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WD’s Nick Bryant works for a field goal.

When playing in the state tournament, all a basketball team can hope for is an opportunity to win the game with a buzzer-beating bucket. Not only did the Western Dubuque boys’ basketball team have a chance to win at the end of regulation, but the Bobcats also had the ball, down by one, after Jake Layman’s two free throws gave Sergeant-Bluff Luton a 38-37 lead with 22.9 seconds in overtime of their Class 3A quarterfinal battle in Des Moines, March 9.

Unfortunately, shots in scramble mode taken by Dylan Johnson and Andrew Oltmanns would not go through the hoop, ending the Bobcats’ season with a heartbreaking one-point loss.

“You have to congratulate them. They did a good job and they came out on top. They earned it. We left some plays out there on the floor, no doubt about that,” said Wayne Cusick, head coach. “But I’m so proud of this team and what they’ve done this year. What they did in our conference and what they had to do to get to state again.”

This was a defensive-heavy basketball game with both team’s offenses having to work very hard to put points on the scoreboard. Neither team was able to establish an offensive flow in the first half with the biggest run made by either team in the opening 16 minutes of play was five points.

The longest run by the Bobcats in the first half was four points and they were the first four points they scored in the game. Johnson made a jumper and on their next possession two free throws to give Western Dubuque their first lead of the game, 4-2 with 5:18 left to play in the first quarter. Four minutes later, Oltmanns scored his first points of the game on an assist by Johnson. That basket allowed the Bobcats to take a 6-5 lead into the second quarter.

Known for their run-and-gun style of play and an average of over 61 points on the strength of taking over 18 three’s a game, the Bobcats were doing everything they could to get the game flowing. However, the Warriors were leaning on their two post players, 6-foot-10 Majok Majouk and 6-foot-8 Layman, to slow down the game as much as they could.

Sergeant-Bluff Luton went on their 5-0 run over a 36-second span for a 10-7 lead with 6:05 left in the first half, forcing the Bobcats into chase mode.

Consecutive baskets by Layman kept the lead at three, 14-11, but a three-pointer by Johnson tied the game at 14-14 with 2:25 left in the first half.

The Warriors closed the half on a 4-0 run and went into halftime up 18-14.

“It was just weird. Every time we’d get a little push there would seem to be a media timeout,” said Cusick about how difficult it was to get anything going in the game. “You think you can get some momentum going and get the pace going to what we’d want it and then there would be a timeout. It was all herky-jerky, but when you get down here you have to adjust to it.”

A dunk by Majouk less than a minute into the third quarter got the Warrior fans onto their feet. A basket in the paint by Tommy DeSollar started a Bobcat surge. A three by Layman stretched the lead to 23-17, but after a three by Oltmanns, a hard-earned basket by Carson Schute and Nick Bryant’s made one of two free throws to tie the game at 23-23.

The Bobcats kept working hard to try to get the game flowing to their tempo and they seemed to find something that worked when a three by Johnson and a lay-up by Oltmanns gave them a 32-27 lead with 4:28 to play.

A jumper by Johnson countered two Layman free throws to keep the lead at five with 3:26 left in the fourth quarter.

The Warriors managed to tie the game at 34-34 when Nick Muller made his only three-pointer of the night with 1:20 to play, but neither team was able to get a good look at the basket and the game went into overtime.

The Bobcats made the first move when Johnson again hooked up with Oltmanns for an easy two under the basket for a 36-34 edge less than a minute into overtime.

With 1:01 left, Majouk, who had missed three consecutive free throws, found a way to make two to tie the game at 36-all.

Over the final 36 seconds, Garrett Baumhover made one of two from the line and Layman made both of his to put the Warriors up 38-37 with 22.9 seconds to play.

That set the stage for the Bobcats with a chance to pull out the win, but their final shots didn’t fall.

“If this is the worst thing that happens to you in your life, losing a basketball game, then you are going to be very lucky young men,” said Cusick.

“It came down to us missing some free throws and we didn’t shoot the ball like we typically have all year.

That’s a credit to them too.

Maybe they defended us a little bit better, but (stuff) happens. That’s the game of basketball.”

WD’s statistical leaders were: points —Oltmanns 14, Johnson 13, DeSollar four, Baumhover three, Schute two, Bryant one; rebounds — Oltmanns six, Baumhover five, Bryant and Johnson three, Schute two; assists — Johnson five, Baumhover two, Bryant one; steals — Bryant two, Oltmanns one; blocks — Johnson one.