Van Buren County’s Bryce Newcomb (21) screens Jackson Hutcheson to give Wyatt Mertens (24) a path to the basket. Mediapolis won the Class 2A district game, 59-49. Photo by Joe Geren
By Joe Geren
Mediapolis High School never had to play from behind, but Van Buren County didn’t let the Bulldogs get comfortable in the Class 2A, District 11 boys basketball first-round game at Mediapolis Monday night.
Mediapolis held on for a 59-49 victory.
The Bulldogs (12-10) advance to Thursday’s semifinal at Albia (13-8.) That winner will face the winner between West Burlington (20-1) and Louisa-Muscatine (12-10) on Feb. 21 for the district championship. The district 11 and 12 champs meet on Feb. 25 for a berth in the state tournament.
Albia “is a well-coached team,” Mediapolis head coach Greg Worrell said. “They’ve got a nice point guard (Drew Chance) that’s a big scorer, 24 points a game. They’ve got a nice big kid inside. They’ve got a couple of nice sophomore guards that are attacking. They’ll be a good matchup.”
Van Buren County ended its season at 5-16. Three of those losses were to Mediapolis. The Bulldogs won 63-58 on Jan. 6 and 66-38 on Jan. 31.
“First time we played them we had a big lead and then they came back and played good defense and came after us,” Worrall said. “Second time we came out we had a great game. We ran them out of the gym and got what we wanted.
“Give them credit,” Worrall said. “They played hard. They played good defense. They run their stuff.”
Mediapolis jumped out to a 12-0 lead on three 3-pointers and a 3-point play, but the Warriors came alive. They scored the next seven points and pulled to within 15-7 at the first quarter break.
With 1:37 left in the first half, Van Buren County’s Jackson Manning scored a layup off a Bryce Newcomb steal and the Warriors trailed just 23-20. But Mediapolis battled back for a 32-22 halftime lead.
Van Buren County cut the deficit to three points again in the third quarter. The Warriors launched a nine-point run and trailed just 34-31 with 4:49 left in the third. Mediapolis managed a 42-38 lead with eight minutes left to play.
Two free throws by Izaak Loeffler a minute and a half into the final period cut the Bulldog lead to 44-42. Mediapolis scored the next seven points and wasn’t seriously threatened again.
Manning led all scorers with 22 points. Anthony Duncan added 10 points for Van Buren County.
Cole Lipper paced Mediapolis with 20 points. Ben Egan scored 14, Max Griffin and Kamden Stotlar each scored seven, and Jackson Hutcheson added six.
The Bulldogs are “sometimes” where Worrall wants them to be at this point in the season.
“You’re dealing with 15, 16, 17-year-old, 18-year-olds, so sometimes they are and sometimes they aren’t,” he said. “I like to think our kids are there more than they’re not. We’re getting better. We’re starting to round into play. In the second half of the season, we kind of hit a little stride where we lost six in a row. Now we’ve got four wins in a row.”