DES MOINES — For a Garner-Hayfield-Ventura team which had its state dreams dashed a year ago, just getting over the hump this year to make the state tournament was a win itself.
But making it to today’s Class 2A quarterfinal vs. Carroll Kuemper, which starts at 12:15 p.m. inside Wells Fargo Arena, was never a shock for this group, even after a crushing loss last year to end its season.
“This was kind of a new group of guys,” GHV coach Joe Albertson “There were a few holdovers but the new guys don’t feel as bad and it wasn’t as much of a weight on them.”
What they did do, though, even with a handful of new guys stepping into big roles, was win and win often. Behind a balanced offense, GHV ran its record to 24-1 entering the state tournament and has rattled off 21 wins in a row since a loss to Osage on Dec. 3.
“We were playing pretty well at the time of that loss to Osage but we were still trying to figure out our rotation and what we wanted to do. We were still pretty well balanced and that’s what got us going.”
The Cardinals have had their fair share of players take the spotlight at different times this season.
Sophomore forward James Betz has been the biggest and bright star this season as his work on both ends of the floor help him nab Top of Iowa Conference West Division Player of the Year honors.
Betz comes into today’s game averaging 12.4 points per game. He also leads the team with 155 rebounds and 45 blocks. All of this has come with opposing teams trying to shut him down.
“We’ve seen a lot of teams we play a ton of zone, and anytime they’re in zone or man, James will touch the ball and there’s two guys right there,” Albertson said. “He’s been good about not forcing a shot and kind of size it up and look to drive. He’s so much more patient than he was as a freshman.”
Albertson said with Kuemper’s size, he expects Betz to be 1-on-1 at least to start the game. It would be the first time that’s happened all season.
Even when Betz isn’t getting touches, such as the substate final game when he had five points, plenty of others have risen to the occasion.
Nick Joynt, who poured in 20 points in that substate victory, averages 12 points per game this season. Junior Ryan Meyers is just behind Joynt at 11.2 per game, Johnny O’Connor averaged 8.8 and Holden Hutcheson is at 6.8.
“They have confidence in that and they know if it’s a good shot they have to take it,” Albertson said. “Our Top 7 scorers all shoot 50 percent from the floor and I don’t think we’ve ever had that.”
GHV will need all hands on deck for a tough Kuemper team that comes in 22-2 and averages 73.2 points per game.
Albertson compared to the way the Knights play to West Hancock in the fact they like to run up and down the floor, and they have the size down low to boot.
Kuemper’s leading scorer is Matt Dentlinger, who averages 19.5 points per game, Parker Badding has 11.1 and Sam Auen sits at 10.6. Dentlinger, a 6-foot-7 forward, also at 287 rebounds (nearly 12 per game), 85 blocks and has 64 assists to 37 turnovers.
“It’s going to be more defensively than offensively,” Albertson said. We have to defend their big kid and we have to get out on their shooters. They bring more weapons than we’ve probably seen on one squad.”