Your Prep Sports
Each of the past two seasons for West Branch have followed a similar script with comparable conclusions.
Back-to-back strong seasons that have produced 16 and 18 wins under head coach Jason Kern have each ended with close losses in the Class 2A substate semifinals.
This season the Bears are looking to a write a different and much happier ending to another exceptional season.
Class 2A eighth-ranked West Branch (19-2) will be seeking its first ever state tournament appearance when it takes on Dyersville Beckman (15-7) in the 2A, Substate 4 title game on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at Maquoketa High School.
Before the two teams tip off on Saturday night here is a quick look at what to expect in what should be an excellent substate title game.
Class 2A, Substate 4
West Branch (19-2) vs. Dyersville Beckman (15-7)
When:Saturday, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Maquoketa High School
Top Players: West Branch – Jeff Bowie, 6-5, Sr., 12.7 points, 6 rebounds, 1.1 blocks; Simon Palmer, 6-5, Sr., 11.6 points, 6.7 rebounds, 2.8 assists. Dyersville Beckman – Padraig Gallagher, 6-4, Soph., 13.8 points, 5.6 rebounds, 2.4 assists; Jack Gehling, 6-5, Sr., 10.7 points, 6.5 rebounds.
About the Bears: West Branch has shaken off a 19-point loss to Class 3A second-ranked Monticello in its regular season finale to win back-to-back postseason games over River Valley Conference foes.
The Bears defeated Tipton 61-40 and pulled away from Anamosa late for a 51-42 win in the Substate 4 semifinal on Tuesday.
West Branch will get its biggest test of the postseason on Saturday in the form of a red-hot Dyersville Beckman team that has won five straight.
The Bears are making their first appearance in a substate final since 2017 when they lost to Camanche 86-80.
A key for West Branch has been offensive balance.
Four players are averaging more than 9.3 points per game for West Branch this season led by senior forward Jeff Bowie with 12.7.
In two substate wins six different Bears have scored at least seven points and four different players have hit double figures in the postseason wins over Tipton and Anamosa.
Spreading the wealth offensively is a must for West Branch against a stingy Beckman team that is holding opponents to 49.3 points per game this season.
About the Blazers: Among the most consistently successful programs in the eastern half of the state over the last two decades Dyersville Beckman is a perennial tournament contender but will be looking to snap a long state tournament drought on Saturday.
The Blazers have posted 15 consecutive winning seasons, winning at least 14 games every season during that stretch and have 10 seasons with 16 or more wins since 2006.
Even with all the success Dyersville Beckman will be seeking its first state tournament appearance since 2007 on Saturday.
The Blazers just missed a return trip to the state tournament last season going 18-6 but falling to Monticello 42-41 in the substate final.
Dyersville Beckman started the season 7-1 but lost seven of its next 10 after losing leading scorer Mason White for the season with an injury.
The Blazers put it all together in time to make another postseason run, closing the regular season with three consecutive wins before posting a 58-54 quarterfinal win over Jesup in overtime and downing Waukon 55-49 in the substate semifinals.
All seven losses for Beckman this season have come to Class 3A competition with two losses each to Marion, Solon and Mount Vernon along with a 16-point setback to Clear Creek Amana.
Dyersville Beckman has its own offensive balance led by sophomore guard Padraig Gallagher who is averaging 13.8 points per game.
Senior forward Jack Gehling (6-5) averages 10.7 points, junior Logan Goedken 8.6 points and 6.5 rebounds and 6-foot-6 senior center Jacob Hermsen 7.6 points and 4.7 boards.
What to Watch: While both teams have as many as five or six players capable of putting up double figure point totals both sides have a player that makes it all go.
For Dyersville Beckman that player is Gallagher, a 6-foot-4 guard who has been at his best in the postseason.
Gallagher is averaging 23.5 points on 71 percent shooting during the postseason and has made 9-of-13 3-point attempts during back-to-back substate wins.
Gallagher is also averaging 5.5 rebounds and three assists helping the Blazers average 56.5 points per game during postseason play.
West Branch doesn’t have to shut Gallagher down but the Bears will need to hold him in check, make him work and don’t let him have that type of efficiency from the floor to win the game.
Largely due to the efficiency of Gallagher the Blazers are shooting 51 percent from the field during the postseason and another shooting performance like that will be tough for West Branch to overcome.
Conversely, West Branch will look to continue its own hot postseason that has seen the Bears shoot 45 percent from 3-point range the past two games.
Dyersville Beckman will almost surely attempt to take away Simon Palmer and Jeff Bowie and if they do there will likely be open 3-point looks for senior Gavin Hierseman (47%), Peyton Miller (24%), Holden Arnaman (35%) and Thomas Gould (32%) a strong shooting performance from that combination could be what it takes for West Branch to reach the state tournament.