By Ryan Murken
Your Prep Sports
MUSCATINE – The perfect ending to a brilliant senior season and decorated prep career for Cooper Kabela would have been leading West Branch to its first state tournament in program history.
Kabela and the Bears came up five minutes shy of that historic ending on Saturday.
Sixth-ranked Camanche used an 11-0 run in the final five minutes to snap a 70-all tie and advance to the 2A state tournament with a wild and entertaining 86-80 win over West Branch in the Substate 4 title game at Muscatine.
“Our guys played their hearts out, you can’t take that away from them,” West Branch coach Tom Burger said. “I think Camanche just had more gas in the tank.”
The loss snapped a 12-game winning streak for West Branch (18-6) which hadn’t lost since a January 6 setback to Northeast.
Camanche improved to 22-2 on the season and advanced to the state tournament for the first time since 1985 with its eighth straight win.
“It was a great game, give them all the credit in the world for pulling it off,” Kabela said. “Back and forth, they hit a shot, we hit a shot it was just a great game to be a part of.”
Just as he has all season Kabela stared in his final game in a West Branch uniform.
The 6-foot-4 senior had 32 points, 10 rebounds and seven blocks in the final game of his prep career, finishing his senior season with a West Branch single-season best 572 points.
“In West Branch there is no reason that all athletics can’t be really good and Cooper was part of the reason why West Branch basketball was put back on the map tonight,” Burger said. “There have been a lot of good players that have graduated from West Branch and I think he’s going to be right up there as one of the most decorated careers.”
The rematch of River Valley Conference rivals lived up to the billing from the beginning.
West Branch led 18-17 after the opening quarter and took its biggest lead of the game at 33-24 on a Kabela 3-pointer with 4:41 left in the second quarter.
Sophomore Beau Cornwell had 14 of his 22 first-half points in a 28-point West Branch second quarter that gave the Bears a 46-42 halftime lead.
Led by Cornwell’s three 3-pointers, West Branch had six triples in the second quarter and eight of its 3-pointers in the game came in a frantic and fast-paced first half.
“Both teams were hitting shots, we were all heating up,” Cornwell said. “It was really fun.”
The frantic pace continued in the third quarter.
West Branch used a 10-2 run that was capped by back-to-back Brett Schiele 3-pointers to take a 63-59 lead with 42 seconds left.
Camanche scored the final five points of the quarter, all in the final 17 seconds to take a 64-63 lead.
“They made a couple of big shots and their crowd was electric and I think that’s really what got them going,” Cornwell said.
The game was set up to go down to the wire after a Kabela bucket in the paint tied the score at 70 with 5:21 left.
Camanche finally took control, holding West Branch scoreless for more than three minutes during an 11-0 run.
“We weren’t getting stops and all of a sudden they hit a couple of big 3s and got a couple of calls that I didn’t agree with,” Burger said. “That’s all part of the game and unfortunately it came at a bad time.”
A Dylan Hundley basket put Camanche up 72-70 and the Indians then broke the game open with five points in 23 seconds on a 3-pointer by Dakota Soenksen and a steal and layup by Hundley.
Two free throws by Cameron Soenksen 15 seconds later put Camanche up 79-70 with 2:45 left.
“We had some untimely turnovers and they went on a little bit of a run,” Kabela said. “We just didn’t have enough time to come back and kudos to them they hit their free throws and we ran out of time.”
Hundley led Camanche with 21 points and 12 rebounds while Cameron Soenksen finished with 20 points and Dakota Soenksen had 18 as Camanche shot 43 percent from the field.
“That is a hard system to play against,” Burger said of Camanche. “I don’t know if it’s a system that is going to be good in Des Moines but if they get people to play at this pace it might be.”
Cornwell finished with 26 points, nine rebounds and three assists and Ben Thompson had nine points for Wet Branch.
The Bears shot 46 percent from the field and finished 11-of-26 from 3-point range.
“They made some nice adjustments and we had some open shots we just didn’t knock them down,” Burger said. “I thought our kids played with fire.”
West Branch 18 28 17 17 – 80
Camanche 17 25 22 22 – 86
West Branch (80) – Beau Cornwell 9-20 2-5 26, Brady Lukavsky 1-1 0-0 2, Tanner Lukavsky 0-3 4-4 4, Brett Schiele 2-7 0-0 6, Cooper Kabela 11-17 7-8 32, Ben Thompson 4-7 1-3 9, Ted Bridges 0-4 0-0 0, Trey Eagle 0-0 1-2 1, Team 27-59 16-22 80.
Camanche (86) – Dev Patel 2-11 6-7 11, Matthew Austin 0-1 1-2 1, Dakota Soenksen 6-17 4-8 18, Cameron Soenksen 5-16 5-5 20, Dylan Hundley 9-11 2-2 21, David Gonzalez 5-8 0-1 10, Calvin Ottens 2-4 1-2 5, Team 29-68 19-27 86.
3-point field goals – WB 11-26 (Cornwell 5-13, T. Lukavsky 0-2, Schiele 2-7, Kabela 3-4), CAM 9-25 (Patel 1-4, Austin 0-1, D. Soenksen 2-5, C. Soenksen 5-13, Hundley 1-2).
Rebounds – WB 34 (Kabela 10), CAM 43 (Hundley 12). Turnovers – WB 11, CAM 10. Total fouls – WB 19, CAM 17. Fouled out – Camanche (Gonzalez). Technical fouls – None.