BACK TO BACK | Men’s basketball repeats state championship win

 

The Tigers won a 44-41 state championship victory over Dubuque Senior on Friday, March 1. This is the team’s second State Championship in a row.

With 2 seconds left on the clock on the night of Friday, March 1, Dubuque Senior’s Noah Carter heaved up a shot that was blocked by the Tigers’ senior forward Jackson Frericks, handing Cedar Falls its second championship title in two years, 44-41. 

The Tigers had a very different post-season compared to last year, as their high scoring affairs were replaced with historic defensive battles. The Tigers held North Scott to just 27 points, which was the least amount of points allowed in a semi-final game since 1950. The team really enjoyed playing a defensive playstyle, especially against North Scott.

“I thought our defensive effort against North Scott in the semifinals was fantastic,” coach Ryan Schultz said. “We erased a 6-point deficit in a low scoring game and held a very talented team to 2 points (free throws) over the last 10 minutes of the game. I also thought Jack Campbell’s steal and dunk really changed the momentum in that game at a very crucial time.”

“The best moment was winning a tough defensive game against North Scott. We had a huge fourth quarter to win that game,” Frericks said.

The team faced challenges all year with having so many games cancelled because of weather, but the players were up to the challenge of the increased workload and more intense practices.

“The snow days were difficult,” Schultz said. “It was something we hadn’t been through before, and it was hard to prepare for a game, have it postponed, prepare again and have another one postponed. It was a challenge to remain focused and find a rhythm, but our players remained committed and got better during that stretch of practices. We put some new things in, shortened practices and tried to make them competitive as possible.” 

Those practices paid off in the end with the team going into the playoffs extremely focused and ready for anything that would get thrown at them. The Tigers went into the playoffs knowing that they were the team to beat, no matter what they were ranked. 

“We had no doubts going through the playoffs,”  Frericks said. “We knew we were the best team there. We believed and got the job done.”

Schultz said he is very proud of the team’s accountability and ability to stay focused throughout the year in order to win, and relates it to the team’s confidence.

“I never doubted this team. There were times I was worried about how things would play out or the situation at hand, but I never thought we couldn’t win. We have been through a lot of battles this year. We are experienced. We have great leadership, and our guys have continually responded with poise and resiliency. When you have players that are tough, accountable to each other and do things the right way, you’re not going to doubt their ability to persevere in difficult moments when things are on the line.”

The key to the victories for the Tigers was to play as technically sound as possible and be more physical than their opponents. They wanted to turn good defense into easy offense.

“Game to game, our strategies are different and based on the opponent,” Schultz said. “With that said, our general philosophies didn’t change. Play great defense, play hard, execute and play to our strengths on offense remained our approach. Defense was definitely at the forefront. We always talk about how defense can keep you in games even when your shots aren’t dropping. Those are the special teams, the ones who can win even when you aren’t shooting it well.” 

Even after the Tigers rolled into the championship game, their core principles did not change and they wanted to stick to their game plan. They would be facing one of the best players in the state in Carter of Dubuque Senior. Their main goal was to shut him down.

“Our strategy was to make their best offensive players’ shots hard and to make their teammates beat us. Against Dubuque Senior, we needed to stop Noah Carter, so we doubled him when he got into the post,” Frericks said.

Schultz agreed. He said,  “Our main specific strategy against Senior was to make it difficult on their best player and first option, Noah Carter, by not detaching from him and bringing a double team. We hoped to make their secondary options beat us. Offensively, we just wanted to move the ball, execute and get the ball in the paint first. The biggest adjustment we made was adjusting the way we were doubling initially. Our backside help and rotations were a little off with a new scheme, so we adjusted back to something that was more familiar. After getting down early, we just talked about taking it one possession at a time and locking down at the defensive end.” 

After a rough start, the Tigers got into a zone and clawed their way back to eventually take the lead, but with a solid 8-point lead for the Tigers in the closing minutes, the Rams knocked down some crucial 3 pointers to take the lead by 1. 

Logan Wolf then scored a clutch bucket to put the Tigers back up by 1 with two seconds left on the clock. The Rams got the ball straight to Carter in the post, but two Tigers were able to get there and block the shot. 

The Rams were able to foul, but after Wolf knocked down both free throws, it would take a miracle shot to tie the game for the Rams. 

With less than a second left on the clock, the Rams chucked it from half court with no success. The Tigers had won the championship in a nail-biter.

Schultz said, “Because the game was so close, we were talking strategy to the very end. The feeling in the huddle was positive with everyone talking about getting just one more stop. The atmosphere was amazing, electric and intense, but our players remained focused. After the game, it is just pure elation, joy and some relief. There’s nothing quite like it because it’s a culmination of a team effort and a lot of hard work, belief and dedication that started way back in November with people you come to regard as family. I truly love our guys, and I’m proud of how they conducted themselves all year on and off the court.”

“We were saying that this needed to be the best 11 seconds of defense in our lives,” Frericks said. “If it wasn’t, we wouldn’t have the trophy back in our hands. The atmosphere was amazing. The crowd was roaring, and all of the players realized that we had done it again.”

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

Leave a Reply