CEDAR RAPIDS — Hang in there. Be positive, be confident, keep working, and wins surely will follow.
Once you get one, you’re gonna get another. And another and another.
That’s the message Cedar Rapids Washington boys’ basketball coach Justin Decker imparted on his guys Tuesday night after a 53-48 loss to Dubuque Hempstead at Washington.
The Warriors are 1-3, but the pieces are there. Put them together, and this could be a good team.
“One game at a time. Just work on improving,” Decker said. “I really thing we’re good enough to compete against anybody. Not like last year, where we were trying to figure stuff out. This year, there is no game we play where I don’t feel we won’t give ourselves a chance to win.” Washington suffered through a 4-18 season last winter, blown out more times than not. You don’t get the sense this season will be a repeat.
The Warriors hung all night with a Hempstead club that has a number of key pieces back from a Class 4A state tournament team of a year ago. The Mustangs led by three points after a quarter and at halftime and by one after three quarters.
The spread grew to as many as seven in the fourth, but Washington continued to fight and got within one late. Hempstead made free throws down the stretch to hold on.
The line was where this game was won, as Hempstead (2-1) outscored Washington there, 16-2.
“This was the first time we really had our whole team together, and I thought we really played well,” said Washington junior wing Mick McCurry. “We went deep into our bench, and we all played really hard. We’re still working on a little bit of chemistry, but we’ll get there.”
Decker agrees with that. He comfortably played 10 guys and nine of them scored.
Joe McKinstry had a team-best nine points, splashing a trio of treys late in the third. McCurry and center Nolan Potter (the Northern Illinois football commit) had seven each.
LeShaun Evans scored 13 points to lead Hempstead. Lucas Duax added 12 and Keith Johnson 11.
“These guys, it’s a work in progress,” Decker said. “A lot of these guys were young last year, and now they’re just starting to figure out some things. They haven’t won, yet, and that will be the next hurdle. We’re just as likely to put three, four, five games together as we are to lose a few we shouldn’t. I just told them that they’ve got to stay positive. There’s progress that we’ve made.”
Washington does have some definite length, with 6-foot-8 Max Campbell, Potter (6-7), McCurry (6-5) and Chandlir Haug (6-4). It still stings that point guard Hunter Strait (recently a Division II college signee) unexpectedly transferred to Ankeny Centennial early last season.
He’d made this team that much better. But there’s still talent here.
“I think we can be very good,” McCurry said. “Defensively is where it starts. We’ve got to get stops in order to win games. I think we can compete with anyone. I really do.”
“I know everyone envisions cutting down nets and starting out 3, 4, 5-0 and being ranked,” Decker said. “But we’ll worry about that at the end of the season. Let’s just worry about getting better every game. I thought this was a big step for us tonight.”
AT C.R. WASHINGTON
DUBUQUE HEMPSTEAD (48): Keith Johnson 3-8 5-6 11, Lucas Duax 2-8 7-10 12, Wil Courtney 2-3 1-2 5, LeShaun Evans 4-8 3-4 13, Max Muehring 1-3 0-0 3, Max Duax 3-5 0-0 9, Cody Beck 0-0 0-0 0, Joey Kaesbauer 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 15-35 16-22 53.
C.R. WASHINGTON (53): Campbell Mitvalsky 3-6 0-0 6, Max Campbell 2-4 1-1 5, Mick McCurry 3-6 0-0 7, Drew Christensen 1-2 0-0 3, Ross Snitker 2-5 0-2 4, Nolan Potter 3-5 1-2 7, Keaton Woods 1-2 0-0 2, Chandlir Haug 0-2 0-0 0, Collin Westmoreland 2-5 0-0 5, Joe McKinstry 3-3 0-0 9. Totals 20-40 2-5 53.
Halftime — Hempstead 19, Washington 16. 3-point goals — Hempstead 7-17 (Johnson 0-2, L. Duax 1-3, Evans 2-4, Muehring 1-3, M. Duax 3-5), Washington 6-13 (McCurry 1-4, Christensen 1-2, Snitker 0-2, Westmoreland 1-2, McKinstry 3-3). Rebounds — Hempstead 19 (Courtney 8), Washington 23 (McCurry 7). Total fouls — Hempstead 11, Washington 19. Fouled out — Christensen. Turnovers — Hempstead 13, Washington 16.
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