ANAMOSA - It had been four years since the Anamosa boys’ basketball program last tasted a tournament victory.
Monday, Feb. 15, the Raiders posted to their first playoff win since Feb. 13, 2017, when then star point guard Matthew Walton led Anamosa to a lopsided 52-32 triumph over Bellevue in a class 2A district contest.
So, when the Anamosa boys walked off the floor following their impressive 47-36 victory in a 2A quarter-final contest hosting Cascade, there were all sorts of reasons for smiles and jubilation as the team once again advanced down the tournament trail.
“Cascade was a better team the last five games of the season and they started this one playing really well,” said Raider boys basketball coach Kevin Barnes, as his team trailed just twice in the entire contest (2-0 and 4-3), but made the plays they needed to make to keep the Cougars at bay.
“At the half I was not surprised and I felt like out kids were bummed. We talked that you have to give Cascade credit, they were playing well, but as we continued to talk, so were our guys.”
While the Cougars were hanging with the Raiders through three quarters of play, trailing just 22-16 entering the final frame, it was Anamosa who was able to take their game to another level.
“We just had to relax on offense,” Barnes said. “Make a few shots. It took us a while, but we got a little separation there in the third, but Cascade battled back. We just couldn’t seem to put them away. Then, in the fourth, we turned them over and scored on those possessions, got it to 15 and were breathing a little easier.”
The Raiders were absolutely phenomenal during the final eight-minute stretch, scoring 25 points, more than their total in the first three quarters combined, and pulled away from the Cougars stretching their lead to as many as 18 (45-27) with 2:20 to play after Sam Wilt grabbed a lob pass from Jake Jess and scored right at the rim.
Cascade also picked up the pace in the final frame scoring 20 points of their own, but once Eli Lehrman connected on a free throw with 4:22 to play, Anamosa had a double-digit lead for the first time and wouldn’t lose it the rest of the night.
Wilt played a huge role in the fourth quarter rally scoring 12 points of his game-high 22 points during the stretch.
“Sam was unbelievable tonight,” Barnes said. “He was just so good. It is was fun to watch him play like he played. He took over when we needed him to take over on both ends of the floor.”
The first three quarters were played at Cascade’s tempo, though the hosts were still able to hold leads at the first quarter horn (10-6) and the half (15-12). Anamosa stretched their lead to 10 in the third quarter when Zorrion Robertson scored to give the Raiders a 22-12 lead with 3:07 to play.
But the Cougars rallied back to make it a game before the late Anamosa heroics.
Anamosa wrapped an extremely successful regular season Tuesday, Feb. 9, the program’s best since the state tournament campaign that ended with a school-record 21 wins back in 2015-16, with a lopsided 54-33 victory at Tipton.
“This is the second time this season we’ve played after a week lay-off, and at times I thought it looked like it,” Barnes said. “Defensively, I thought we were really good all night long. The kids communicated well and made the plays we were capable of making on the defensive end.”
While the Raider offense struggled to get going in the first eight minutes, it was Anamosa’s defense that was dominant holding the Tigers to a mere four points in the opening quarter while tallying 11 of their own to take a quick lead.
The second stanza saw the visitors begin to find a bit of their rhythm offensively, scoring 15 in the stretch while still locking the Tipton offense down, holding the hosts to a mere eight and led 27-12 at the half
“Offensively, I thought we made enough plays when we had to in the first half and pushed our lead out to 14 at the half,” Barnes said. The third quarter was not good for us on the offensive end, we just looked out of sync a couple of times and turned it over too many times and that allowed Tipton to creep back into the game.”
Anamosa stretched their lead to as many as 17 (29-12) early in the third quarter before the Tigers closed on a 10-6 run to pull to within 13 points (35-22) at the horn.
It would be as close as they’d get the rest of the way.
“The fourth quarter was better,” Barnes said. “We looked like ourselves and pulled away down the stretch.”
Zorrion Robertson, Jake Jess and Justin Tjaden all connected from beyond the 3-point arc in the final frame as the Raiders closed the game on a 19-11 run.
“I thought we had a couple of guys play their best games of the season against Tipton,” Barnes said. “Jake looked really good. He knocked down two big treys for us, but more importantly, I thought he was really active on the defensive end for us.
“Zorrion was really good on both ends for us. He just seems to be getting more and more comfortable each night out. I think the game is really starting to slow down for him.”
Sam Wilt led a very balanced Anamosa scoring attack tallying 13 points while also adding nine rebounds, seven assists, six steals and three blocked shots during his amazingly efficient night. Trae Klatt added 11 points, the only other Raider player in double-figures while Robertson came off the bench and scored eight. Jess (6 points), Grahm Humpal (4), Eli Lehrman (3), Tjaden (3), Caleb Otting (2), Andrew Morris (2) and Sage Hoyt (2) also notched their names into the scorebook.
“I told the kids after the game, I am just so proud of where we are at,” Barnes said. “We have become a very good basketball team and I don’t think we are done getting better.
“Your goal is to be playing your best basketball at this time of the year, and I feel like we are getting better each time out.”