The numbers do not lie.
They do tell a tale so astounding that they’re almost hard to believe, even for one of the men who played on Aplington’s basketball team two decades ago.
“We’re so far removed from that,” said Jared DeVries. “But some of the stats .... how many points we averaged was pretty amazing.”
The sports world knows DeVries as a football star who began at Aplington High, won a state title at Aplington-Parkersburg, earned all-American honors as a defensive lineman at Iowa and then had a long and distinguished career in the National Football League with the Detroit Lions.
People who have covered the boys’ state basketball tournament in Iowa for an extended time remember another Jared DeVries. He was a high school sophomore and a key player for a team that won the 1992 Class A title.
Twenty years later, the Iowa High School Athletic Association is celebrating 100 years of state tournaments. There are no shortage of things worth celebrating. Fans in any corner of the state could pick a team and a year worth reliving.
The Aplington Panthers of 1992 definitely deserve a revival in 2012. And the numbers only begin to tell the story.
Under the late Bill Dohrn, Aplington won consecutive Class A titles. Only 25 teams in the history of state tournament play have won two or more in a row.
By beating Winfield-Mount Union in the 1992 title game, Aplington concluded a 52-game winning streak. A year later, Aplington-Parkersburg stretched that streak to 74.
Now consider what Aplington did offensively. It averaged over 98 points a game. That’s right. Ninety-eight. It was not unusual for these Panthers to jump over the 100 mark, breaking that barrier 12 times. They occasionally got there in the third quarter.
In a district tournament game, Aplington attempted 25 3-point shots. The Panthers made 15, good for 60 percent. And they beat a good Tripoli team, 94-67.
In the 1992 state tournament, Aplington averaged 94 points a game. The average margin of victory was 27 points.
Finally, while beating Winfield-Mount Union, 82-70, for a 1992 state title, Aplington handled a team that featured two future Division I basketball players - Jess Settles for Iowa and Klay Edwards at Iowa State.
“We knew they had good players, obviously “ said Jared DeVries. “But we felt decent ourselves.”
That’s understating it. Darian DeVries, Jared’s brother, went on to play college basketball at Northern Iowa. Clint Peters competed at Grand View College. Travis Schipper had a college football career at UNI.
The Panthers were talented, and self-assured. But that didn’t just happen, according to Jared DeVries.
“We drilled over and over again,” he said. “Anytime you have success, that breeds confidence. We were a confident ballclub. We worked hard, and we worked hard as a group. We enjoyed being around each other. It was just a lot of fun.”
Dohrn led the way. At that 1992 state tournament, Aplington fans wore t-shirts calling the Panthers “Billy’s Boys.” The coach died four years later after a battle with leukemia. His legacy remains.
“He was just a joy to be around,” said Jared DeVries. “The way he handled not only the stars but the role players - it just boded well for us. We jelled.”
Time and tournaments march on. When Aplington joined with Parkersburg for the 1992-93 school year, the Falcons were formidable with the DeVries boys, Schipper and so on. They almost had a shot at another state title, but A-P lost in the substate final to Raef LaFrenz and MFL/Mar-Mac.
“It’s my strong belief that if we’d gotten past Raef, we would have won another one,” said Jared DeVries.
Chuckling, DeVries said his wife needles him about remembering old basketball scores. For a moment, though, it’s worth dusting off the numbers and the moments.
We are celebrating 100 years of state tournaments. The 1992 Falcons are a part of that history.
“It was quite the experience,” said Jared DeVries. “We went on quite a run.”