By Pat Harty
Your Prep Sports
IOWA CITY – A warning to opponents of the West High boys basketball team:
Patrick McCaffery is a year older, a year wiser, one-inch taller, more confident and significantly stronger than he was last season.
The 6-foot-8 sophomore forward showcased all of his skills while helping West pound perennial power Marian Catholic from Illinois 72-42 in the season opener on Friday at West.
McCaffery scored 18 points on 9-of-11 shooting from the field. Two of his baskets were dunks and he also blocked three shots.
“He’s really kind of come together as a player,” said Patrick’s older brother and teammate, Connor McCaffery. “Athletically, he’s grown into his body. He’s long. He can shoot it. He’s a good finisher. He’s really figuring it all out.
“Defensively, he’s blocking shots. He’s staying in front of people. He’s getting stronger. He’s taking hits a lot better than he used to. You wouldn’t think that by looking at him, but he’s really gotten stronger and I’m proud of him.”
Patrick McCaffery showed flashes of brilliance as a freshman reserve for West last season, but he struggled with consistency and his slender frame took a pounding.
Patrick still was struggling with some of the effects from having a malignant tumor removed from his thyroid when his freshman season started a year ago.
He has since had a year to get healthier and to get stronger and it was easy to tell on Friday as he absorbed contact in the lane with little problem. He also moved well on the perimeter and used his length to get easy looks near the basket.
“I’m a lot more comfortable,” Patrick said. “The offense is flowing a lot better. I’m getting more touches and more shots. And everything is just flowing better as a whole. We’re going to have a pretty good team this year.”
The McCaffery brothers were among three players for West who scored in double figures, led by 6-6 Connor McCaffery with 19 points. Senior guard Devontae Lane scored 14 points and junior guard Evan Flitz scored eight points off the bench.
The Trojans overcame a sluggish start to lead 12-10 after the first quarter. The lead swelled to 29-20 at halftime and to 51-29 after three quarters.
Marian Catholic only made 18-of-49 field-goal attempts and didn’t score more than 13 points in any quarter.
“Defensively, this is exactly what we wanted to do,” Connor McCaffery said. “We came out and we held them to 42 (points). That is definitely a goal of ours.
“And then offensively, in that first quarter we weren’t getting out and running like we wanted to. And in that second half, I just thought we really got out and started running and that’s when we got some easy opportunities and that’s when we really extended the lead.”
Marian Catholic scored the first four points in the game, which caused West coach Steve Bergman to call a timeout. Bergman then delivered a stern message to his players.
“He was mad because we didn’t sprint back on defense and that was understandable,” said Connor McCaffery, who has made a verbal commitment to play basketball for his father, Fran McCaffery, at the University of Iowa. “We ran a play and we screwed it up and we didn’t all sprint back. So that’s what he was unhappy about.”
Bergman’s mood had changed by the end of the game.
Asked if he was surprised by the margin of victory, Bergman said:
“A little bit. I didn’t know with no scouting (report). But the scout was pretty bad because everybody (Marian Catholic) played last week played zone.
“So I had an idea what they were going to do.”
Bergman was pleased with how Patrick McCaffery attacked the rim on offense.
“He can make perimeter shots, too, but he didn’t to today,” Bergman said. “And I thought he did a great job today of passing up the perimeter shot and getting to the rim.”
Connor McCaffery also used his height to his advantage on offense, with most of his baskets coming on penetration or on plays in which Connor posted up his defender.
“I think for sure I’ll try to get inside some,” Connor McCaffery said. “Some of my threes were going in and out. So I thought I’d get some easy ones in the paint. They had some smaller guards and I think I’m going to have a lot of mismatches this year, so I’ll be able to exploit that.”
Patrick McCaffery looks forward to playing with his older brother for one more season in high school. They both likely will be reunited at Iowa, but they want to make the most of this special opportunity.
“It’s really fun,” Connor said of playing with his younger brother. “It’s something that not everyone gets to do. And I’m happy to do it.”
Patrick enjoys his role on the team.
“It’s really fun playing with these guys,” Patrick said. “I’ve been playing with Connor and Devontae since sixth grade. Those are my brothers. This is going to be a real fun year.”
Marian Catholic 10 10 9 13 – 42
West High 12 17 22 21 – 72
Marian Catholic (42) – Chase Adams 0-7 0-1, 0, Brandon Hurt 1-8 1-2 3, Sean Taylor 2-10 1-2 6, Warren Allen 2-3 0-1 4, Tee Aaron Powell 1-3 0-0 2, Victor Akinyemi 5-5 2-2 12, Chris White 3-4 0-1 6, Malik Tidwell 2-3 0-0 4, Ahron Ulis 1-4 1-1 3, Joseph Stith 1-1 0-1 2, Josh Smith 0-0 0-0 0, Timothy Jones 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 18-49, 5-11 42.
West (72) – Connor McCaffery 6-13 6-7 19, Patrick McCaffery 9-11 0-0 18, Devontae Lane 4-10, 6-6 14, Seybian Sims 1-1 0-0 2, Izaya Ono-Fullard 2-5 0-0 5, Nate Disterhoft 1-3 1-2 4, Evan Flitz 3-4 0-0 8, Dante Eldridge 0-0 0-0 0, Josh Van Roekel 1-1 0-0 2, Jacob Anderson 0-0 0-0 0, Hirsche Henstrom 0-1 0-0 0, Timothy Hillberry 0-0 0-0 0, Raijad Lee 0-1 0-0 0, Mulhim Nasr 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 27-50 13-15 72.
3-point goals – Marian (Taylor); West (Flitz 2, C. McCaffery, Flitz, Ono-Fullard. Fouls – Marian Catholic 15, West – 14.