For the third time in the past five years, the Waukee High School boys’ basketball team punched their ticket to the state tournament and Tuesday night, they did so with a 45-38 win over Des Moines Hoover.
It was round two between the two teams and a chance for Waukee to take a two game sweep, which they did in their lowest offensive scoring output of the season. It was a game in which Waukee put up just their eighth single digit scoring quarter of the season while holding their opponent to under 40 points for the eighth time in the 2018-19 campaign. Even with scoring not being the name of the game, it was a contest that Warrior head coach Justin Ohl and his coaching staff were expecting.
“We knew going into this game points might be hard to come by,” began Ohl. “Hoover is a strong and quick team and they showed that especially on defense tonight.”
While Waukee did hold a lead for entirity of the contest, they never could obtain a comfortable lead until late. Hoover kept themselves in the game late cutting down Waukee’s lead within three points with just under five minutes left and even bringing the game as close as 30-29 late in the fourth quarter. Overall it was a contest that saw Waukee post below average scoring in nearly every quarter.
Just because it was low scoring didn’t mean efficient shooting was off the table. Waukee shot 48 percent (14-of-30) from the floor while connecting on 14 of the total 16 free throw shots attempted by the Warriors on the night. It was quite the overall showing from the Warriors but as senior point guard Andrew Curran mentioned after the game, a lot of the credit goes to another group as well.
“Hoover was a scrappy team but that’s what we do every practice,” began Curran. “We have the best scout team around and they really helped us prepare for tonight.”
Curran himself had quite the performance with 12 points scored on the night. Curran was one of three Warriors who were perfect from the free throw line as he connected on a team best eight free throws.
Curran’s 2018-19 season has been full of ups and downs but one that coach Ohl spoke very highly of following the victory.
“Andrew is a prime example of if you put in the hard work and focus on improving, good things will come,” stated Ohl. “Andrew didn’t have as much playing time at the beginning of the season but when Noah went down we needed someone to step up in a big way and he’s provided us with a huge spark ever since. He was great tonight, a true grinder and you can tell he’s very comfortable running our offense even in high intensity situations.”
Ever since his call to the starting varsity level, Curran has been making the most of his time in the starting role and he talked about what worked best for him against Hoover.
“I felt coming off of ball screens worked well for me tonight,” started Curran. “DJ (Dylan Jones) did a great job and drew a lot of attention which made it easier for me. We also have a lot of good shooters on this team and I took advantage of the fact that their defense was stretched thin at times.”
Dylan Jones did in fact gain a lot of the attention and rightfully so. Jones ended the night with a team leading 14 points off six-of-seven shooting from the floor. The 76 percent field goal shooter was a force to be reckoned with Tuesday night and a big reason for the victory, as mentioned by coach Ohl.
“A big difference in the game for us tonight was number four,” Ohl said. “We fed it to him down low all night long and he stepped up the way all seniors should do in a substate final game. He had great body control and great hands and earned every single point he scored.”
Overall the team was sound in many aspects that both Curran and Jones played pivitol roles in.
“Our defense was phenomenal tonight,” started Ohl. “We executed our assignments perfectly and were exceptional in ball screene coverage tonight. We forced them (Hoover) into situations we knew would be tough for them and all the credit goes to our players for being able to execute that at such a high level that it left Hoover in tough spots.”
Sophomore Payton Sandfort was the third Warrior to touch double digit scoring on the night. Sandfort came off the bench and delivered ten points with the help of a three-for-three night from field goal range.
As a team, the Warriors improved their record to 20-2 on the season and will now grace the state tournament scene for the second straight season. They will play next either Tuesday night or Wednesday morning, depending on the outcome of the remaining substate final match-ups.