IOWA CITY — Jon McKowen knew the specifics of the dry spell his Cedar Rapids Kennedy boys’ basketball program has had against Iowa City West. His players did not.
“Oh, wow! Really?” Cougars center Caleb Schlaak said, after being informed of the significance of Thursday night’s 57-45 Kennedy win. “They’ve had a good program for a very long time. A solid dynasty ever since, I want to say, Connor McCaffery, but I think it was longer than that. They’ve gone to state every year.
“So, yeah, it means a lot. We’ve always gone in the underdogs. They’ve always had so much size, always had the shooters ... This time, it just feels good to come in and get a solid victory.”
That’s eight solid victories in a row for the streaking Cougars, who are 12-6, with three regular-season games remaining. Here they were able to end a 12-game losing streak to West, picking up their first win over one of Class 4A’s best programs since 2010.
“It’s a good feeling. Eleven years, that’s a long time,” said head coach McKowen. “Obviously they’ve been very good. In the eight years I’ve been here, we’ve had a couple of chances. I think back to the Cell Center for a substate final. We had them down here seven or eight at half once and ended up getting beat by single digits. But they’ve beaten us multiple times by double digits and up to 30.”
This is a rebuilding West team, one that has played just nine games because of a late start to the season and a mid-season two-week pause, both caused by COVID-19 issues. Six-foot-8 junior center Pete Moe led West (3-6) with 18 points and 11 rebounds, but he missed a pair of free throws with 2:47 left that could have brought his team with three points.
After the misses, Kennedy’s Cole Hrubes swished a corner trey that gave the Cougars an eight-point edge of 52-44 instead.
ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT
“We’re better than we were a week ago, yeah,” said legendary West Coach Steve Bergman. "We have some deficiencies, so we go on and do some things we wouldn’t normally do, especially defensively. And we’ve got some guys struggling figuring out how to do that. That kind of caught us tonight. We had a good plan.”
Schlaak could not be stopped down low, which is where most of his 24 points were produced, either with short field goals or drawn fouls. Schlaak was 10 of 11 from the free-throw stripe, Kennedy 19 of 21 there as a team.
That’ll win you ballgames.
“I thought we played hard,” McKowen said. “I didn’t think we were connected on offense, and part of that is their defense. They’re different than a lot of teams in our conference with their hard deny. It took us out of sync. But when you’re that way, you’ve still got to find a way to win.”
With guys like Moe, junior point guard Christian Barnes, freshman forward Kareem Earl and sophomore wing Savion Taylor, that’s a pretty good nucleus for West moving forward into next season. This club seems to be improving and will not be your typical sixth seed in a 4A substate that also includes Kennedy.
West has qualified for the state tournament 10 years in a row.
“We’ve been so good for so long, it’s tough,” Bergman said. “A week ago against Dubuque Senior, we quit at halftime. Tonight, we didn’t make any shots, but we battled. It is what it is.”
C.R. KENNEDY (57): Cole Hrubes 2-5 4-4 10, Caleb Schlaak 7-15 10-11 24, Max White 1-3 0-0 2, Colby Dolphin 4-7 1-2 12, Kenzie Reed 1-5 2-2 4, Jackson Bowman 1-6 1-2 4, Avante Ballinger 0-0 0-0 0, Jack Schissel 0-0 0-0 0, Michael Schares 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 16-41 19-21 57.
IOWA CITY WEST (45): Grahm Goering 3-6 2-2 8, Pete Moe 7-12 4-9 18, Kareem Earl 3-9 0-0 7, Christian Barnes 3-7 1-2 7, Mikey Brown 0-0 0-0 0, Savion Taylor 1-2 0-0 3, Andrew Tauchen 1-1 0-0 2, Antoine Tellis 0-0 0-1 0. Totals 18-37 7-14 45.
Halftime — Kennedy 31, West 23. 3-point goals — Kennedy 5-12 (Hrubes 2-5, Dolphin 2-4, Reed 0-2, Bowman 1-1), West 2-11 (Moe 0-2, Earl 1-5, Barnes 0-2, Taylor 1-2). Rebounds — Kennedy 28 (Schlaak 10), West 22 (Moe 11). Total fouls — Kennedy 17, West 19. Fouled out — Dolphin. Technical foul — Moe. Turnovers — Kennedy 14, West 14.
Comments: (319) 398-8259; firstname.lastname@example.org