DES MOINES — It hasn’t been a particularly smooth ride this season for Hakeem Odunsi.
The junior forward sat out four games via coach’s decision. He had a tendinitis issue that prevented him from playing in the substate finals.
But the kid has a lot of talent, and he’s had quite a boys’ state basketball tournament. No question he’s a reason why Iowa City West is in the Class 4A state championship game for the sixth time in the last seven years.
“I’ve been struggling a little bit this year,” Odunsi said Thursday night, after West’s 58-50 semifinal win over Waukee at Wells Fargo arena. “But we’re one game away from a state championship, so that doesn’t matter.”
Odunsi was a consistent source of offense in a game that lacked a lot of it. He connected on all four of his 3-point attempts and had a game-high 18 points as the second-ranked and defending champion Trojans (21-4) finally got untracked in the second half.
Waukee (20-5) held a five-point lead in the third quarter, but Odunsi hit three 3s to move West on top by eight, 45-37, going to the fourth. Keep in mind, he came in averaging 4.5 points.
He had 11 in West’s quarterfinal victory over Muscatine. Mississippi Valley Conference mate Cedar Falls (20-5) is the opponent in Friday night’s 8:15 title tilt.
“He had a really good game tonight, he was good the other night, too,” said West Coach Steve Bergman. “For him, it’s understanding he’s one of our best matchups. He just has to have it in the flow. Sometimes he forces it a little bit ... But he did a lot of really good things.”
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“Berg has just been pushing me to do better,” Odunsi said. “He knows what I’m capable of. Sometimes I fight him, but he knows what’s best for me. I just have to listen to him and stuff like that, because he’s going to get me where I want to go.”
A program built on tough man-to-man defense, West pulled out a 1-3-1 zone to help it come back. It seemed to disrupt Waukee’s rhythm and caused some turnovers.
In turn, that helped the Trojans get out in transition, where they are lethal. In the half court, West also became much more assertive on the offensive end in the second half.
Seybian Sims and Patrick McCaffery complemented Odunsi with 14 points apiece.
“We just had to relax on offense,” said West point guard Dante Eldridge, who did fine work defensively against Waukee counterpart Noah Hart. “We were kind of rushing too much, forcing some shots that were not in the offense. So we had to settle down and hit our shots. Then we jumped in the 1-3-1, and that messed with them a little bit.”
“I thought Eldridge controlled the game for them in a lot of ways,” said Waukee Coach Justin Ohl. “He didn’t score, but he took care of it, he got up into Noah and gave him some problems at times.”
West is seeking its eighth state championship, its fifth in the last eight years.
“Everyone just assumes, but we lost four starters from last year,” Bergman said. “It’s really hard to get there (to the championship game). They’ve accomplished almost everything they’ve wanted to accomplish.”
AT DES MOINES
WAUKEE (50): Nathan Nelson 3-8 4-7 10, Nathan Johnson 4-11 2-4 11, Dylan Jones 6-9 0-0 12, Noah Hart 5-10 0-0 11, Jaxx Rittman 2-6 0-1 6, Tyson Kelderman 0-1 0-0 0, Michael Vicente 0-0 0-0 0, Bennett Pedersen 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 20-45 6-12 50.
IOWA CITY WEST (58): Patrick McCaffery 5-11 4-6 14, Hakeem Odunsi 5-9 4-6 18, Seybian Sims 4-5 6-8 14, Dante Eldridge 2-8 0-0 5, Evan Flitz 3-5 0-0 7, Jake Anderson 0-0 0-0 0, Dadrian Hoambrecker 0-0 0-0 0, Paul McGee 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 19-38 14-20 58.
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Halftime — Waukee 26, West 23. 3-point goals — Waukee 4-11 (Hart 1-2, Rittman 2-4, Johnson 1-5), West 6-13 (Eldridge 1-5, Flitz 1-3, Odunsi 4-4, McCaffery 0-1). Rebounds — Waukee 30 (Jones 11), West 18 (Sims 6). Total fouls — Waukee 18, West 16. Fouled out — None. Assists — Waukee 3 (Hart 6), West 14 (Eldridge 4). Turnovers — Waukee 12, West 8.
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