sounded, the clock struck midnight on the Bulldog’s great 2017-18 season as Cascade took the win 60-47 therefore earning the right to move on to face Sheldon in the Semi-Final round tomorrow.
Individually, senior leader JJ Durflinger led the way for the Bulldogs by more than doubling his points per game average with 15 for the contest while fellow seniors Jack Trudo and Grant Johnson pitched in eight and seven points respectively. Van Meter’s season leading scorer, Ryan Schmitt, added five points but led the way off the boards with nine of the team’s 25 rebounds.
Although the Bulldogs had their title hopes dashed, the team had a fantastic season led by a senior group that provided for more than just success on the basketball court.
“Just goes to show the success these seniors have had through all their sports,” Alexander said. “Van Meter used to just be a baseball town, then they turned it into a baseball and football (town), and now this group has helped put basketball on the map after never having made the state tournament. Now they’ve made it two years in a row. The ability for these seniors to put us on the map basketball wise, there’s a lot to be proud of.”
The Bulldogs bring their 2017-18 season record to 23-2 and will say goodbye to six seniors including JJ Durflinger, Jack Trudo, Blake Fryar, Grant Johnson, Mitchell Pomeroy, and Marshall Smith.