INDEPENDENCE -- In a game full of fierce runs and timely shots, a fearless freshman delivered the dagger to send Edgewood-Colesburg into the state tournament Saturday night.
Dunkerton trimmed a nine-point fourth-quarter deficit to two on Brady Happel's 3-pointer with 1 minute, 24 seconds remaining during a see-saw Class 1A substate thrill ride in Independence. With the Raiders' relentless pressure forcing turnovers and refusing to let Ed-Co run clock, Vikings rookie Parker Rochford seized his opportunity to shine.
Rochford received a pass from his brother, Preston, and briefly hesitated before stepping up and burying his fourth 3-pointer to extend Edgewood-Colesburg's lead to five with under a minute remaining. Dunkerton's Travis Schake hit a late 3-pointer of his own with 7.7 seconds left, but Ed-Co's Ethan Streicher sealed the 59-57 win with a pair of free throws before the Raiders added a layup at the buzzer to set the final score.
"Great player. He knows the situation, knows what we need," Ed-Co coach Justin Olind said, addressing the resolve of his freshman Rochford who scored a team-high 16 points off the bench. "I don't coach freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors. I coach basketball players and he did a phenomenal job tonight, as did all the guys."
Added Parker Rochford, "We just have so much trust in each other and we just played as hard as we could. ... We just don't stop."
While an Edgewood-Colesburg team (21-4) that survived overtime against Wapsie Valley to reach this game was elated, it was a tough loss for Dunkerton (22-3) to swallow.
Looking to qualify for their first state tournament since the 2014 runner-up season, the Raiders sprinted to a seven-point lead three minutes into the first quarter only to find themselves trailing by seven at the same mark of the second quarter.
Point guard Zach Johnson helped Dunkerton recover and take a 29-24 lead into halftime. He drilled a corner 3-pointer and followed that with a steal and layup to spark a 9-2 run as part of his 14-point game.
Both teams refused to step off the gas pedal with full-court presses, aggressive passes and dribble-drives filling the second half. Ed-Co used a 16-6 surge to take a nine point fourth-quarter lead before the Raiders made their late-game charge.
In the end, a Dunkerton team that made 20 of 51 field goals found its shots altered just often enough by the Vikings' length advantage. Schake, a senior, led the Raiders with 16 points and Happel added 12.
Eight seniors graduate from this Dunkerton squad that returns all-conference standouts Johnson and Happel.
"Obviously these guys' ultimate goal was to get to state," Dunkerton co-head coach Brian Brungard said. "We just told them we couldn't be more proud of them. They accomplished so many goals along the way. We had so many big wins this season, we just lost to a team that was just as scrappy as us."