I was blessed to have been able to watch some extremely good basketball back in 1995-96, from numerous area teams and at numerous levels.
Thankfully I would continue to over much of the next 25 years as well.
One of the very best I have ever seen get out and run the floor as if hoops were actually a frenetic track meet was from the Olin boys during that wild and wacky winter that also included a blizzard, costing all of the AJ-E’s area schools numerous contests.
Not only was I amazed with the pace and style this incredibly talented group of boys were able to play at, but I was floored by some of the numbers they were able to post under coach Bob Dolan.
During the 1995-96 pre-season, several publications had their usual top-10 lists making predictions of who would do what during the season. The Lions were one of the programs area journalists were talking about, many picking the small-town school among the top-5 programs in the state in class 1A.
Why, do you ask?
The Olin boys’ basketball team hadn’t made the state tournament the year before and weren’t perennially one of Iowa’s class 1A hoop powerhouses. But, the Lions had Lars Wogen, Kahm Sauer, Nathan VonBehren, Torrey Wogen, Jesse VonBehren, Kyle VonBehren and Eric Skoff, just to name a few.
I’m guessing that’s why.
The Lions pressed relentlessly on defense, and when they grabbed the rebound, or even off a made basket by the opponent, sprinted up the floor and wasted very little time in getting off a shot (which was usually a high-percentage look right at the rim).
Olin scored 70-or-more points 10 times that season, including a school-record 102-point outburst against Bennett (102-72) on Feb. 5, and a 98-point shellacking of Central City (98-63) in a class 1A district playoff game on Feb. 22.
The run sadly came to an end with an 83-66 district loss at North Linn Feb. 26, ending an epic Olin campaign that saw the team set a mind-boggling 24 school records.
The Lions were 13-7 overall, not the kind of season they were hoping for coming in, but the run the team put their fans through that winter was nothing short of spectacular.
I won’t list all 24 school records (I’ve already mentioned one), but the 13 wins was another, shattering the old mark of 10 while Lars Wogen’s 39-point performance in the 30-point rout over Bennett, was another big one.
Lars Wogen closed his career in grand style leading the Lions averaging 18.7 points per game while Sauer, another senior, poured in 18.0 a night as the dynamic duo proved to be nearly unstoppable every night out.
“Last year we knocked on the door,” said Dolan after the season. “This year we busted it down and next year we’re going to step through it because the boys now know how to win.
“We’re trying to build a winning tradition here, and now that we’re off, we need to keep it going.”
Another team that made the ’95-’96 season oh so memorable for me was the performance from the Anamosa sophomore boys, who rolled to a 17-1 record dropping only a one-point final (70-69) against West Delaware at about at the mid-point of the season, and were undefeated in Big Bend Conference action (yes, West Delaware was not in the Big Bend) cruising to a sophomore league championship.
James Conmey (15.3 points per game), Mike Truesdell (14.8), Dan Achenbach (13.5) and Cory Capron (10.4) all scored in double-figures during that amazing run while Matt Rohwedder was the team’s top rebounder and also scored 8.5 points a night. All were key reasons why that team was so tough to beat, while Bobby Luker, Ben Brink and Mike Conmey, just to name a few, also played their roles to perfection.
“It’s going to be fun to watch the next couple of years and see how those players do at the varsity level,” said Anamosa sophomore boys basketball coach Curt Duwe at their ‘96 post-season banquet.
“It’s a much different game at that level. They’ll have to make adjustments in their game to succeed, but I think they’ve got the work ethic to do it.”
Indeed they did, as that gifted class, by their senior years, produced some of the most memorable hoop moments in school history.
We’ll talk more about those in the weeks to come.