WAVERLY — Greg Moore said he approached the latest chapter of Dike-New Hartford vs. Aplington-Parkersburg with a short memory.
In other words, the head basketball coach of the Wolverines kept last season’s heartbreaking district final loss to the Falcons out of mind. His team simply turned the tables, as D-NH beat A-P, 56-42, in a Class 2A District 6 title game at Waverly-Shell Rock High Tuesday night.
Now 24-0, the second-ranked Wolverines advance to the substate round. Saturday, they’ll face South Hamilton, which blew away Roland-Story by a 71-44 margin, at the Roundhouse in Marshalltown. One more victory and D-NH will return to the state tournament for the first time since 2013.
“The goal of these kids was to get to state,” said Moore. “The kids have played a lot of basketball together and this is what they’re looking for — that opportunity to get down there. They just want the opportunity to get there and see what happens.”
Twelve months ago, many of those D-NH kids were looking for that same chance to reach Wells Fargo Arena. It didn’t happen, because A-P edged the Wolverines at Waverly-Shell Rock High on a last-second basket by Nick Ellis, and the Falcons advanced to state.
At the same place a year later, the times had changed. Dike-New Hartford, with its third win of the season over the Falcons, is moving on. Then again, the Wolverines had already done that with the 2015 district final.
“You know, we never even talked about it this week,” said Moore. “They got us three times last year and we just said that if we play like we can, we felt we were capable of winning the game. The kids came out and executed.”
The Wolverines relied on some familiar weapons as well as familiar faces. The transition game produced plenty of close-range baskets, especially in the first half as D-NH built a 31-16 lead. Of the 14 Wolverine field goals, 10 were layups.
Then there was balance. Late in the first quarter, D-NH’s bench scored the last six points, sparking a 15-2 run that gave the Wolverines a 24-12 lead midway through the second period.
Point guard Connor Neuroth scored 10 of his 18 points in the opening 16 minutes. Cole Wildeboer had eight of his 16 in the third quarter.
“I think it’s just the depth of getting guys in and out, staying fresh, trying to create tempo the entire game,” said Moore. “Hopefully, it tires the other team out and for the most part it’s done that.”
Moore also liked the Wolverines’ man-to-man, which tried to surround Ellis inside when possible. A-P hit just six of 25 shots from the field in the opening half and 14 of 56 overall (25 percent). Moore felt defense played a key part in his team’s two regular-season wins over the Falcons, and it did so Tuesday.
“We preach a lot about defense and defense creating offense,” said Moore. “I think we just played a solid defensive game. The kids have bought into the defensive part and did it again tonight, especially on the big guy (Ellis) inside.”
As for Aplington-Parkersburg (18-4), head coach Aaron Thomas felt his team just never quite got any traction offensively and struggled to stop D-NH’s transition game.
“Some of that is D-NH’s defense,” said Thomas. “We shoot 39 percent from 3 as a team, and I know we weren’t near that tonight. We knew we were going to have the shoot the ball well and get some shots, and some of that is their defense. They really get up and can guard you they’re athletic.”
With Tuesday’s loss, Thomas bid a basketball farewell to seniors like Nick Waller, Keaton Hempen, CJ May and Ellis. All of them were also part of last season’s state tournament run and built a two-year record of 43-7.
“I’m super proud of these kids,” said Thomas. “They’re such good kids.”
Dike-New Hartford 56 Aplington-Parkersburg 42
APLINGTON-PARKERSBURG (18-4)—Nick Waller 1-11 4-6 6, Keaton Hempen 0-4 0-0 0, Carter Cuvelier 3-11 0-0 7, Cade Alberts 4-13 4-5 14, Nick Ellis 2-8 3-4 7, Alec Oberhauser 2-7 0-0 4, CJ May 1-1 0-0 2, Jared Sill 0-0 0-0 0, Zach Benning 1-1 0-0 2, Coby Hoff 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 14-56 11-15 42.
DIKE-NEW HARTFORD (24-0)—Calvin Wildeboer 3-7 0-0 6, Connor Neuroth 6-9 4-4 18, Connor Blough 2-10 0-0 4, Ben Latusek 1-8 2-4 4, Cole Wildeboer 7-11 2-4 16, Royce Weber 0-0 0-2 0, Jake Sonnenberg 0-1 0-0 0, Nic Gronowski 3-3 0-1 6, Ty Sohn 1-1 0-0 2, Jacob Moore 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 23-50 8-15 56.
Aplington-Parkersburg 10 6 13 13-42
Dike-New Hartford 15 16 12 13-56
3-point goals—A-P 3 (Cuvelier 1, Alberts 2), D-NH 2 (Neuroth 2). Total fouls—Dike-New Hartford 15, Aplington-Parkersburg 14. Fouled out—none.