Prep Basketball

Boys' basketball notes: Decorah playing for back-to-back NEIC championships after a long drought

Vikings reload instead of rebuild

Decorah head coach Jonathan Carlson (right) watches his players with assistant coaches during the first quarter of their
Decorah head coach Jonathan Carlson (right) watches his players with assistant coaches during the first quarter of their Class 3A substate quarterfinal game at Center Point-Urbana high school in Center Point on Monday, Feb. 24, 2020. (Andy Abeyta/The Gazette)

The first sign your program is becoming established is stacking together winning seasons. Decorah’s boys’ basketball program seems to be approaching that establishment.

The Vikings were 13-5 going into their game Thursday night against MFL MarMac. They will play for the Northeast Iowa Conference championship Tuesday in a winner-take-all game at Crestwood.

This is after a 2019-20 season in which Decorah went 18-5 and won the NEIC for the first time in 22 years.

“I think last year’s success parlayed into this success. The guys saw what we can do,” said Coach Jonathan Carlson. “I’ll be honest with you. That group we had last year, this group was competing against them every day, practicing against them every day, and they would beat them quite a bit.”

Decorah graduated a ton of good ballplayers, but this relatively inexperienced club hasn’t missed much of a beat. It started 2-3, then rolled up seven wins in a row.

The Vikings are 10-2 since the holiday break.

“We were 3-3 before Christmas, and were trying to find a mix that was going to work,” said Carlson, in his ninth season. “We played probably 10, 11 guys at times early on. So just trying to figure out early on what was going to work was important. The biggest thing for us was we tried to play a little different style early on. We don’t have as much size as last year ... so we were playing four guards and were playing more of a denial-style defense because we thought that was the style the kids wanted to play. The Waukon game (a 78-65 loss in mid-December), they torched us, and it was like ‘OK, we need to do something different.’”

Carlson shrunk his team’s regular playing rotation and brought up freshman Treyton McCain from the JV team. A pass-first guard, McCain has been unfazed by the promotion.

“I’ll be honest, he has really changed things for us,” Carlson said. “He is a unique freshman in that he just calms everybody down. He’s still got a long ways to go, I’m not going to anoint him or anything. But he’s a kid that has definitely made a difference for us.”

Joseph Bockman (14.2 points per game), Charles Robinson (12.7) and Jacob Pipho (10.2) all average double-figures scoring for Decorah. Briggs Duwe is an undersized interior guy who has been important with his averages of 6.9 points and 5.4 rebounds a game.

Bockman and Pipho are juniors, as is Carson Wemark, one of the key bench guys. The classes coming up have plenty of talent, according to Carlson.

Former NBA player Raef LaFrentz helps out as a volunteer assistant coach and in the fall bought an old skating rink on the outskirts of town that is being converted into a community gym and in the future perhaps an all-sports facility. Things are exciting.

“I just think you’ve seen this particular group come together,” Carlson said. “We’ve obviously got some room to grow, yet, but they are molding into a good group. We knew the talent was there. It was just a matter of getting the right pieces in the right places.”

Around The Hoop

— Mount Vernon’s Keaton Kutcher and Springville’s Alex Koppes recently set school records for career points. Kutcher, who has signed with Division I South Dakota, has 1,516 career points in four years on the Mustangs varsity. Koppes also is a four-year varsity player with 1,336 career points. Kutcher is averaging 22.3 points per game this season for Mount Vernon (12-5), while Koppes is averaging 19.5 for Springville (20-2).

— Sophomore guard Brayson Laube has set Marion’s school record for made 3-pointers in a season. Laube has made 58 of 119 (a sterling 48.7 percent) and leads the Indians in scoring at 16.4 points per game. Marion has two regular-season games remaining, then hosts Cedar Rapids Xavier in a Class 3A substate opener.

— The postseason officially begins Friday with a few Class 1A district preliminary round games around the state. The first round of district play in 1A and Class 2A is Monday.

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Here are the district and substate pairings for 1A and 2A. The substate pairings for 3A and 4A can be found here.

Comments: (319) 398-8259; jeff.johnson@thegazette.com

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