GREENFIELD — Can Carroll Kuemper Catholic make it three-for-three?
Or, will Nodaway Valley make it a season sweep?
We’ll know at about noon Tuesday. The second-seeded Wolverines take on seventh-seeded Kuemper at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday in a Class 2A quarterfinal game at the Boys State Basketball Tournament.
Kuemper (16-8) of the Hawkeye 10 Conference avenged two prior defeats this season during their postseason run to the Well. After losing 60-54 to IKM-Manning on Dec. 1, the Knights topped IKM in a district final at Denison, 68-53.
Red Oak had upset Kuemper 63-50 Jan. 8 at Red Oak, but the Tigers were defeated by the Knights in substate play, 59-46.
Nodaway Valley presents a third straight chance to gain revenge. On Feb. 8 at Greenfield, Nodaway Valley defeated Kuemper, 64-60.
“We think it will be a good ballgame again,” said Kuemper coach Tyler Edwards. “Certainly, both teams are familiar with each other. Playing in the Hawkeye 10, splitting with Atlantic, with Creston and with Harlan, you feel like you can play with anybody. We’re blessed to be in this position, but we know it will be a tough challenge.”
“You can’t go by their record,” said NV junior forward T.J. Bower. “They’re on the same level as us. We’ll have to bring it and pack it inside. Their game is inside.”
Indeed, Kuemper has a college-like lineup in terms of size, as well as its bench. Besides 5-11 senior point guard Carter Ludwig, the Knights start 6-3 junior Alex Drees, the versatile 6-6 junior Cole Neary on the wing, 6-6 junior Sam Brincks and 6-5 senior Chris Halbur inside.
The top reserve is 6-4 senior Riley Bach. The bench also includes 6-4 senior Jay Tigges and 5-11 junior Chase Rupiper. Bach had 16 points and nine rebounds against Nodaway Valley the first time.
So, it’s no wonder much of the preparation week in the Nodaway Valley gym has involved blocking out under the boards.
“Rebounding will be the key in the game,” said NV coach Darrel Burmeister, who has guided the Wolverines to two straight victories over the Knights the past two regular seasons. “Stopping their cuts to the basket by their big guys. Last time we allowed too many flashes in the paint and high post dives, especially Bach, their reserve post kid.”
But, overall it was a successful game for the Wolverines. Four Nodaway Valley players scored in double figures, including 15 each by point guard Brad Baudler, wing Dean Frank and 6-7 center Alex Welsch. Bower added 11 points while harassing the Knights with six steals.
The fifth starter, Dan Ehrsam, was hounded by the Knights’ defense and limited to three points. He had 17 points, including the winning 3-pointer with three seconds left, in Saturday’s 64-61 substate victory over North Polk.
Burmeister said that’s the strength of this Nodaway Valley team. If one facet is taken away, that provides opportunities for someone else. It’s difficult to shut down five scorers.
“We feel we have the five best scorers that anyone in 2A can put out there,” Burmeister said. “How many 2A schools can put three 1,000-point scorers out there? (Baudler and Welsch have surpassed 1,000 points, and Bower is at 973.) Dan Ehrsam and Dean Frank can score as well.
“But championships are won with defense and rebounding. We know they’re going to be motivated,” Burmeister said. “We went to their place two years ago and won by 12. They didn’t like that very much. This year we beat them and they weren’t happy. A Hawkeye 10 team doesn’t like losing to a Pride of Iowa team.”
Rebounding is so important, Burmeister said, because the Knights, especially Brincks, are dangerous if allowed second shots.
“Going into the first game, we thought we matched up well with the Welsch kid inside,” Edwards said. “He is very athletic and causes problems with his blocked shots. The Frank kid hit some big shots on us. We contained Ehrsam. He’s the one that hurt us the year before. Baudler is just a tremendous athlete and can hurt you with his penetration and leadership. He sets up the other guys.
“We play eight to 10 kids and would like to think we have better depth,” Edwards added, “but it doesn’t seem like their kids ever get tired.”
Kuemper advances to state for the 13th time in school history and second under Edwards. In earning the state berth against Red Oak, Brincks and Neary led the Knights with 19 points each. Neary was 10-of-12 from the free throw line in the fourth quarter.
Neary was a highly-regarded quarterback on Kuemper’s state semifinal football team, and Brincks was one of the top 2A offensive linemen.
“Our kids have been involved in numerous state functions, from baseball to basketball and golf and state football playoffs,” Edwards said. “They’ve gotten a lot of experience, and we feel like we play in the strongest 3A-2A league in the state.”
Brincks and Neary each average 16 points a game, and Halbur and Bach are next at 8.1 and 7.0 points. The Knights don’t shoot a lot of threes, with Neary’s 25-99 (25.3 percent) the most active behind the line. Drees has hit 15 of 41 for 37 percent.
The 6-5 Halbur has 186 rebounds and 42 blocks to lead the Knights inside. Brincks and Bach also have more than 150 rebounds each. The athletic Neary has 42 steals.
“We went through a stretch there where we won one, lost one,” Edwards said. “And these kids stuck together. That’s a testament to these guys. They’ve been a team all year long.”
For Nodaway Valley, Welsch and Baudler both average 16 points, but the balanced lineup also includes Bower at 10.9, Ehrsam 9.7 and Frank 9.1. Tim Hansen, Jackson Lamb and Zach Plymesser have all scored more than 65 points.
Welsch has 234 rebounds and Bower has grabbed 136. Welsch ranks fifth in 2A with 82 blocks. Bower and Baudler have 51 and 48 steals, respectively. With 92 assists, Baudler is 33rd in 2A. Ehrsam is again one of the top 3-point shooters in the state, hitting at a 43 percent clip.
“This year, we’re doing whatever it takes to win,” Frank said. “Whatever is working that night, is what we’ve been going with.”
G — Carter Ludwig, Sr., 5-11, 3.0 ppg, 1.7 rpg.
G — Alex Drees, Jr., 6-3, 3.3 ppg, 0.9 rpg.
F — Cole Neary, Jr., 6-6, 16.0 ppg, 6.1 rpg.
F — Chris Halbur, Sr., 6-5, 8.1 ppg, 7.8 rpg.
C — Sam Brincks, Jr., 6-6, 16.0 ppg, 7.1 rpg.
Notes — The Knights finished third in the Hawkeye 10 behind Atlantic and Creston. Five of the eight losses were to Class 3A teams. Kuemper avenged setbacks to IKM-Manning and Red Oak in the tournaments. Coach Tyler Edwards is 156-86 in his 10th year, three at Battle Creek-Ida Grove and seventh season at Kuemper. The Knights were third in 2010 under Edwards.
G — Brad Baudler, Sr., 5-10, 16.3 ppg, 3.3 rpg.
G — Dean Frank, Sr., 6-0, 9.1 ppg, 3.1 rpg.
F — Dan Ehrsam, Sr., 6-2, 9.7 ppg, 3.5 rpg.
F — T.J. Bower, Jr., 6-3, 10.9 ppg, 5.7 rpg.
C — Alex Welsch, Sr., 6-7, 16.4 ppg, 9.8 rpg.
Notes — The Wolverines have the highest offensive average (73.58) and lowest defensive average (34.13) in the 2A tournament. NV is back-to-back 16-0 champions of the Pride of Iowa Conference. The team’s only defeat was 59-49 to 3A ranked Creston in mid-January. Coach Darrell Burmeister is 475-171 in his 19th season, 14 at Bridgewater-Fontanelle before the merger with Greenfield. The Wolverines were fourth in 1A last year, third in 2007, first in 2006 and second in 2005, all in Class 2A.