IOWA CITY — Watching the final minutes of a game from the bench is nothing new for the starters on the Easton Valley boys basketball team.
But they never expected to find themselves there during the substate final game. Still. there they were – Chase Zaruba, Logan Wilhelm, Craiton Andresen, Jarod Lee and Blake Bormann – smiling and laughing, waiting for the celebration to begin as the reserves finished off the River Hawks' 55-33 victory against Danville on Saturday night at Iowa City West High School.
“I was kind of in shock when I sat down with two minutes left, realizing we were going to win and we were going to go to Des Moines,” Zaruba said.
“It's nice to soak up the atmosphere and enjoy that we're going to state,” Wilhelm said.
In the first year of the Easton Valley consolidation of the former Preston and East Central school districts, the River Hawks are headed to the Iowa Class 1A state tournament. Because three substate finals were postponed by Saturday's winter storm, the River Hawks must wait to learn whom they will play and at what time a week from today at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.
“This is the greatest feeling I've ever had in my life,” Bormann said. “Just having us all do this together makes it even greater.
“Being the first year of Easton Valley, it makes it even more huge.”
The River Hawks owed the anticlimactic final minutes to a 19-2 run after Danville crept within four points early in the second half, the closest the Bears got after Easton Valley scored the game's first eight points. It came two days after a 9-0 closing run in the third changed the momentum during their district championship win against Springville.
“The last part of the season, that's just the way we've been,” Easton Valley coach Dan Beck said. “Our seniors are leaders; they're just such competitors. They find a way then to come back and come through. I know I've never had a team quite like this.