The Western Dubuque boys’ basketball team suffered two more tough losses at home last week. The Bobcats failed to find an offensive rhythm in their 50-43 loss to Cedar Rapids Xavier and the Bobcats pushed ninth-ranked Hempstead to overtime but struggled to score in the extra period as they fell, 54-46, in Epworth, Jan. 31.
“It was a tough ballgame, but it was a fun ballgame. It just wasn’t a fun game to lose,” said Wayne Cusick, head coach of the Bobcats, after having Hempstead on the ropes. “If we can play every night with the kind of intensity we played with tonight, we’d be able to walk out of this gym most nights feeling good about ourselves. We just have to find a way to teach them how to get over the top.”
With the way this game started, it’s a wonder that it was even close in the second half let alone that the Bobcats played with the lead for most of the fourth quarter and even had a possession with a chance to win at the buzzer.
Hempstead quickly pulled out to an 11-0 lead after the first two and a half minutes of the game, not just on the strength of their three-point shooting. Michael Duax connected on one bomb and Nicholas Kaesbauer rattled home two from beyond the arc.
The lead grew to 13-0 before Bryce Ploessl was able to put some points on the board after coming up with an offensive rebound. Michael Kraft followed by making one of two free throws and a three by Payton Quagliano not only got the Bobcats back into the game at 13-6 but woke up Bobcat Nation.
Even though the Bobcats were down 17-11 entering the second quarter, they were moving in the right direction until the Mustangs scored some easy baskets for a 23-13 lead with four minutes to play before halftime. Garrett Baumhover started to look for his shot and made back-to-back baskets to help the Bobcats close the half on a 9-4 run, thanks to a Nick Bryant three for the final points of the quarter.
Down 27-22 and not able to afford another slow start to a quarter, the Bobcats burst out of the gates with Tommy DeSollar scoring on an old-fashioned three-point play to quickly cut the lead to two points. With 1:47 left in the quarter, Hempstead still held a two-point lead, but Dylan Johnson made two free throws to tie the game at 31-31. Baumhover’s running hook shot gave the Bobcats their first lead at 33-31, but it was short-lived as Kellen Strohmeyer scored on a lay-up to tie the game at 33. Baumhover again responded with a floater in the lane that put the Bobcats ahead 35-33 starting the fourth quarter.
Kraft drew a charge on Duax to start the quarter and Quagliano attacked the basket for two making it a four-point lead for the Bobcats.
A fast-break bucket by Duax and a three-pointer by Strohmeyer put the Mustangs back in the lead, 38-37, with 5:15 left in the fourth. After Strohmeyer made one of two from the free throw line, Quagliano scored the easiest basket of the night as Johnson found him all alone on the block after being freed on a solid screen by Kraft. DeSollar followed with a strong lay-up to put the Bobcats up 41-39. Two free throws by Johnson made it a four-point game with 2:51 left in the quarter.
Kaesbauer knocked down a three-pointer behind a double-screen at the top of the key to trim the lead to one, but another bucket by Johnson made it a three-point lead with 1:30 to play.
Duax got loose for a three to tie the game, but still the Bobcats had the ball for a final shot. Kraft took that shot and it bounced off the rim sending the game into overtime where it was all Dubuque Hempstead.
“I’m very proud of the effort. They continue to get better. They come to work every day to try to get better. They want to get better and they are getting there. It’s just, and I’ve said this 100 times, in this league one little screw up and it’s over,” said Cusick. “You can’t recover in this league if you make too many mistakes. You’ve got to play an A-plus game every night out and even, on some nights, an A-plus game isn’t going to get you a win.”
WD’s leaders against Cedar Rapids Xavier were: points — Johnson 18, Baumhover nine, DeSollar seven, Quagliano five, Ben Bryant and Carson Schute two; rebounds — Johnson eight, Baumhover and Ben Bryant five, Bryce Ploessl four, DeSollar and Quagliano two, Michael Kraft one; assists — Baumhover two, Johnson, Kraft and Ploessl one; steals — Baumhover four, Ben Bryant and Ploessl two, Johnson one; blocks — Johnson one.
Leading WD against Hempstead were: points — Johnson 15, Baumhover and Quagliano nine, DeSollar five, Ploessl four, Nick Bryant three, Kraft one.