ATLANTIC — This will be the first state appearance in the seven years of the joint effort of Nishna Valley and Malvern known as East Mills.
Kevin Schafer was in his first year as head coach in 1993, the last appearance by Nishna Valley in the state tournament.
Now, 21 years later, he’s taking a team back with his son (Jacob) as senior point guard.
“I was concerned that I might never get another chance,” Schafer said. “I was assistant when we went in 1990. So, I’ve been up there twice, but it’s been a long time. We had the right team this year. The kids believed and made it happen.”
The key, Schafer said, was not succumbing to the tendency of Nodaway Valley opponents to wilt under a wave of turnovers against its defensive pressure.
“We kept our turnovers down,” Schafer said. “We said the turnovers can’t lead to layups. If we hand it to them out of bounds, and they’re not transition buckets, that’s OK. I was glad our guards were aggressive early when we got some shots attacking the rim. You could see the confidence grow in our guys as the game progressed.
“We could play with these guys.”
Nodaway Valley wrapped up another conference crown in 2014, stretching its conference winning streak to 50 games in a 60-40 victory over Bedford on Feb. 11 to conclude a 16-0 league campaign.
On Saturday, the Wolverines were also looking to secure their second three-year run of state tournament appearances since 2005 in a remarkably successful period under coach Darrell Burmeister and assistant Dr. Dick Kohler.
After a one-point defeat in overtime curtailed that quest, Burmeister stood proud of the 22-3 team that only returned one full-time starter in 6-3 forward TJ Bower.
“It’s hard to get to state three years in a row when you’re a small program and you graduate kids,” Burmeister said. “We’re not a 4A program. It’s not easy for a 1A school. But these guys came out and won 22 games, won the conference championship by three games over a very good Pleasantville team. We lost to a very good team tonight. It was not a case of not respecting them. We told our young men before the game, this is a substate game, and these guys are good!”
Burmeister said his team had not had a day off since the day after Christmas, putting the time in to reach the standards of their predecessors.
“I’ve had guys in the gym every day since Dec. 26,” Burmeister said. “On Jan. 1 we had 17 kids come in during the morning after New Year’s Eve. This is a great group of guys. We talk about John Wooden’s two most important words in the English language being ‘love’ and ‘balance,’ in their lives and basketball. That’s not based on wins and losses. I love these kids as much now as I did before the game.”
Seniors appearing in a Nodaway Valley uniform for the last time were Zach Plymesser, TJ Bower, Caleb Mueller, Delson Grantham and Mason Clarke.
Burmeister said Mueller will be introduced during halftime of the Class 2A state championship game as an Academic All-State selection. Bower will appear in the IBCA All-Star series March 29 at Dallas Center-Grimes.