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West Hancock: Winter sports wrap-up

West Hancock: Winter sports wrap-up

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West Hancock has had quite the winter high school sports season.

The wrestling team got the state tournament train rolling, sending six athletes to the Class 1A state wrestling meet in DesMoines, and when it was all over, the Eagles had their first state champion since 2001. 

The girls basketball continued winning all season and had a chance to avenge a loss in last year's state semifinals. Unfortunately, the Eagles ran into a buzz saw in North Linn in this year's semifinal game at Wells Fargo Arena.

State aspirations for the West Hancock boys basketball team were dashed by a North Iowa basketball powerhouse in the Class 1A, District final. The Eagles surprised many and finished the season 14-11.

Here is a West Hancock winter sports wrap-up:

WRESTLING

The biggest sports news out of Britt during the winter sports season was senior Tate Hagen winning the school's first state wrestling title since his coach Mark Sanger won the championship in 2001.

For Hagen, senior year has been perfect so far.

This past fall, Hagen was Iowa high school football’s leading rusher and the main spark that led West Hancock to the Class 1A title.

In late February in Des Moines, Hagen became a champion again, winning the Class 1A 195-pound state title, for the Eagles’ first state wrestling title since head coach Mark Sanger won the championship back in 2001.

Hagen erupted with joy as his 7-4 win came to an end. After leaping into Sanger’s arms, Hagen hopped the guardrail, and ran up into the stands to hug his family.

“It’s amazing,” Hagen said. “I’ve been working my whole life for this. Ever since I was little, going to wrestling every week, and just busting my butt all the time. It feels amazing.”

Getting to state was half the battle for Hagen and five other Eagles wrestlers. 

The six wrestlers made the trip to the Class 1A state tournament, as all of them placed in the top two in their respective weight classes. They were: Bryer Subject (152), Mathew Francis (170 pounds), Cole Kelly (182), Tate Hagen (195), Tanner Hagen (220), Chandler Redenius (285)

For head coach Mark Sanger, the day was a joyous experience.

“It feels wonderful,” Sanger said. “I don’t think I could be any more proud of our guys. The first round went about as well as it could for us. We knew the finals were going to be tough, and we took a few lumps there, but the guys responded really well. They showed some guts.”

A year ago, the Eagles sent three wrestlers to state, in Tate Hagen, Tanner Hagen, and Chandler Redenius. This year, those three seniors will make return trips, and will be joined by sophomore Mathew Francis, junior Bryer Subject, and junior Cole Kelly.

“It feels good” Tate Hagen said. “I’ve been working for this all year, and I’m hopeful everything works out for us next week.”

After a tough week and a half for Sanger and the rest of the West Hancock community, with the death of legendary Eagles’ coach Bob Sanger, the team was thrilled to have such a triumphant day.

GIRLS BASKETBALL

The West Hancock girls basketball team looked to be on the way to its second straight championship game appearance on March 6 in the Class 2A state basketball tournament in Des Moines.

After leading North Linn 32-21 in the Class 2A semifinal round of the Iowa High School state basketball tournament, the Eagles' lead slowly began to slip through their fingers.

Trailing by as many as 13 points in the game, the Lynx fought to within two points of the Eagles with 2:56 left in the third quarter. With 6:19 left in the game, North Linn took its first lead, and never gave it back. They outscored the Eagles 40-14 in the second half in a 61-46 victory to claim a spot in the championship round against rival Osage.

Leading the Eagles on offense as she did all season was junior Rachel Leerar, who scored 17 points, hitting 5-of-17 from the field, with one 3-pointer and six from the free throw line.

Seniors Madison Eisenman and Mahayla Faust each hit a pair of 3-pointers. The team as a whole gave themselves plenty of opportunities to score from beyond the arc, but could only sink six of 23 attempts.

The Eagles end their near-perfect season at 25-2, their only other blemish on the season before the state semifinal loss being a one-point loss to conference rival Bishop Garrigan.

West Hancock 57, Logan-Magnolia 31

Before West Hancock's Class 2A quarterfinal game at the Iowa High School state tournament on March 3, head coach Paul Sonius said the team's press defense was going to be the key to their success.

After a rocky start against seventh-seeded Logan-Magnolia at Wells Fargo Arena, the Eagles took the lead in the first quarter and never looked back, beating the Panthers 57-31 to advance to the semifinal round on Friday.

Falling behind 7-0 within the first two minutes, the Eagles traded baskets back and forth with the Panthers and forced a tie with 2:47 on the clock.

Once they took the lead with a lay up from senior Amanda Chizek, the Eagles calmed down and began to execute their defense as they have all season.

At the end of the first quarter, West Hancock led 16-13 in a seemingly even-matched game. In the following three quarters, the Eagles proved otherwise.

West Hancock's signature defense began to dominate Logan-Magnolia in the second half, holding the Panthers to just one point in the third quarter. The Panthers did not score a field goal until 5:07 was left in the game.

The Eagles' offense began to seal the deal as they outscored the Panthers 19-9 in the final frame.

Despite West Hancock's trouble of hitting from beyond the 3-point arc in the first half, hitting only 4-of-15, five players scored at least nine points, with senior Rachel Leerar leading with 15 points.

Kelly came off the bench for 12 points, hitting all six shots from the free throw line. Seniors Madison Eisenman and Riley Hiscocks each dropped three 3-pointers.

BOYS BASKETBALL

The West Hancock boys basketball team had to face one of the best teams in Class 1A in the district final two weeks ago and came up short.

The Eagles didn't have enough firepower to stay with the Bulldogs, losing 62-29 to end the season.

For the 14-11 Eagles, the 2019-20 season was a bit of a roller coaster ride, starting with a 67-53 loss at home against Lake Mills.

A five-game winning streak in December and January gave the Eagles a 7-3 record and hopes for a run deep into the playoffs.

But a 7-8 record to end the season saw those dreams fade away.

Senior Joe Smith led the Eagles with a 10.3 points per game average and was tops on the team with 161 rebounds and 31 blocks. He shot 45 percent from the floor.

Junior Cayson Barnes finished the season with a 9.7 ppg scoring average and hit 45 3-pointers during the season, making 40 percent of those he shot.

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