Posted On: 12/30/16 3:16 PM
With a week-plus off for the holiday break, what better time is there to look back on some of the most memorable performances of the past decade? I’ve been closely following high school basketball in the state of Iowa since my time in high school (graduating in 2007), and over the next week, I’ll be unveiling 25 of the best performances I’ve had a chance to witness, either as a team or individuals. The list will be more individual performance centered, and please note that prior to my hiring at Prep Hoops Iowa, I saw every Iowa City West game for five years, going to other games on evenings they weren’t playing. I look forward to continuing to be able to add performances to this list as the years go on. Without further ado, here are memorable performances Nos. 10 thru 6.
West had finished in fourth place the year before, and this was the fourth game of a difficult start to the season, playing four straight road games. This game was where West announced themselves as the team to beat for the next few seasons, as they went into Linn-Mar and handled a good Lions team featuring Marcus Paige and controlled the game from start to finish. This started off as a Dondre Alexander game, as he scored 13 points in the first quarter before getting into some foul trouble. That’s when Morgan took over and had his coming out party. He scored 33 on 10-15 shooting, knocking down four of his six attempts from the arc. He put some nasty crossovers and stepbacks on people (:33 into this video), scored on Dirk Nowitzki-esque fadeaways from the baseline and just did a bit of everything. He was simply unstoppable.
Gladbrook-Reinbeck guard Joe Smoldt has had some incredible performances over the past few seasons, especially at the state tournament. This past March, he did it again, scoring 35 points (27 in the second half) against a good Jesup team. Held to just five points until the final shot of the first half, where he used a nice crossover to free himself into an open 3 before the horn. That was just a sign of things to come. He came out in the second half and almost single handedly turned a 4-point halftime deficit into a 19-point victory. He knocked down 6-10 shots in the second half, including 4-5 from the arc, and also went 11-11 from the free throw line en route to his 27 second stanza points. He’s got a chance to put another performance on this list come March 2017.
One of only three players owning multiple spots on this list, I said we’d see more from Van Lingen later on, and here it is. In a 69-48 semifinal win over an Anamosa team that was as hot as any in the 2A field, Van Lingen was sensational, scoring 23 points on 9-11 shooting, pulling down 21 rebounds and adding in five assists. The big man notching a rare 20-20 game, particularly at the state tournament, was enough to warrant a top-10 spot on this list. He’s one of the best players I’ve had the chance to cover since being hired by this company for the 2014-15 season, and it was an absolute pleasure to watch him dominate again. I’ll miss seeing him at Wells Fargo in March.
A 14-9 Sioux City North team entered their quarterfinal matchup against top-seeded Iowa City West as a substantial underdog. North star Daniel Tillo did his best to unseat the Trojans, but fell just short, with the Stars falling 69-60. However, in his performance, Tillo locked up the Mr. Basketball race. Entering the game needing just 14 points to become only the second 4A player to ever score 2,000 career points, Tillo erupted for 30 points, going 12-21 from the floor. He added six rebounds and three assists as well. He scored 20 of those points in the second half to keep North within striking distance and was just sensational. (This performance was enough to get him a spot on the all-tournament team, despite playing in just one game, a true rarity.) As the game ended, Matt Coss of the Quad City Times leaned over to me and said “Pretty sure that just locked up Mr. Basketball for Tillo”. A week or so later, Coss proved to be correct, as Tillo earned the Mr. Basketball honor to cap off a tremendous career. He finished his career with 2,016 points (second all-time in 4A) and 918 rebounds (fourth all-time in 4A).
MOC-Floyd Valley star guard Levi Jansen had a fantastic career, and he ended it with a bang this past March at the state tournament. The Dutchmen entered as a significant underdog against two-time defending champion Dubuque Wahlert, and Jansen kept them in the game by scoring an absurd 42 points (14-24 FG, 11-16 FT), with 28 of them coming in the second half. Even crazier, he scored 18 points in the fourth. Trailing by 16 points with 4:09 left in the third quarter, Jansen scored 24 points in the final 12:09 of the game to give MOC-FV a chance at the win. The star is now at Division II power Augustana (SD).