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DES MOINES — Tanner Lohaus plays shortstop for the Iowa City West baseball team, but he’s never batted a ball any better or more perfect than the one he did Friday afternoon.
And this was at Wells Fargo Arena. On a basketball court.
Lohaus’ miracle tip in of a missed shot barely beat the buzzer and gave the Trojans a stunning 61-59 victory over Cedar Falls in a Class 4A state tournament semifinal thriller. It’d be more accurate to call his winner a miracle “bat in” because that’s exactly what it was, a falling-back volleyball spike, of sorts, from the side of the basket and from four to five feet away.
Lucky? Yeah. Clutch? No question.
“I’ve got to be honest, I thought it was going to hit the side of the backboard and go out of bounds,” Lohaus said. “I didn’t figure I’d get it off in time. But that .5 percent chance or whatever, I knew I had to give it a shot.”
Cedar Falls (20-5) got smoking hot from 3-point territory late in the fourth quarter to somehow slice a comfortable nine-point West lead to two, 59-57. West guard Devontae Lane missed a one-and-one free throw with 18.2 seconds left, with superb sophomore guard A.J. Green driving for a tying bucket with 8.5 to go.
West’s Connor McCaffery was then fouled on a double team in his own corner with 4.9 left, heading back to the line for another crucial one-and-one. He missed, with CF’s Treyshawn Labeaux rebounding and flipping a quick outlet pass to Green that Lane intercepted.
He released a hurried shot from the corner that missed off the glass and bracket, with the ball deflecting to the other side of the hoop to Lohaus, who — with both of his feet outside the lane and falling — literally batted it.
The ball hit the bracket, the rim and dropped in. West players mobbed the Northern Iowa recruit as he jumped around the court in delirium.
“I just thought ‘Oh, my God!’” said West’s Wali Parks.
“I figured if we made that free throw or missed it, they were going to try to get the ball to A.J.,” Lane said. “When Connor missed that free throw, I tried to find (Green) as quick as I could. Just jumped in front of the pass. I couldn’t see how much time was left, so I just shot the ball right away. Thank God Tanner was there. I think we were all kind of confused at how the shot even went in because it was a side bank shot and it hit every part of the rim.”
West Coach Steve Bergman kidded that he told Lohaus at the team’s final timeout in the closing minute to get a game-winning tip with no time left.
“I couldn’t get (the first rebound), but I saw Devontae steal it,” Lohaus said. “I was backside, and the guy that was guarding me was under the hoop instead of boxing me out. I just figured the time was about to run out, so I just tried to tip it up and get it in there. It was Devontae’s birthday today, so I figured I’d give him a gift.”
It turned out to be a gift for Lane and everyone else, too. West plays West Des Moines Valley (22-3) in Saturday night’s 4A championship for the second time in three years.
The Trojans lost in the semifinals last season, after winning the three previous 4A championships.
“Whew. That’s my statement,” Bergman said. “Lot of credit to these guys. They had kind of a trying year, considering we’re 21-4. We’ve had injuries to Tanner. Connor had a concussion. Wednesday night (in the quarterfinals) I had two guys throwing up in the locker room, and Connor hadn’t practiced all week. Everybody looks at our team and thinks it’s easy. But it’s not easy. These guys have worked really, really hard to get to the game they talked about getting to all year.”
Parks led West with 17 points, including four dunks, with McCaffery adding 14 and Lane 13.
Green had a game-high 24 for Cedar Falls, which won its quarterfinal game on a pair of free throws with .2 seconds left and its substate final on a buzzer-beating jumper from Green.
“Very, very hard to handle right now,” said Cedar Falls Coach Ryan Schultz.
“After last year, after that semifinal game, we were all kind of sick to our stomachs,” McCaffery said. “We’ve come out all year just trying to get back here. We were here in the same game, on the same day, and we were all talking about how we did not want to play in that consolation game tomorrow. We were motivated to win. We really did play hard as a group, played well as a team ... And now we play on Saturday night.”
AT DES MOINES
IOWA CITY WEST (61): Wali Parks 6-9 5-6 17, Alex Henderson 2-5 0-0 5, Devontae Lane 6-12 1-3 13, Tanner Lohaus 4-7 0-0 8, Connor McCaffery 5-8 2-3 14, Patrick McCaffery 0-0 0-0 0, Dallas Majors 1-1 2-2 4, Nate Barnes 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 24-43 10-14 61.
CEDAR FALLS (59): Tra’Von Fagan 2-5 2-2 6, Treyshawn Labeaux 6-11 0-0 12, A.J. Green 8-12 3-3 24, Taylen Alexander 4-9 0-0 11, Isaiah Johnson 3-4 0-0 6, Denison Harrington 0-0 0-0 0, Ben Gerdes 0-1 0-0 0, Jacob Leisinger 0-0 0-0 0, Seb Gearhart 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 23-42 5-5 59.
Halftime — West 28, Cedar Falls 24. 3-point goals — West 3-8 (Henderson 1-3, Lane 0-1, C. McCaffery 2-4), Cedar Falls 8-13 (Fagan 0-1, Green 5-8, Alexander 3-4). Rebounds — West 19 (Lohaus 6), Cedar Falls 22 (Labeaux 8). Total fouls — West 10, Cedar Falls 12. Fouled out — None.
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