DES MOINES — One team had an overwhelming desire to prove it could get to Wells Fargo Arena.
Another had a similar desire to prove it could get there again.
Two area boys’ basketball teams will begin their quest for state championships this week with Dike-New Hartford opening tournament play Monday at 8:15 p.m. against Van Meter in a Class 2A first-round game.
Nearly 24 hours later, defending Class 4A champion Cedar Falls begins its defense against Sioux City East at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.
“The desire to get down there ... it has kind of been a goal for this group for a long time,” Dike-New Hartford head coach Greg Moore said.
Dike-New Hartford returned its top seven scorers from a team that went 15-8 last season and reached the district finals. It’s also a core group of players who helped the Wolverines’ football team reach the 1A state championship game.
“This means a lot,” senior guard Tim Koop said. “We’ve been dreaming about doing this since we were little kids.”
It will be contrasting styles when D-NH and Van Meter hook up. While the Wolverines admit they want to get out and run, the Bulldogs are more patient, wanting to set up 6-foot-9 leading scorer Ryan Schmitt. Moore likes how South Dakota football recruit Colton Harberts matches up with Schmitt.
The 6-foot-6, 270-pound Harberts leads the Wolverines in scoring (15.7) and rebounding (9.6). Moore says staying out of foul trouble will be a key.
D-NH (21-1) averages 66.4 points per game, while Van Meter (21-2) chips in at 59.7.
It doesn’t seem like a big difference, but how each team gets there is different.
“We’re going to try to speed it up, and they are going to try to slow it down,” Moore said. “We’re going to try to get them to speed up.
“We’re fast, but under control.. We still want quality possessions while playing fast.”
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Moore also says his team is at its best when it is doing a good job of pressuring the ball on the defensive end of the floor.
“We are really playing together as a team this year, which is huge, especially on the defensive side. Defensively, we came a long way,” Moore said.
While it will be the first trip to the big stage for basketball, the Wolverines are full of experience when it comes to performing under the bright lights.
“I think all of us have played on a stage like that whether it is state track or football,” said second-leading scorer Cade Fuller. “We’re going to try to treat it like it is just another game.”
“It’s going to take great effort by everybody,” added Koop.
On the flip side, Cedar Falls knows how to win in Wells Fargo Arena.
While current University of Northern Iowa freshman A.J. Green was the catalyst to last year’s 4A state tournament run, a group players like Logan Wolf, Jack Campbell, Mason Abbas and Jackson Frericks made it their mission to prove the Tigers could do it again.
With signature wins over one of the top teams in Illinois, Bolingbrook, and one over state qualifier Iowa City West, Cedar Falls has been rock solid all season.
Wolf leads the team with his 15.3 scoring average, but on any given night it has been proven any one of the Tigers’ eight-man rotation can lead the team.
“We have a few guys that can definitely knock down shots,” Cedar Falls head coach Ryan Schultz said. “Teams see that on the scouting report and that allows us to spread the floor a little bit. Then on top of that, we just have a balanced attack.
“There’s just so many different guys that can do different things on different nights,” added Schultz. “We’ve had multiple guys in double figures on different nights and I think that’s hard to prepare for.”
Cedar Falls is seeded third and has a rematch of its first-round game from a year ago as the Tigers play Sioux City East in their opener. The Black Raiders like to run and average 76 points a game, led by 6-foot-3 guard Aidan Vanderloo’s 23.3 points per game.