Prep Basketball

Boys' basketball notebook: Williamsburg turns it around

Raiders have won 7 of last 8 after 0-4 start, 5-16 season in 2018-19

Williamsburg Raiders
Williamsburg Raiders

CEDAR RAPIDS — You probably weren’t paying much attention to Williamsburg boys’ basketball.

The Raiders were 5-16 last season and began this season with four consecutive losses.

Then a funny thing happened. Williamsburg won a game. Then another.

Winning has suddenly become contagious for these guys. They go into their Wamac Conference game Friday night at Benton Community on a five-game victorious streak and winners of seven of their last eight.

Their 7-5 record isn’t overly impressive, but they already have two more wins than all last season. They’re 6-5 in the Wamac West Division, pushing leaders Center Point-Urbana and Clear Creek-Amana, which they just beat in back-to-back games.

“I’ve got a great group of six seniors who every night just compete in practice, push each other to get better,” said second-year Williamsburg Coach Brad Knoop. “They are competitive. My juniors, I’ve only got four of them, but they’re all competitive.

“I feel like that mix of kids have just meshed well. They’ve got a lot of confidence going from the football season, and they believe in themselves from football season. That has kind of carried over.”

Williamsburg made it to the Class 2A football playoff semifinals in the fall, and you’ll notice a lot of names from that team on this team. Guard Kaden Wetjen and forward Draven Williams average 13.0 and 12.1 points, respectively, to lead the hoopsters in scoring, with guard Levi Weldon next at 7.8.

All played football. Sophomore Jake Weber is a facilitator at point guard.

“One of those guys who is a true point guard,” Knoop said. “Loves to talk, loves to play and compete. He really helps the other guys understand what we’re supposed to be doing, where we’re supposed to be.”

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Williamsburg’s four losses to open things were to East Division behemoths Marion, DeWitt Central, Mount Vernon and Dyersville Beckman, with the Raiders competitive in three of those games. So the early 0-4 record was kind of deceiving.

Knoop is a Williamsburg grad who has been with the basketball program as a coach since 2007. He has seen some very good Raiders teams, and hopes his school’s recent struggles are a thing of the past.

“We switched some things up (last season) from what we’d done the previous year ... And we didn’t have a ton of experience going in,” he said. “The Wamac, you need some seniors and some experience to compete night in and night out. So I feel like we’ve got a bunch of now seniors who were learning how to play at the varsity level. We’ve gained a lot of experience from last year, which I think has helped tremendously.”

The few, the proud, the undefeated

We’re down to eight undefeated teams in the state and one undefeated team in the area in North Linn. The Lynx are 11-0.

North Linn is joined state-wise by WACO, West Sioux, Easton Valley, Mount Ayr, Waukee, Van Meter and Camanche. There are no unbeaten teams in Class 3A and only two (Marion and Carroll) have only one loss.

Decorah is surging

Another hot team is Decorah. The Vikings have a six-game win streak going into their big Northeast Iowa Conference tilt Friday night against Waverly-Shell Rock.

Decorah has a 9-3 overall record, its nine wins tying the amount it had last season. Leading scorer Matthew Franzen (15.3 ppg) is the son of Luther College head men’s basketball coach Mark Franzen.

Decorah and Charles City each have one NEIC loss, with W-SR and Crestwood two each.

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

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