Posted On: 01/23/18 11:38 AM
Des Moines — Iowa’s 7th-ranked 1A squad came to the capital city on Monday night, and played what it hoped was it’s first of many games at Wells Fargo Arena this year.
The state tournament will be held at WFA in early March, and if Monday was any indication, the Dunkerton Raiders will have a decent shot of qualifying among the eight 1A teams.
Colo-Nesco came in with a formidable 10-5 record, and scored the first bucket of the game, but from then on, the Raiders (15-1) would cruise. They led by as many as 17 in the second half.
Matthew Hill was one of the primary reasons we wanted to check out this game, and he did not disappoint. The lengthy and athletic stretch-forward poured in a game-high 20 points. But it was the Dunkerton back-court, juniors Brady Happel and Zach Johnson that stole the show. They combined for 33 points and a handful assists in the win.
Dunkerton juniors Zach Johnson (left) and Brady Happel (right) make up one of the best backcourts in Iowa. The crafty guards put on a passing clinic at Wells Fargo Arena in win over Colo-Nesco #iahsbkb pic.twitter.com/hv7SNpLDOr
— TJ Rushing (@TjRushing) January 23, 2018
Colo-Nesco: 9 8 12 19 — 48
Dunkerton: 17 13 11 18 — 59
Colo-Nesco: Matthew Hill 20, Jacob Clatt 10, Phillip Bower 6, Sean Cutler 5, Mason Lytle 4, Bryce Niemeyer 2, Kelly Gray 1.
Dunkerton: Zach Johnson 19, Brady Happel 16, Kaleb Westendorf 12, Dalton Burch 5, Brady Stone 3, Travis Schake 2, Mookie Nguyen.
It’s nice when a team can have a guy who plays with savvy and has a knack for finding his teammates at any time or place on the court. Dunkerton has two of those guys. That’s special. Juniors Brady Happel and Zach Johnson each showed out in Des Moines, both filling the stat-sheet while proving themselves be one of the better backcourts in Iowa. And certainly a top tier backcourt in 1A. Happel went for 16 points, eight rebounds, six assists and five steals. Johnson added 19 points, three rebounds, six assists and three steals
Currently, the 15-1 Raiders check in as our No. 7 team in 1A, and it just so happens that they’ll compete in of the easier district pairings in the state. It’s very possible they’ll match-up with Janesville for a district final, a team Dunkerton beat by one, 74-73 back in December. If the Raiders can get through District 5, they’ll face the winner of District 6, maybe Wapsie Valley or Edgewood-Colesburg, for a chance to punch their ticket to state. What we’re saying, is Dunkerton has real decent chance to play down at Wells Fargo Arena again come March.
We’ve been writing a lot about Colo-Nesco senior Matthew Hill over the past two years, and he’s established himself as one of 1A’s most productive players since last season. What was most striking about him was his athleticism. Hill didn’t showcase it every time down the floor, but when needed, he exhibited a burst of leaping ability. At a lean 6’5 and with some nice length, Hill is agile enough to find his way to the hoop off the bounce, and his mid-range jumper didn’t look bad at all. He’s averaging 20.9 points per game and 7.4 rebounds this season. He’s a small college stretch-four prospect.
Wells Fargo Arena
It was unseasonably warm, rainy, and I was at Wells Fargo Arena; it really felt like March, not January. It was my first time at the Arena since last year’s state tournament, and it was good to be back. But I digress. I like the arrangement that WFA and the Iowa Wolves have made with Iowa high schools. It’s a great opportunity to generate some excitement for something new and different, and also a chance for teams like Dunkerton — which has a very decent chance of making the state tourney — to get a feel for what it’s like to play on the bigger floor. Here’s a video that shows what the atmosphere is like. All the fans (mostly Colo-Nesco) were sitting on the same side of the arena, my side, so it looks a lot more bare than it actually was.
— TJ Rushing (@TjRushing) January 23, 2018
Colo-Nesco may have come up against a better team, but they didn’t care. They played tough from the start, and the farther down they got, the more they fought. Matthew Hill and Co. were down as many as 17 in the third quarter, cutting the deficit back down to 12 by the end of the quarter. They had cut that 17 point disadvantage to just eight in the fourth quarter, and were at the free-throw line with a chance to get it down to six. Those two free-throws were missed, and time would eventually run out for the Royals. It could have been a blowout, and looked like it would be for a while. But there’s no quit in Colo-Nesco, and they lost to a very good Dunkerton squad by a much more respectable 11 points.