Waukee Northwest beats Waukee 80-76 in overtime. Here's what we learned.

Alyssa Hertel
Des Moines Register

WAUKEE — The Waukee boys basketball team hosted Waukee Northwest for the first time Friday, and Northwest fought back from a fourth-quarter deficit to secure its first win of the season.

The Waukee school district added a second high school after the 2020-21 school year. It's a year of firsts for Northwest.

Waukee took an early lead, but Northwest led 36-31 at the end of the first half. The host Warriors took the lead back with 1:21 left in the third. Waukee remained in front, holding a 10-point lead with 1:29 remaining in the fourth.

Fans from the Waukee Northwest stands began to filter out of the gym, with a Waukee victory seemingly locked in. The livestream announcers began talking about how huge this win would be for Waukee, and that Waukee Northwest would drop to 0-2 on the season.

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The Wolves had other plans. Northwest scored 10 unanswered points — including a game-tying 3-pointer from Grant Tigges — to force overtime. Both teams battled in the extra period, but Northwest, the visiting team on a familiar court, held on for an 80-76 victory in overtime.

“That one felt really good, because we had to battle a lot,” Pryce Sandfort said. “Everyone was giving all their effort to get us more possessions at the end of the game, and to get that first win as a school is really cool against Waukee too.”

Pryce Sandfort delivers as Waukee Northwest’s leader

Last season, these opponents shared a sideline and helped to give Waukee its first state title in boys basketball. The former teammates exchanged hugs and high-fives in the pregame meeting with officials. But once Vance Pieffer and Pryce Sandfort — a pair of 6-7 juniors — lined up for tipoff, those friendships were set aside.

“I bled purple and gold my whole life, I’ve got a lot of good friends on that team,” Sandfort said postgame. “Going to a new school now, it’s definitely weird, but I’m starting to get used to it.”

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Pryce Sandfort (21) and Keysean Moore (24) prepare for a rebound on a free throw in the first game between Waukee and Waukee Northwest on Friday.

Sandfort may miss his old teammates, but they did little to slow him down. He scored 32 points against Waukee and added 11 rebounds, four steals and one block. He was 13-of-14 on free throw attempts. Sandfort also hit three 3-pointers in the win.

His scoring and rebounding abilities are valuable to Northwest’s system, but it's Sandfort’s leadership abilities that helped the Wolves to their first-ever win. He never subbed out through four quarters and overtime. Alongside Cade Kelderman, he directed the younger members of the team.

Cade Littlefield takes over for Waukee

The top scorers left from last season’s championship team are Sandfort and Kelderman, and both now play for Waukee Northwest. Someone new needed to step into the leadership role for Waukee. Junior guard Cade Littlefield is that guy.

He appeared in just 11 games last year. Littlefield recorded nine points, seven rebounds, two steals and one assist. On Friday, he scored 17 points and recorded four rebounds and one block.

Cade Littlefield (33) looks to pass during the Waukee-Waukee Northwest game on Friday.

In addition to his production, Littlefield directed his team on nearly every possession. Even when Waukee was down in both the first half and overtime, his energy level never wavered. Littlefield is only a junior, but his experience and direction are necessary to build up the group of sophomores now in the rotation.

With the way Littlefield and Waukee performed on Friday, there is no counting out this Warriors team, even with Sandfort and Kelderman on the Waukee Northwest roster.

Growing pains

There is no denying that it was an exciting inaugural matchup between Waukee and Waukee Northwest. What better way to kick off a rivalry than with a last-minute comeback to force overtime?

But neither team gave a perfect performance. Both struggled with fouls, with Waukee giving the Wolves 32 free-throw attempts and Northwest handing the Warriors 22 tries from the line. Northwest’s foul trouble in the fourth quarter allowed Waukee to extend its lead, and the Warriors’ issues late in the fourth and in overtime helped the Wolves stage a comeback.

There was sloppy play on both sides of the ball, but that’s most likely a mix of early jitters, the noise in the gym and the struggles of rebuilding. Both Northwest and Waukee are starting from scratch — the Wolves with a brand-new coach and the Warriors without any of last season’s showstoppers.

If they work through those issues, both Waukee and Waukee Northwest could enjoy good success this season.

Alyssa Hertel is a college sports recruiting reporter for the Des Moines Register. Contact Alyssa at ahertel@dmreg.com or on Twitter @AlyssaHertel.