116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
It's kind of crazy they began the season playing one anothern now here they are after almost three months meeting again. With the importance of this game being way, way, way higher.
Decorah and Western Dubuque play a Class 3A boys' basketball substate final Monday night at Waverly. The winner goes to the state tournament, of course.
On paper or via computer, Western Dubuque is the definite favorite here. The Bobcats are ranked seventh and won the first game way back on Dec. 4 by a healthy 62-41 margin at Decorah.
Both clubs are better now than they were way back when, that's a given. The big question is if Decorah is improved enough to make up those 21 points.
'They beat up some teams pretty good, so we'll have our work cut out for us,' said Decorah Coach Jonathan Carlson. 'But I don't think it's a situation where we have to play (perfect). We'll have to play well, but we feel like it's not a situation that we'll be intimidated. These kids have competed against those guys in football, we were in the same district. So they know the personnel, they know who they are going up against.'
Carlson pointed out how the teams played last season at Epworth, with Decorah winning. Western Dubuque (17-4) returned most of the guys from that team this season, while Decorah graduated several important seniors, so it took a while for the Vikings (17-6) to get going.
They were 2-3 at one point but have won 15 of their last 18 games to repeat as Northeast Iowa Conference champions, with two of those losses coming to Cedar Rapids Washington (a good 4A club playing in a substate final Tuesday) and second-ranked Monticello, a game in which Decorah coughed up an eight-point lead with about a minute and a half left. Add that Carson Wemark and Treyton McCain have become important regulars who didn't play in the season opener, and this game almost certainly will be much closer.
'We feel like we're ready to go,' Carlson said. 'It's just a matter of can we hit some shots and limit their big studs?'
Those studs are 6-foot-6 senior forward Dylan Johnson and outstanding senior point guard Garrett Baumhover. Though the Bobcats have other guys who can play, as Decorah knows.
Senior guard Nick Bryant went off for five 3-pointers and 22 points in the season opener. WD also has been hardened by the rigors of competing in the almost all-4A Mississippi Valley Conference.
'In my opinion, just watching them on film, Johnson has gotten a lot better than the first part of the year,' Carlson said. 'He's kind of just gotten some basketball conditioning really, really well. Then you have Baumhover, those two have kind of been an electric punch for them.'
And here is some more irony. Decorah last played in a substate final in 2010, losing to ... Western Dubuque. The Vikings' path to that game was the same as this year's: having to beat Crestwood and Independence first.
Decorah hasn't been to the state tournament since 1977. Western Dubuque won the 2001 3A state title and finished second in 2012, the last time the Bobcats made it to Des Moines.
Monday's Class 3A substate finals
No. 2 Monticello (21-0) vs. No. 8 Solon (21-2)
Time and site: 7 p.m., at Maquoketa
Overview: Monticello dominated the River Valley Conference this season but played only one 3A opponent, a game scheduled at the last minute to end the regular season: a 47-46 win over Decorah, which also is playing in a 3A substate final. It beat Vinton-Shellsburg by 30 points and DeWitt Central by 17 in its first two substate games. Monti is a cohesive group that plays good defense and is very patient on offense. The Panthers give up just 34.3 points per game, which ranks second in the state. Justin Recker is the standout, a 6-foot-5 senior forward who averages 14.8 points and 7.2 rebounds per game. He shoots 57 percent from the field ... Solon's two losses were to DeWitt Central to begin the season and to Mount Vernon (also a 3A substate finalist) in early February. The Spartans won the Wamac Conference's East Division and overall championships. Solon beat South Tama by 34 points and Maquoketa by 13 in its first two substate games. The Spartans are balanced offensively, with four players averaging between 9.0 and 14.8 points per game. Senior wing David Bluder averages the 14.8 and has made a team-high 42 3-pointers ... Monticello qualified for the state tournament last season for the first time in 60 years. It lost a 2A quarterfinal game to Camanche. The Panthers were fourth in an all-class event in 1960 and also qualified in 1959. Solon has been to state six times, five times since 2006. That includes a championship in 2009, a second-place finish in 2010 and a third-place finish in 2008.
No. 7 Western Dubuque (17-4) vs. Decorah (17-6)
Time and site: 7 p.m., at Waverly
Overview: These teams began the season against each other, with Western Dubuque winning at Decorah, 62-41. WD had its best season since joining the mostly 4A Mississippi Valley Conference, going 11-4 against MVC opponents. The Bobcats have not lost to a 3A team this season (9-0). Six-foot-six senior forward Dylan Johnson averages 16.8 points and 7.4 rebounds per game and leads the team in 3-pointers made. Guard Garrett Baumhover averages 15 points and 5.5 assists ... Decorah won the Northeast Iowa Conference for a second consecutive season, beating Crestwood by a point in a winner-take-all game Feb. 16, then again by two in triple overtime in a substate semifinal last week. The Vikings began the season 2-3 and have gone 15-3 since, with one of those losses to 4A substate finalist Cedar Rapids Washington and another to 3A substate finalist Monticello by a point. Senior Charles Robinson and junior Joseph Bockman are 1-2 in scoring at 14.2 and 13.6 points per game, respectively ... Western Dubuque is seeking its fourth trip to state. The Bobcats won a 3A state championship in 2001, finished second in 2012 and also qualified in 2010. Decorah has been to state twice: in 1972 and 1977.
No. 1 Huxley Ballard (22-1) vs. Bondurant-Farrar (13-10) at Indianola
No. 3 Carroll (22-2) vs. Sergeant Bluff-Luton (15-7) at Denison
No. 4 Dallas Center-Grimes (19-3) vs. Atlantic (14-6) at Indianola
No. 5 Pella (21-2) vs. Grinnell (10-13) at Oskaloosa
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