By Zach James Herald Assistant Sports Editor
The Clinton Herald
---- — DES MOINES — There’s one thing that’s certain — the 2013-14 Central DeWitt boys’ basketball season was no flop.
Despite having one of the more memorable seasons in school history, it had a sour ending as the Dubuque Wahlert Catholic Golden Eagles defeated DeWitt 67-57 in the Class 3A championship game Saturday night.
DeWitt (23-4) came out with a swift start much alike what it has done in all three state tournament games, but Wahlert came back with a much stronger finish.
The Golden Eagles (23-4) outscored the Sabers 39-25 in the second half after trailing by four in which the Sabers came out hitting nearly every shot they took out of the gate.
In the first quarter alone, DeWitt shot 7-for-12 from the floor and went a perfect 5 of 5 beyond the 3-point arc. DeWitt guard Kyle Bauer and forward Christian Wright combined for 16 of the team’s 19 first quarter points.
The first bucket came from Bauer on a right-handed drive through the lane, then 37 seconds later, Bauer nailed a 3-pointer on the left wing via a Trevor Green assist.
After the first media timeout of the night, Bauer returned to hit another 3-pointer, this time coming near the top of the key.
Wright then followed suit by scoring eight of the last 11 points of the quarter with a McClain Steffens 3-pointer thrown in there.
“That’s what we needed,” Sabers coach Jeff Frick said of the hot start. “We needed a little bit of a spark, and I thought we had good shots all night long, shots just didn’t fall for us.”
DeWitt cooled off starting in the second quarter making just one 3-pointer (Green, 3:24) and making 5 of 14 shots.
The Sabers’ defense was just as intense in the second quarter than in the first, holding Wahlert to 14 points in each of the first two quarters.
“Coach was getting on us pretty hard at halftime,” said Golden Eagles big man Cordell Pemsl. “We started out slow, and we weren’t playing Golden Eagles basketball.”
Pemsl thought the reason for the sluggish start is that his team didn’t give the Sabers any respect.
“I think we overlooked this team a little bit,” Pemsl said. “We had big heads about the first two games. We expected to win big in this game, too, and we realized that this was the championship game and we weren’t going to win big.”
Wahlert coach Tom English questioned his team’s heart in the locker room at halftime.
“That was very uncharacteristic of this team,” English said. “We had to basically say that they were playing with more fire than we were, and we had to step it up.
“I don’t know how you can come out flat like we did in a championship game,” English said. “Credit the Sabers, they put us on our heels with those five 3’s.”
Wahlert shifted momentum in the game by having a 13-5 run that lasted 4:22 in the third quarter. Wright hit a 3-pointer and Jordan Cornelius made a basket to keep the Sabers within striking distance.
Bauer also hit two free throws in the final seconds of the third quarter to keep the Sabers within a one-possession deficit.
DeWitt opened up the fourth quarter scoreless until Green hit a free throw with 3:15 remaining. In that time frame, Wahlert scored six straight points in which all came in the paint. Wahlert outscored DeWitt 24-6 in the paint in the second half.
The Sabers shot 0-for-4 in the drought, including a turnover in the Sabers’ first possession.
Marty Green hit a layup after a pair of Steffens free throws to keep the Sabers within five points with under three minutes to go.
A minute later, Steffens misses a short jumper in which the ball tried to go out of bounds, but Pemsl got the ball, found teammate Josh Carter cherry-picking on the other side of the floor for an easy layup.
Pemsl ended the game with a 23-point, 10-rebound performance.
Steffens hit two more free throws and Bauer hit a 3-pointer in the final two minutes to keep hope alive for the Sabers, but Pemsl and Nolan Timp combined to score the last six points for the Golden Eagles.
“We had a chance the entire game,” Frick said. “Once the lead became a two-to-three bucket lead, you could feel the momentum change.
“Toward that fourth quarter, Wahlert put some pressure on us that caused some turnovers, but I thought we handled ourselves well,” Frick said.
Bauer ended his career scoring 17 points on Saturday night, and scoring a total of 60 points in DeWitt’s three games at Wells Fargo Arena.
“I mean, you could say it was all me, but it was all of my team helping me get the ball,” Bauer said. “I credit my team for finding me, and without them, none of this is possible.”
Bauer led all 3A state tournament players in scoring. The No. 2 scorer in Class 3A was Waverly-Shell Rock’s Jake Velky with 54 total points last week.
Now that the season is over, the Sabers can reflect on a season in which no one outside of DeWitt would have imagined that they would be the state runner-up.
“We came up short, but it was still a great season,” Bauer said. “We proved that we were one of the top two teams in the state, but they were just a little bit better than us.”
Wright will also remember quieting the doubters.
“It’s going to be nice to look back to see all that we accomplished, and coming out like no one expected to come to state; it’s been really awesome,” Wright said.
What’s Frick going to take away from a state runner-up season?
“This group has now set the standard for Saber basketball on how it needs to be played,” he said. “This is one of the truest teams I’ve ever had.”
WAHLERT CATHOLIC 67, CENTRAL DEWITT 57
DEWITT (23-4) — McClain Steffens 1 6-6 9, Trevor Green 1 2-2 5, Kyle Bauer 6 2-2 17, Christian Wright 5 0-1 14, Jordan Cornelius 1 0-0 2, Zach Frett 0 0-0 0, Ryan Burke 0 0-0 0, Marty Green 4 0-1 8, Lucas Daniels 0 2-2 2. Totals 18 12-14 57.
WAHLERT (23-4) — Jared Walker 3 0-1 8, Nolan Timp 4 4-4 12, Josh Carter 5 4-5 14, Tyler Potts 3 0-0 8, Cordell Pemsl 9 5-8 23, Erik Lattner 0 0-0 0, Cam Adams 1 0-0 2, Matt Hoffmann 0 0-0 0. Totals 25 13-18 67.
DeWitt 19 13 12 13 — 57
Wahlert 14 14 19 20 — 67
3-point goals — DeWitt 9 (Wright 4, Bauer 3, T. Green, Steffens); Wahlert 4 (Potts 2, Walker 2). Total fouls — DeWitt 18, Wahlert 17. Fouled out — None.
Class 3A All-Tournament Team (as voted by the media) • Jared Walker -- Wahlert Catholic • Jake Velky -- Waverly-Shell-Rock • Trey Lansman -- Harlan • Kyle Bauer -- Central DeWitt • Captain: Josh Carter -- Wahlert Catholic