GILBERTVILLE — Sean McFadden and Zach Nie have accomplished plenty together throughout their four-year tenure on the Don Bosco basketball team.
McFadden patrols the paint, and Nie complements him with an accurate shot from the perimeter. They each are capable of taking over a game on any given night and often alternate lead roles.
Perhaps it’s no coincidence that these two talented seniors nearly reached one of prep basketball’s most coveted career milestones in the same game.
McFadden entered a recent contest at Tripoli seven career points shy of 1,000, and Nie was 34 points away from the mark. McFadden finished the night with 14 points and Nie nearly got there as he poured in 33.
“It would come up every once and a while in the locker room,” McFadden said of the milestone. “It was fun thing for both of us to see who could get there first.”
Nie’s 1,000th point came early last Tuesday as Class 1A’s No. 4-ranked Don Bosco prevailed in a rematch with No. 8 Dunkerton, 62-39. It was as electric of an atmosphere as the gym in Gilbertville has seen with the wrestling mats rolled up.
The school known for boys’ athletic success in baseball, football and wrestling — where the Dons are currently ranked No. 1 in 1A — now has a basketball team with a realistic path to its first state tournament since 1988.
“It was more fun being in that atmosphere than getting that 1,000th point itself,” Nie said, addressing the win over a Dunkerton team that eliminated last year’s Dons from the postseason. “We definitely wanted some revenge. Getting that 1,000th point really got the gym going, and it had a lot of energy. That’s the most people in our gym that I’ve ever seen.”
Nate Kellogg, a first-year head coach who worked as an assistant the previous two seasons at Don Bosco, realizes he’s witnessing something this season that he may never see again.
“It’s pretty special,” Kellogg said. “Having one 1,000-point scorer is a really big deal. To have two on the same team, in the same class, almost on the same night, is something that doesn’t happen very often.”
McFadden and Nie’s success goes beyond basketball.
McFadden played on the baseball team and ran track, while Nie placed seventh in last fall’s Class 1A state cross country meet and also runs track. They’re among the top three in their class academically, with McFadden holding a 4.0 GPA and Nie a 3.95. They also are both involved in speech and robotics. McFadden plans to study computer engineering at Iowa State and Nie environmental science at either Coe or Luther.
On the basketball court, they’ve seen quite a transformation through four years. The Dons won just three games their freshman season before Jack Kelley, another talented scoring option and facilitator, joined the group the following year and they finished 15-8. Last year’s Dons went 21-2, and this year’s team has continued where that group left off.
Clayton Weber, another senior, is a third-year starter and sophomore Zach Huff started on last year’s successful team as a freshman.
“It’s just amazing to see how much we’ve grown,” McFadden said. “All of our teammates really bought in. We wanted to improve the program and we’ve come a long way and worked really hard.
“Everyone is just committed and seeing how they could benefit the team. We each found our role and we each do what we can to make the team better.”
Following in the footsteps of his older brothers, who also competed in basketball for the Dons, Nie also takes plenty of pride in this team’s growth. With two 1,000-point scorers and a third well on his way, these Dons continue to force their opposition to pick their poison.
“On our team nobody really cares who has the biggest scoring night,” Nie said. “We just want to get the win and I think that shows. ... It’s fun when you’ve got an unselfish group of kids that enjoy playing together.”