By Pat Harty
Your Prep Sports
IOWA CITY – Seniors Connor McCaffery and Devontae Lane have experienced a lot together in four seasons as members of the West High boys basketball team.
It’s what they didn’t experience, though, that really stands out.
Both can take pride in knowing that they never lost a game at home as top-ranked West extended its home winning streak to 75 games by pounding Pleasant Valley 71-44 in a Class 4A sub-state semifinal on Friday at the West gym.
“Thinking back, I’ve never lost one game at West High and this is my last home game, so it’s kind of sad,” Lane said. “But it’s worth the good hard work and I’ve learned a lot from it.
“But it’s just sad knowing I’ll never play here again.”
West’s next game will take place at the U.S. Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids on Tuesday against Muscatine with a berth to the state tournament on the line.
The Muskies are led by 6-foot-5 junior sensation Joe Wieskamp, who is verbally committed to Iowa.
“We’re excited,” said McCaffery, who led West with 24 points in Friday’s game on 9-of-12 shooting from the field. “We’re going to go to work. I’ve seen him play and I’ve played with Joe forever. I know what he’s going to bring. He’s going to make tough shots. We’re going to try to limit his touches.”
McCaffery and Lane both are familiar with Wieskamp’s game after playing with and against him on the AAU circuit.
“I don’t think you can stop anyone,” Lane said. “I just think you can put your best defender on him because good high school players are going to find a way to score. Their coach is going to find a way for him to score.
“So I just think you bring pressure at him, and the other four guys have to help.”
McCaffery, who also stands 6-5, can match Wieskamp in terms of size. McCaffery plays point guard for West on offense, but he guarded Pleasant Valley center Brian Dayman in Friday’s game.
McCaffery said Friday that he didn’t know if he would guard Wieskamp on Tuesday, but he would relish the challenge.
McCaffery’s 6-8 younger brother Patrick McCaffery also could draw Wieskamp as a defensive assignment.
“It’ll be a fun game,” said Connor McCaffery, who also is committed to play basketball for his father at Iowa.
West improved to 19-3 with Friday’s victory, while Pleasant Valley finished the season with an 11-12 record.
The Spartans played well early and only trailed 14-13 after the first quarter. Sophomore point guard Carter Duwa hurt West early with his penetration, scoring eight of his 16 points in the first quarter.
West then picked up the defensive intensity and held Pleasant Valley to just two points in the second quarter, which ended with West leading 27-15.
The third quarter was more of the same as Pleasant Valley only scored eight points.
Lane credited an early timeout by West coach Steve Bergman for sparking the defensive turnaround.
“He just told us to relax because in the first quarter we weren’t playing up to our potential,” Lane said. “We were letting them catch the ball on the perimeter and letting them swing and let them get easy post touches and kick it out.
“That’s why they were hanging in the game with us and then we picked it up defensively and got after it.”
Connor McCaffery showed his versatility on offense by making three 3-point baskets, to go along with scoring on several powerful drives to the rim.
And then on defense, he held the 6-5 Dayman to just nine points, which is five below his per-game average.
“We watched film on him and he has a move where he likes to go in the lane and he stops on a dime and shoots a little floater and I knew that was coming a couple times and I was able to block it and I think that may have frustrated him a little bit,” Connor McCaffery said. “He’s a good player. He had good numbers this year. I just tried to stay in front on him and then contest when he would shoot that shot.”
Lane scored 21 points on 8-of-12 shooting from the field in his last game at the West gym. No other player for West scored in double figures.
West shot over 50 percent from the field, making 25-of-41 field-goal attempts, including eight 3-point baskets. Pleasant Valley only made 18-of-45 field-goal attempts and was just 1-for-11 in the second quarter.
“I liked our defense after the first quarter,” Bergman said. “It was good. We got ahead by about twenty and they we did our normal relax a little bit, and they can make threes. And that’s what they did.
“But I thought we bounced back and did a good job and finished the game.”
Bergman was referring to a stretch in the second half in which Pleasant Valley sophomore Hunter Snyder made three of his four 3-point baskets. Snyder made a 3-pointer on two occasions in the fourth quarter that trimmed the lead to 15 points.
Duwa also made a free throw to cut the deficit to 50-34 with 5 minutes, 26 seconds left in the fourth quarter. West then answered with an 11-0 scoring run to put the game out of reach.
The Trojans are one victory from returning to the state tournament, where they lost to West Des Moines Valley in the title game last season. West finished third at state in 2015 after winning the Class 4A state title in 2014 when McCaffery and Lane were freshmen.
So no matter what happens in Tuesday’s game, a future Hawkeye will make the state tournament between Connor McCaffery and Wieskamp.
“I haven’t spent one minute looking at them or getting ready,” Bergman said of Muscatine. “That’ll start maybe right after this game, try to track down a little film. And then we’ll just go to work on that.”
Wieskamp will challenge West on defense perhaps like no other player in the state.
“He’s a load,” Bergman said. “He’s one of the best players in the state, obviously. So our guys I think will be excited to play against him.”
Pleasant Valley 13 2 8 21 – 44
West High 14 13 17 27 – 71
Pleasant Valley (44) – Carter Duwa 7-14 2-4 16, Alex Kitzmann 0-3 0-0 0, Hunter Snyder 4-8 0-0 12, Trevon Montgomery 1-4 0-0 2, Brian Dayman 4-8 0-0 9, Caleb Carius 1-3 1-2 3, Max Slavens 0-0 0-0 0, Michael Meyer 0-2 0-0 0, Peter Zucker 0-2 0-0 0, Cooper Edwards 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 18-45 3-6 44.
West High (71) – Connor McCaffery 9-12 3-6 24, Devontae Lane 8-12 3-5 21, Nate Disterhoft 2-2 1-2 5, Patrick McCaffery 3-6 1-2 8, Izaya Ono-Fullard 0-2 0-0 0, Seybian Sims 1-2 3-4 5, Hakeem Odunsi 1-2 2-2 5, Evan Flitz 1-3 0-0 3, Josh Van Roekel 0-0 0-0 0, Jake Anderson 0-0 0-0 0, Hirsche Henstrom 0-0 0-0 0, Mulhim Nasr 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 25-41 13-21 71.
3-point goals – Pleasant Valley 5 (Snyder 4, Dayman); West 8 (Connor McCaffery 3, Lane 2, Patrick McCaffery, Odunsi, Flitz). Fouls – Pleasant Valley 17, West 13.