DES MOINES - Just by stepping onto the Wells Fargo Arena court Monday, March 9, in Des Moines, the Springville boys’ basketball team was making program hoop history.
As just the second Oriole boys’ basketball team to ever play at the state level, and first since 1975, this group of boys will go down in the annals as one of the greatest to ever play the game in Springville.
But they wanted so much more against second-seeded and fourth-ranked Algona Bishop Garrigan in a class 1A quarter-final, and the seventh-seeded Orioles just about got it.
“There weren’t too many people who gave us much of a chance of beating Bishop Garrigan coming into this game,” said Springville boys basketball coach Nick Merritt, as his team had the Golden Bears on the ropes in the fourth quarter holding an amazing seven-point lead with 5:23 to play before Bishop Garrigan rallied going on a 14-4 run to close the game and advance to the 1A semi-final round with a wild 55-52 victory.
“I know we’re all supposed to be disappointed in this loss, and while I am too, I’m also extremely happy with what our boys were able to accomplish not only in this game, but this entire season. It’s been a dream run, and we made one heck of a run in this game and just about made the plays to keep our season going. Our goal was to come down here and play three games. That’s everyone’s goal who makes it here to state. We just about got that done against a very good Bishop Garrigan team and we have nothing to be disappointed about. Once again, our boys showed they can play with anybody, we just couldn’t quite make enough plays down the stretch to get this win, but we sure gave ourselves the chances we needed, and that’s all you can ask for. A chance.”
Springville, who led by as many as eight points late in the third quarter when Rhenden Wagaman drilled a 3-pointer with 1:53 to play in the frame, had their biggest lead of the contest at 44-36, and Golden Bear fans were in full panic mode.
“When their big man (Angelo Winkel) went out with his fourth foul, we were able to make a nice run and build a lead,” said Oriole junior Alex Koppes, who had another phenomenal playoff performance scoring a team-high 21 points.
“We were able to crash the boards better and get into the lane and score a little more than when he was out there guarding the paint.”
The Springville boys took full advance of Bishop Garrigan’s 6-foot-9-inch post player being out of the game going from trailing 32-27 when Winkel was whistled for his fourth foul with 5:24 to play in the third quarter, to going on a 17-4 run taking the eight-point lead thanks to Wagaman’s trey.
Golden Bears head coach Mark Meister could sense things beginning to slip away for his team and after sitting Winkel for just three minutes, inserted the big man back into the game.
“That was a pretty gutsy move on his part,” Merritt said. “But we were making a run and I’m sure he figured he had to do something.”
In the end, the move to put Winkel back in changed the entire flow of the game.
“I think that was the difference in the game, when their big man came back into the game,” said Oriole junior Bryce Wilson, who battled Winkel for four intense quarters.
“We did a great job of taking advantage of the opportunity when he went out with the four fouls, but when he came back in you could sense momentum changing. Though I though we were able to maintain our lead for quite a while there even with him on the floor. We just struggled to hit shots down the stretch. It happens. We just wish it wouldn’t have happened here at the state tournament.”
Even with Winkel on the floor for the Golden Bears, when Luke Menster scored at the 5:22 mark of the fourth quarter, Springville had a 48-41 lead.
From there on out however, offense would become a struggle for the Orioles.
“When we get out and run, good things happen,” said Wagaman, a Springville sophomore. “In the third quarter and into the fourth we were able to do what we wanted to do and play at the tempo we wanted instead of letting them try and slow the game down. Then down the stretch we struggled and they were able to make shots.”
Bishop Garrigan’s John Joyce drilled a trey with 4:45 to play to ignite the Golden Bears’ late run, before Winkel scored five straight points to allow the Golden Bears to knot the score at 48-48 with 3:45 remaining.
The Orioles would never see the lead again, but even with Bishop Garrigan fans going wild, they continued to battle.
Joyce scored again with 3:04 remaining handing the Golden Bears their first lead (50-48) since the 5:01 mark of the third quarter (32-31).
Wagaman quickly came back and scored on a driving lay-up to tie the score once again at 50-50 with 2:44 to play, but when Winkel converted on a short jumper with 2:30 left, Bishop Garrigan had a lead they would not lose.
Though there was still plenty of drama to be played out over those final two and a half minutes.
Trailing 53-50 with just 17.1 seconds left, Koppes was fouled and calmly swished a pair of free throws to pull the Orioles to within a point at 53-52.
After Springville quickly forced the Golden Bears into a turnover, Springville had their chance to take the lead back when Koppes was fouled with 15.3-seconds to play.
“I’ve been shooting free throws well all year, and all post-season long too, but I missed there,” said Koppes, who had the front end of the 1-and-1 attempt just rim out.
“We still had our chances down the stretch, but we couldn’t get the rebound and they hit the free throws they needed to win.”
Winkel, who rebounded the missed Oriole free throw, was fouled immediately and went to the free throw line for Bishop Garrigan on the other end of the floor where he missed, but the ball bounded right back to him before he quickly passed to Joyce, who was fouled with 9.5-seconds left in the game.
Joyce hit both charity stripe attempts to give the Golden Bears a 53-50 lead before the Orioles’ game-tying 3-point attempt just before the final horn sounded was blocked.
“It stinks to lose like this, but we’re proud to have been down here representing Springville at the state tournament,” Koppes said. “We’re going to do the work we need to in the off-season to make sure we can get back here next year, too. We’re hoping this is just the beginning for Springville boys’ basketball and making trips to the state tournament.”
The Orioles got off to a sensational start to the game as senior Kyle Koppes drilled back-to-back 3-point baskets to give Springville an early 8-2 lead as the team took a 15-12 advantage into the second stanza.
Bishop Garrigan rallied going on a 13-2 run taking a 25-17 lead with 1:43 to play in the half before a Wilson field goal and Alex Koppes trey had the Orioles down just three points (25-22) at the half.
“Our goal next year is to get back here and play three games,” Wilson said. “This was an amazing experience this year, and I want to do it again next year, too. We’ll do what it takes in the off-season to get that done.”
Springville shot 32-percent from the field (19-of-59) and from 3-point land (6-of-19) while Alex Koppes was 7-of-12 shooting overall, 2-of-4 from the arc and 5-of-6 from the free throw line.
Wagaman added nine points while Wilson and Menster chipped in with eight points each.
Bishop Garrigan dominated the boards ripping down 48 in the game while holding the Orioles to 26. Springville did force the Golden Bears into 21 turnovers while having just 11 of their own.
“We didn’t play our best game, especially compared to the way we have been shooting this entire post-season,” Merritt said. “Some of that was because of Bishop Garrigan and some of that was because good shots just were not going down for us. This loss hurts, but I’m not disappointed. Only eight teams in all of class 1A get the chance to play at state and we were one of them. We have a lot to be proud of.”