‘Finished Business’ – 3A Title Comes Home To Oskaloosa

The Oskaloosa Indians are Iowa's Class 3A State Champions.

The Oskaloosa Indians are Iowa’s Class 3A State Champions.

by Jamie Brockman and Ken Allsup

Des Moines, Iowa – Dreams… pride… history. All that and more was accomplished on Friday night when Oskaloosa beat Little Hawkeye Conference foe Norwalk 48-44 to win the Class 3A State Basketball Championship. This was Oskaloosa’s first ever title in basketball.

The team’s theme all tournament long was “Unfinished Business” after advancing to the championship game a year ago and coming up just four points short, falling to Glenwood. The Indians had to fight and claw through three physical, intense nail biters to beat Marion, Winterset, and Norwalk, finishing that business as the Class 3A State Champions.

Fans packed Wells Fargo Arena to the rafters to watch the highly anticipated 3A championship game, and they were treated to a classic that won’t soon be forgotten. Oskaloosa came out energized, focused, and very aggressive, immediately using the size of seven-foot Xavier Foster and 6’10” Cole Henry, to jump out to a 7-2 quick lead. Norwalk weathered the early storm as their star Junior Bowen Born brought the Warriors right back to keep it close. However, Oskaloosa held a 20-12 lead following the first quarter.

Norwalk started the second quarter on a 6-0 run to close within two, and the two teams traded baskets throughout the quarter, but Osky was able to maintain a narrow lead by playing stout defense while staying aggressive offensively.

Oskaloosa held a one-point lead with 1:10 remaining in the half when Norwalk decided to hold the ball and run the clock for a final shot. Bowen Born was able to drive into the lane and rattle in a jump shot at the buzzer giving Norwalk their first lead of the game at 31-30 heading into halftime. Despite being down one, Oskaloosa dominated all the critical first-half statistics, including outscoring the Warriors 20-10 in the paint, 6-0 in points off turnovers, 9-4 in second-chance points and 2-0 in fast break points, while also out-rebounding Norwalk 16-10, which included eight offensive rebounds. Another key stat was turnovers, after committing 18 in the semifinals the Indians had 0 turnovers at halftime.

Hot shooting in the first half saw Oskaloosa connect on 46% and Norwalk 59% from the floor, both teams struggled to score throughout the second half, but Osky turned up the heat when it counted most in the final minute to win the game. Iszac Schultz and Tyler Miller played tough lockdown defense on Born, limiting his effectiveness. Meanwhile Foster was a significant presence in the lane, forcing the Warriors out of their usual game plan.

With :52 seconds remaining, Austin Hafner was fouled and hit 1 of 2 free throws, giving Oskaloosa a 44-42 lead. Following a Born-missed shot, Hafner missed a shot but Henry hit the put-back, giving Osky a four point advantage. Born then hit two free throws pulling Norwalk within two. On the ensuing possession with just :10 seconds remaining, Iszac Schultz was fouled hard and stepped up to the free throw line calm and collected and drained both to put Osky back up by four. Schultz followed that with in-your-face defense as Born brought the ball up the floor, forcing him to fire a desperation three that was no good. Henry grabbed the rebound, and the celebration of a state championship finally became a reality for the Oskaloosa Indians.

Cole Henry hoists the state championship trophy after winning the Class 3A State Championship.

Cole Henry hoists the state championship trophy after winning the Class 3A State Championship.

In post-game interviews, a very emotional Cole Henry said, “I was standing in this very spot a year ago crying and very sad because we just lost the state title, and I told everyone we’d be back and I wasn’t lying. I truly believed that. Us Seniors, Xavier, the whole team put in so much work, unseen hours outside of practice getting in the gym. We love each other so much, and we did it man. There’s nothing else I can say really, we did it, and I’m beyond proud. Henry added, “It’s a dream man. As a small town kid you dream of winning state titles, and we did it. I feel like I’m dreaming. We won a state title for our city, and it’s even better than I imagined it would be.”

Next up was our seven foot Junior Xavier Foster, who despite just winning a state title was his usual smiling, joking, calm self, trying to adjust his championship hat awarded at the end of the game. Having found the proper fit, Xavier said, “ahhhh it fits…that’s a lot of hair.” Then he was ready to talk business. Foster said, “After losing last year, Cole and I were in the gym the next day working for this moment.” When asked how they felt after losing the lead just before halftime he said, “We didn’t panic. We were still joking and relaxed in the locker room as a family and together as a team and were very confident headed out for the second half.”

Rian Yates added, “We were so close a year ago and those last moments still haunt us, so we were thinking of that all year, and this feels amazing. I couldn’t ask for anything better. We seniors knew this was our last game win or lose, and to walk out winning the state championship is better than I even imagined. We wanted to change the culture of our basketball program. I feel us seniors have done that, and now it’s up to the underclassmen to work hard and keep it going.”

Coach Ryan Parker told Oskaloosa News after the game, “It really hasn’t sunk in yet, but it is something that will stick with me for the rest of my life. You don’t understand the feeling that happens when that happens. Your guys are so happy for all the stuff they’ve been through.”

“There was a lot of people, including ourselves, that doubted us before Christmas break,” added Parker. “We lost those two right before Christmas break, and then Cole breaking his hand. A lot of people thought the season was over. We got better with him [Cole] out, then we got way better after he [Cole] came back in. We just kept getting better throughout the season, and to watch their hard work pay off, there is nothing better as a coach.”

When asked what it was like to be in a game like the one just played, Parker responded by saying he believed that last year’s final appearance helped them prepare for the atmosphere.

Parker says he was celebrating in the moment, hugging on a state championship trophy as he walked through the tunnel after the game. “I’m sleeping with that thing,” Parker said joking with the media. Parker went on to say that the back-to-back trip to the title game is a once in a lifetime opportunity. “You can’t take this for granted.”

Henry, in his last game as an Indian, scored 19 points while pulling down 14 rebounds, including ten offensive boards. Foster scored 12 points with nine rebounds and three blocked shots. Schultz added six points, Yates five, and Noah Van Veldhuizen drained a crucial three pointer fresh off the bench for his only points. Tyler Miller added two points and Hafner one.

Oskaloosa finishes the season at 19-5 as Class 3A State Champions and will graduate five seniors including: Cole Henry, Rian Yates, Austin Hafner, Jackson Blythe and Tucker Erwin.

Posted by on Mar 9 2019. Filed under Local News, School Activities. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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