Posted On: 11/24/18 8:14 PM
Des Moines — It was the Hall of Pride exhibition, and it did not disappoint; by the fourth quarter the intensity was ramped up to the point where you’d of thought this was a regular season game, or better, a post-season affair.
No team ever ran away with it, the largest lead by either was nine, that when is was 64-55 with just over a minute left after what seemed a game-clinching Gatdoar Bijiek bucket. But West would cut into that lead quickly and substantially, briefly clipping it to within two before the home-team Polar Bears regained control in the final half-minute.
Tyreke Locure was as sensational as we’ve ever seen him, but he fouled out late. Locure, along with Bijiek and Lino Malual made up a very formidable trio for the Polar Bears. Super sophomore Malik Allen was not in uniform and was not on the roster.
West will be fine, they have twin towers Patrick McCaffery and Even Brauns — the latter of which is a Regina transfer — to dominate on a nightly basis. They both played well tonight. A litany of guards is ready and eager to make a positive impact around those two superstars.
Iowa City West — 10 18 17 21 — 66
Des Moines North — 12 16 18 24 — 70
Iowa City West: Patrick McCaffery 26, Even Brauns 18, Brayden Adcock 7, Joey Goodman 5, Tate Crane 5, Nick Pepin 3, Ben Vander Leest 2
Des Moines North: Tyreke Locure 28, Gatdoar Bijiek 17, Lino Malual 14, Isaac Zulu 4, Diondre Taylor 3, Makhai Duncan 2, Jack McGlothen 2
It was very evident almost immediately that Tyreke Locure’s been working this offseason quite a bit on his legs and lift. He was always more athletic than his opponents; but tonight — more than ever before — he was skying for boards over West’s big-men, and exploding into passing lanes for steals. The big moment was when he had a breakaway opportunity for a slam, and he exploded off the ground, and seemed to be right where he needed to be for a the jam, but he changed his mind last second and tried to lay it in instead. He was so high up — even at 5’10 — that the angle was tight for the lay-in, and he missed it. We think he’ll dunk that one next time.
It’s not necessarily that West dominated the rims tonight, they didn’t. Few will dominate the rims against this small but supremely athletic North squad. The potential that this team has, particularly 6’9 Even Brauns and 6’8 Patrick McCaffery, to monopolize rebounds this season is clear. There was one sequence in particular that stood out. McCaffery drove and missed a shot, it danced around the rim, Brauns was right there to tip it in. Both went up to try and tip in the miss, their hands all around the rim. The two of them are taller and more athletic than almost everyone, they should clean up on the glass this winter.
Two seasons ago, Gatdoar Bijiek was firmly in the shadow of older brother and all-state wing Jal Bijiek. Last season, we started to see glimpses of how impactful Gatdoar could be as a starter and role player for the Polar Bears. Today, he was absolutely essential to the team’s success. His 3-point jumper, although quite unorthodox, is money. If he stays confident with it, he could shoot 50 percent from deep this winter. But his ability to handle the ball and finish at the rim, particularly in crucial situations, is what was the difference-maker tonight. We expect a breakout season from the 6-foot-4 wing
One question mark coming into the game was what would North’s bench look like. Well, with Tyreke Locure and Lino Malual both fouling out, we were able to get an OK look at it, and came away pretty impressed. One big thing was that Malik Allen wasn’t playing, he’d likely be a starter if and when he’s able to play, which would move either Jack McGlothen or Gore Puot into a reserve spot. Both are more-than-capable sixth-men. Other intriguing reserves were Isaac Zulu, who uses a big, athletic frame to play aggressive lock-down defense, and Makhai Duncan, who calmly sank two game-clinching free throws with five seconds left in the game. Another key reserve is sophomore Diondre Taylor, he had a good offseason playing with one of the state’s best grassroots teams, Kingdom Hoops 15U, and looked very comfortable at times tonight playing with the older guys. It looks like the Polar Bears will have enough depth to stay formidable even when the big three, Bijiek, Locure and Malual, are not playing well or in foul trouble. A lot of that will depend on if Allen is able to play now, later, or at all.
West’s PG Situation
Last season, Iowa City West featured one of the best — and one of the most under-appreciated — point guards in Iowa with Dante Eldridge. Although he was a junior last season, his eligibility was up at season’s end; when he transferred from Connecticut, he had already played three seasons of varsity ball (eighth grade included). So the big question coming into this season was: who’s going to run the offense? It looks like there’s a couple options. Braydon Adcock is a well-built 6-foot combo-guard who was running the show at times today. He scored seven points and seemed to be a better scoring guard, although a capable point guard. Nick Pepin was the other guy playing some point, he’s smaller than Adcock, but certainly confident in his ability to run the show, and rightfully show. Pepin’s passes were sharp, and he cleverly finds open guys. He finished with three points tonight. There’s no clear point guard here, and both will be capable, but it’ll be tough for them to post Dante Eldridge-type efficiencies this season from the PG spot.