BELLEVUE - Anamosa’s Kevin Barnes as been at this basketball coaching thing for a long, long time.
Nearly 25 years in Anamosa alone to be exact.
But there was something very different about the Raiders’ season-opening contest at Bellevue Friday, Dec. 4, that brought back some nerve-racking emotions from long ago for Barnes.
“I told the kids before the start, I felt like I was coaching my first game ever against Bellevue,” said Barnes, as his team gave him no need for worry rallying for an impressive 53-43 victory over the Comets.
“There’s just so many things to take into account now with all the COVID protocols, but as for the game itself, the first eight minutes we had a really hard time with our defense. The next eight it got better and the eight after that and so on.”
Bellevue took complete command of the game early on jumping to an 16-8 first quarter advantage before momentum quickly began shift to Anamosa’s side, and there was a reason for that massive change as well.
Raider junior Sam Wilt broke loose after stealing the basketball and on a breakaway slammed down an emphatic dunk that seemed to wake the Raider offense up as the team was in control from that point on.
“I give our kids a ton of credit,” Barnes said. “To play after only four days of practice and to play as well as we did is just a compliment to them.”
Wilt’s dunk sparked a 20-7 second quarter run, and in a contest that had all the looks of being a season-opening defeat, instead saw Anamosa take a 28-23 lead heading into the halftime break.
They would never trail again, though the talented Comets did make several runs over the final two quarters.
“The third quarter was good for us and I thought we did a lot of good things,” said Barnes, as his team held off the hosts going on a 25-20 second half run.
“Andrew (Morris) and Sam were in a little foul trouble, but I thought our guys battled through and that pushed us out to a 10-point lead.”
The Raiders (1-0, 1-0) led 43-33 early in the final frame as clutch fourth quarter shooting from Morris, Trae Klatt and Caleb Otting held keep the Comets at bay.
“We are a very long ways from perfect, but we got better as the game went on,” Barnes said. “I was worried before the game about a lot of things, well, almost everything really. The one thing I was not worried about was our effort. I was very confident this group would play hard, they had gone really hard in practices this week.”
Morris led all Anamosa scorers pouring in 13 points while Klatt added nine more. Jake Jess chipped in with eight points, including a pair of 3-pointers while Otting finished with seven points.
“Normally, we have 75 open gyms, 25 summer practices and 12 pre-season practices before our first game,” Barnes said. “This year we had a grand total of 12 open gyms and four pre-season practices. So, some of the things we saw tonight certainly go under the rusty category, but I thought we really took care of the ball and shot it pretty decently, too.
“Making baskets allows us to get into our pressure and I thought that pressure was the difference in the game. In the end though, it was seriously just a win to get to take the court.”