Despite a comeback performance late, it was not enough for the Waukee High School boys’ basketball team as they fell in their state semi-final match up at Wells Fargo Arena Thursday night.
It was the nightcap of the day and it was well worth the wait but the wait did not turn fruitful for the Warriors as they fell to Dubuque Senior by a 57-55 final. The loss was extra bitter for the Warriors who had a slim lead late dissipate, only to come back from a five point deficit to tie the game up and force overtime.
The contest overall shared similar components to their state tournament opener where the first quarter yielded a slow start for the Warriors. Thursday night, Waukee began the game with just five field goal attempts in the first quarter, connecting on three, and walked into the second half down 15-7. Dubuque Senior had a hot start from both the offensive and defensive ends. Dubuque Senior forced a lot of Waukee errors which ended up leading to eleven first quarter points off of turn overs, all while they shot a collective 60 percent from three point range and 54 percent from the floor all together.
The fortunate part for Waukee is that they were within striking distance throughout the game as the eight point first quarter lead was the largest deficit the Warriors faced all night. Thanks to the help of three-of-seven from the floor, one-of-three from three point range, and two-of-three from the free throw line, Waukee outscored Senior 12-8 in the second quarter to cut the Dubuque lead to 23-19 at the half. Overall it was a unusually tough first half for the Warriors who never went without facing a deficit the entire first half, and one that Warrior head coach Justin Ohl spoke about after the game.
“I think at first we were a little too hyped up and made some unusual mistakes that we don’t’ normally make,” began Ohl. “We fought hard but we couldn’t find our rhythm shooting the ball especially from the outside and that led to us digging a hole to start the game.”
Waukee came into the state tournament as one of the three best offensive teams in the Class 4A field and a lot of that had to do with the performances down in the paint. Thursday night, that was a key component as 22 of Waukee’s 55 points came in the paint, something that was well earned according to Waukee senior Dylan Jones.
“It was an aggressive night for both teams down low but we did a good job of getting through all their defensive schemes,” began Jones. “We’ve always been a team that works from the inside out and tonight I felt we did well with that.”
Another critical factor that kept Waukee in such a back and forth contest was their free throw shooting. Waukee entered Wells Fargo Arena as the third best team in the field from the charity stripe and that continued on Thursday night as the Warriors shot a near perfect 13-of-17. Dylan Jones himself was a big part of that with six-of-seven from the free throw line, which when added to his four-of-seven mark from field goal range, gave him a team best 14 points on the night.
Both Payton Sandfort and Dante Jenkins captured ten point scoring nights as Jenkins went four-of-five from the floor while Sandfort also went four-of-five from field goal range.
Waukee ended up outscoring Dubuque Senior in both the third (9-7) and fourth (16-14) but it was the overtime frame (11-13) where the Warriors faltered and suffered the loss. The setback marks just the third loss of the season for Waukee as their record moves to 21-3 on the year.
The Warriors may have suffered the loss but their season continues on for one more game as they will face North Scott in state consolation action Friday, Mar. 8 beginning at 11:55 a.m.