IOWA CITY — Alex Koppes called it insane.
The 32-point second quarter. The end of a 45-year state tournament drought. All of it, insane.
That this 2019-20 Springville boys’ basketball team will play in the state tournament, though, is completely reasonable.
A 72-65 win over Pekin in a Class 1A substate final Saturday at Iowa City West High School gave the Orioles (20-5) their first state bid since 1975 and their second ever since the Iowa High School Athletic Association started sanctioning the tournament in 1923.
“I heard 45 years ago,” said Koppes, a junior guard who scored a game-high 24 points. “I thought we had never been. Either way, that’s insane.”
Nick Merritt knows that more than most. The 2001 Springville graduate is in his 12th year as coach. He’s bringing the Orioles to Wells Fargo Arena for a state quarterfinal game next week.
“I never had an opportunity as a player and there’s a lot of people before me that didn’t,” Merritt said. “As an alum, it’s a big deal to me.”
It was easy to see how much this meant in the first quarter. The Orioles were shaky and trailing 12-10 going into the second. Then the team that has believed all year it’s capable of this showed why.
Springville buried 8 of 11 3-point attempts in the final eight minutes of the half, scoring 32 points and racing to a 42-33 lead. The last of those treys was a banked-in attempt at the buzzer by sophomore Luke Menster.
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Springville finished 12 of 20 from 3-point range, including a 5-for-8 effort from sophomore Rhenden Wagaman, who totaled 18 points.
“I think we got all the jitters out and just played,” Wagaman said.
The Orioles extended the lead to 11 in the third, but instead of coasting to Des Moines, Pekin (19-5) fought back. Brayden Sobaski hit one of his six 3s and Nick Tschudy followed with a third-quarter buzzer-beater to get within two. Keaton Winn’s jumper tied it at 54 with 5:33 to play.
The Panthers didn’t score for another 4 ½ minutes.
By then, it was 66-57 and Springville sealed the win at the free-throw line. Pekin junior guard and leading scorer Brady Millikin (13.3 ppg) struggled all night against the Orioles’ pressure, making 1 of 9 3-point attempts and finishing with seven points.
“I think we were just able to make some shots to get back into our press and just kind of change the tempo of the game,” Merritt said. “We stayed the course, we stayed calm and that was the key. We had a couple panic moments, but nothing too world-ending for us.”
For a school used to trips west to watch its girls’ basketball team advance to five straight state tournaments and win three straight titles from 2016-18, this looked somewhat familiar. Even if it’s technically been 45 years.
“Everyone knows Springville for girls’ basketball,” Koppes said. “When I was in middle school, I was like, ‘hey, wouldn’t it be cool if we got here someday?’ We worked our butts off this season and now we’re here.”
AT IOWA CITY
PEKIN (65): Brady Millikin 1-13 4-5 7, Kennan Winn 3-4 0-0 6, Nick Tschudy 6-10 0-0 18, Braden Sobaski 8-17 0-0 19, Dayne Eckley 2-4 2-2 6, Cael Lyle 2-4 0-0 4, Brock Long 1-3 0-0 3. Totals 23-55, 6-7 65.
SPRINGVILLE (72): Alex Koppes 6-11 9-9 24, Rhenden Wagaman 5-9, 3-4 18, Bryce Wilson 2-5 0-0 5, Luke Menster 5-11, 4-8 15, Kyle Koppes 2-5, 3-4 9, Jack Hoogland 0-0 0-0 0, Grant Gloeckner 0-0 1-2 1, Tommy Hagensick 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 20-41, 20-27, 72.
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Halftime: Springville 42, Pekin 35. 3-point goals: Springville 12-20 (A. Koppes 3-5, Wagaman 5-8, Wilson 1-2, Menster 1-1, K. Koppes 2-4), Pekin 11-29 (Millikin 1-9, Tschudy 6-10, Sobaski 3-7, Eckley 0-1, Long 1-2). Team fouls: Springville 12, Pekin 21. Fouled out: Tschudy. Rebounds: Springville 17 (A. Koppes, K. Koppes 5), Pekin 35 (Winn 12). Assists: Springville 12 (A. Koppes 4), Pekin 9 (Millikin 6). Steals: Springville 14 (Wilson 5), Pekin 8 (Sobaski 4). Turnovers: Springville 13, Pekin 19.
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