The Western Dubuque boys basketball team played two very similar games and got two very similar results. The Bobcats hosted Cedar Rapids Prairie Feb. 4 and lost, 76-57, and hosted Cedar Falls Feb. 8 and lost, 74-57.

In both games, they lost touch with their opponents at halftime, played a strong third quarter were they made up some ground, but let things get away in the fourth quarter.

“We didn’t box out. We didn’t hustle back. We didn’t have any back side help. We just didn’t do the things you need to do in the Valley to win basketball games,” said Wayne Cusick, head coach of the Bobcats. “That’s just how good this league is. It’s very hard to win games when you make mistakes because every team in the Mississippi Valley will capitalize on mistakes.”

Against Cedar Rapids Prairie, the Bobcats turned to their bench to give them a charge and Kale Cartee and Grant Kelchen responded as they both scored a season-high 16 points in the loss. Dylan Johnson also scored 15 points, but the Bobcats couldn’t recover after being down 41-23 at halftime. The Bobcats outscored the Hawks 22-16, but were unable to keep it going in the fourth quarter.

Four nights later, the Bobcats put up a fight against the defending Class 4A champions. Down by six after Cedar Falls’ first possession in the second quarter, the Bobcats went on a 14-3 run to hold a 26-21 lead with 4:41 left to play. Calvin Harris scored eight points during the run, including two three-pointers, with Sam Goodman and Payton Quagliano contributing threes of their own. However, the Tigers responded by closing the half on a 22-7 run to retake control of the game.

Down 10 at the break, the game started to feel like a one possession contest as both teams valued the basketball and showed patience on offense. Garrett Baumhover’s three at the buzzer got the Bobcats within eight, 56-48, but it was all Cedar Falls in the fourth quarter.

“We’re getting closer. We’re better than we were last year even though we don’t have the wins to show it. We’re tougher than we ever were last year,” said Cusick. “I’m encouraged by what I’m seeing even though we don’t have the wins to prove the improvement.

“We have a core of guys who are working very hard to get better. They are trying to do everything right every single time, but right now, I don’t think it’s the physical end of it,” said Cusick. “I think it’s more on the mental end. In order to get better at that part of the game, you have to experience it. We have to understand that if you’re going to win in the Valley, you can’t have a mental lapse.”

Leading WD against Prairie were: points — Cartee and Kelchen 16, Johnson 15, Harris five, Goodman and Quagliano two, Garrett Baumhover one; rebounds — Cartee and Johnson four, Kelchen three, Goodman and Harris two, Baumhover, Michael Kraft and Justin Kluesner one; assists — Goodman five, Kraft three, Harris and Kelchen two, Cartee, Johnson and Bryce Ploessl one; steals — Cartee two, Goodman, Harris, Johnson and Kelchen one.

WD’s leaders against Cedar Falls were: points — Harris 18, Baumhover 16, Goodman 11, Quagliano 10, Johnson two; rebounds — Johnson seven, Harris four, Baumhover three, Goodman and Quagliano two, Kraft and Kluesner one; assists — Goodman four, Harris three, Baumhover one; steals — Baumhover, Goodman, Harris and Johnson one; blocks — Quagliano one.