Dylan Johnson puts up a trey.

The Western Dubuque boys’ basketball program has been looking forward to a season like this and it was worth the wait.

It was a long time coming for seniors Dylan Johnson and Garrett Baumhover, who had been playing basketball together since elementary school. Growing their games separately, but showcasing their ability to play together, it was these two skilled players who led this team to an amazing season where the Bobcats earned their way into the elite eight and the right to play in the Class 3A state tournament field in Des Moines.

The Bobcats’ senior class went 5-15 their sophomore season and were 5-17 last year, so going 18-5 with a second-place finish in the Mississippi Division of the Mississippi Valley Conference was a turnaround that no one had predicted for this team.

Baumhover and Johnson might have been the leaders of this team, but they would be the first ones to tell you that the Bobcats couldn’t have accomplished what they did this year without all of their teammates. There is just one word to describe how this team played and what the strength of this squad was and that is ‘together.’ Add in the talents and contributions made by Nick Bryant, Tommy DeSollar, Andrew Oltmanns and Carson Schute along with the energy and practice reps the rest of the team provided, it was clear to see that this team was committed to being together.

The Bobcats were strong out of the gate winning their first five games including important wins over two Class 4A powerhouses, Dubuque Hempstead and Dubuque Senior. Both teams might have gotten their revenge after the holiday break, but it was the 76-66 loss to Hempstead on the Bobcats’ home court that really seemed to change the way this team played the rest of the year.

Just one game later, the Bobcats’ hosted Cedar Falls, the Class 4A’s top-ranked team, and that’s when the Bobcats figured out they were pretty darn good. During a span of almost six minutes, the Bobcats outscored the Tigers 23-7 to give them lots of confidence heading into the playoffs.

Western Dubuque played a very exciting style, focusing on getting up and down the court but sharing the basketball which allowed them to score points in bunches. Almost 40% of the shots taken by the Bobcats this season were threes. They knocked down 37% of them (153 of 414) while they made 51.8% from inside the arc. When you shoot the ball that well, it’s no surprise that they averaged 61.1 points per game had 13.8 assists per game while making 21.9 baskets per game. Plus, they played enough defense to get stops when they needed them.

During the season, it was clear to see that the connection between Baumhover and Johnson is something special. The moment on the court that showcased that connection the best was Baumhover’s off the backboard alley-oop pass to a trailing Johnson for a rim rocking two-hand slam that capped off Johnson’s three slam night in their final home game, the Bobcats’ 80-48 blow-out playoff win over Benton Community to start their run to state.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re number one or number 15 on the depth chart, everyone plays a role on this team and if your role is to get this team better and ready to go, then you go out there and do it to the best of your ability. And they all do that,” said Wayne Cusick, head coach. “Coach (Ben) Wilson always talks to our players about believing in the process. If you trust in the process and do the right things, good things are going to happen to you. And that’s what these guys have been doing and I’m really proud of them and what they’ve done and become.”

Western Dubuque’s leaders for the year: points — Johnson 378 (16.4 ppg), Baumhover 338 (14.7), Bryant 253 (11.0), Oltmanns 137 (6.0), DeSollar 136 (5.9), Schute 128 (5.8), Jackson Ingalsbe 22, Nathan Althaus six, Isaac Lenstra four, Will Griner three, Jayden Siegert one; rebounds — Johnson 170, Baumhover 84, Bryant 79, DeSollar 73, Oltmanns 71, Ingalsbe 23, Zach Gehl and Siegert five, Lenstra three, Althaus, Griner, Brady Horsfall and Peyton Kennedy one; assists — Baumhover 122, Johnson 61, Bryant 53, Schute 30, Oltmanns 29, DeSollar 16, Ingalsbe four, Horsfall and Kennedy one; steals — Baumhover 42, Bryant 36, DeSollar 20, Schute 17, Oltmanns 15, Johnson 14, Gehl and Ingalsbe two; blocks — Johnson 23, Bryant six, Baumhover, DeSollar and Oltmanns three, Lenstra one.