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CEDAR FALLS - March Madness came early for the Waverly-Shell Rock and Decorah boys' basketball teams.

The Northeast Iowa Conference members each surged past the .500 mark in February and suddenly found themselves one game from a berth in the Class 3A state tournament.

Each team's strong postseason run came to an abrupt end, however, Monday night at the McLeod Center. Forest City handed Waverly-Shell Rock a 64-55 setback, while Western Dubuque of Epworth defeated Decorah, 59-46, in a substate final doubleheader.

The big-game atmosphere was new to a youthful Waverly-Shell Rock team (12-11) that struggled to find its offensive rhythm early, making just 6 of 23 first-half field goals. Forest City (21-3) countered with an 11-0 run that included 10 consecutive points from coaches' son Kyle Rosacker to build a 39-29 halftime lead.

Three years removed from the state championship season of 2007, the substate final was the first for the entire Go-Hawks' roster.

"I was really hoping that we could come out early and just get a couple shots to fall and kind get that deep breath out of the way, and it never happened," W-SR head coach Nate Steege said. "I think we were just a little bit tense.

"None of these kids have been in a substate game before. It's just a different atmosphere."

After trailing by as many as 15 points in the opening half, Waverly-Shell Rock rallied behind sophomore Matt Mummelthei's 10 fourth-quarter points. The sophomore hit a 3-pointer with 3 minutes, 58 seconds remaining to close the gap to 47-41, but Forest City wouldn't surrender.

The Indians, in their third consecutive substate final, leaned on speedy senior point guard Tyler Putz who hit 19 of 24 free throws and finished with 28 points.

"I've had to really work for my points," said Putz who's averaging 23.7 per game. "Every team I play against, layups aren't really something I plan to get. Sometimes free throws are the only easy points I can get. I've always been the type of player that can get to the line and make free throws."

Added Steege, "We worked all week on controlling his penetration and we knew that he was going to get to the foul line because he gets in there off two feet strong and finishes well. We didn't execute very well. We gave him too many lanes."

With just two seniors on a roster that easily goes 10 deep, it's safe to say the future of Waverly-Shell Rock basketball is promising.

"I told them we're proud of you and we want you to hold your head up high when you walk out of that locker room because no one expected you to be here and you went above and beyond what people thought you could do," said Steege, whose team handed Charles City its second loss of the season in the district final. "We're going to miss our two seniors to death, but the other 13 guys sitting in there are back, so they've got to learn from this loss and make sure that helps propel them in the future."

For Decorah (13-11), the postseason run capped a transformation coach David Brown and the Vikings have made over the past four seasons. With seniors serving as the team's top six scorers, Decorah reached its first substate final since 1995.

Western Dubuque (19-4) used an inside-out combination of 6-foot-8 center Derrick Pape and Zach Otting to prevent the Vikings from their first state tournament appearance since 1977. Pape hit 8 of 9 shots from the field and finished with a game-high 19 points, while Otting added 18.

Decorah was led by Steve Drost who scored 16 points in his final game. Seniors Chris Wanless and Drew Olinger added eight and seven points, respectively.

"They've given me 100 percent every practice, every day for the last four years and it's helped me change the program in Decorah," Brown said of his deep senior class.

FOREST CITY 64, WAVERLY-SR 55

WAVERLY-SHELL ROCK (12-10) - Jordan David 0-6 0-2 0, Eric Larson 1-1 0-0 3, Jesse Hendrickson 1-1 0-2 3, Brandon Steggall 1-3 0-0 2, Jackson Litterer 1-3 0-0 3, Connor Coleman 2-11 4-6 9, Derek Reusche 1-3 3-4 5, Adam McAfee 0-1 0-0 0, Blake Wilson 4-5 0-0 8, Brandon Hoefer 0-4 0-0 0, Matt Mummelthei 6-10 2-3 17, Luke Wright 2-3 3-4 7. Totals 18-51 13-24 55.

FOREST CITY (20-3) - Tyler Putz 4-16 19-24 28, Alex Johnson 1-2 0-0 2, Kyle Rosacker 5-11 2-2 15, Andrew Rosacker 0-1 2-4 2, Aaron Anderson 1-2 1-2 3, Tyler Flugum 1-3 1-2 3, Derek Amundson 3-6 0-0 6, Justin Putney 1-2 0-0 2, Matt Snyder 1-2 1-2 3. Totals 17-46 26-36 64

Waverly-Shell Rock 7 12 12 24 - 55

Forest City 10 19 11 24 - 64

3-point goals - W-SR 5 (Mummelthei 3, Coleman, Larson), FC 4 (K. Rosacker 3, Putz). Total fouls - W-SR, FC 12. Fouled out - none.

W. DUBUQUE 59, DECORAH 46

DECORAH (13-11) - Robby Jewell 0-0 0-0 2, Steve Drost 7-11 2-2 16, Drew Olinger 3-9 0-0 7, Chris Wanless 4-9 0-0 8, Isaiah Brown 2-11 0-0 5, Dane Huinker 2-4 0-0 5, Martin Stalberger 2-2 0-0 5. Totals 20-46 2-2 46.

WESTERN DUBUQUE (19-5) - Logan Pitz 1-4 1-3 3, Zach Otting 6-9 4-4 18, Sam Hoeger 2-2 1-2 6, Derrick Pape 8-9 3-4 19, Hunter Westhoff 2-3 1-1 5, Nick Tuttle 3-6 0-0 8. Totals 22-33 10-14 59.

Decorah 8 7 11 18 - 46

W. Dubuque 13 11 18 17 - 59

3-point goals - Dec 4 (Olinger, Brown, Huinker, Stalberger); WD 5 (Otting 2, Tuttle 2, Hoeger 1. Total fouls Dec 9, WD 10. Fouled out - none.

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