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MANCHESTER — In 2000, Matt Uthoff helped the West Delaware boys’ basketball team enjoy a 23-1 season.
Seventeen years later, Coach Uthoff has Hawks flying high at 20-0 and ranked No. 1 in Class 3A.
Seven key players returned from last year’s lineup, creating great team chemistry. With lots of experience on the bench and versatile players, the Hawks have plenty of backup.
And they never take a night off.
“When it comes to practice, Coach Uthoff is really picky and strict,” senior Troy Monaghan said. “He pushes us to be our best.”
At this point in the season, Uthoff is very satisfied with how the boys have been playing.
“The kids have bought into the process and continue to strive to get better each day,” Uthoff said.
The five returning seniors have played together on a traveling team since before sixth grade.
“We all get along really well, which has helped us to succeed,” Monaghan said.
Senior John Nagel and sophomore Derek Krogmann combine to average 30.4 points per game. According to McCarty, during practice these boys are called “the two big uglies.” They do the dirty work, which includes rebounds, putbacks and points.
Another key player, junior Tyler Kelley, averages 14.1 points per game.
Throughout the season, the Hawks have picked up their defense, leading them to a narrow six-point win over Decorah in late December.
Another great accomplishment was a pair of wins over fifth-ranked Mount Vernon.
On Feb. 10, the Hawks took on Center Point Urbana. Trailing by three in the first half, West Delaware wasn’t playing its best. After halftime, the Hawks regrouped and took the lead with a 9-0 run, winning by 10.
“We make the plays that need to be made when they matter,” said Ryan Trainer, a four-year starter.
The Hawks host Western Dubuque tonight in their regular-season finale and know they can only take on one game at a time.
“If we maintain focus for the rest of the year, we are going to be a very tough team to beat,” McCarty said.
West Delaware opens district play on Monday at home against Clear Creek Amana. Game time is 8 p.m., following a 6:30 p.m. game between Marion and Benton Community.