Waukee Hoops Hoping for a Season to Remember
The 2019-2020 basketball season for both the boys and girls at Waukee High School was nothing short of excitement. It was the girls’ 14th time in the past 15 seasons making it back to Wells Fargo Arena and the state tournament. The boys’ team also continued their string of recent success, making it to the state tournament for the third straight time. The two teams both advanced to the state title games before ultimately losing close games, ending their year one win shy of the ultimate prize. The Warriors have set their sights on making it one for the record books in the 2020-21 season, as they both eye a state championship.
“Losing in the state championship game is a feeling that you will never forget,” senior Katie Dinnebier said. “That has pushed us to improve our game and take it to the next level.”
The boys also feel like they have something to prove as they fell short of their goal last year.
“We all have the bitter taste in our mouth from last year,” explained senior Tucker DeVries. “This will definitely help us knowing what we really want to accomplish this year.”
The Warriors return plenty of experience as they bring back four starters from last year, cementing their status as a class 4A favorite.
“Having this group of seniors that have kind of gone through it when they played a lot as juniors, I think there’s a maturity,” head coach Justin Ohl explains as he returns for his tenth season with the Warriors. “I think they’re hungry, I think they’re motivated.”
The team will be led by senior duo Payton Sandfort and Tucker DeVries who plan to attend The University of Iowa and Drake University respectively. The two were first & second a year ago in total points in class 4A.
“I think a big thing this season will be our size. Another big part is our shooting. We got a bunch of guys that shot close to 50 percent last year. Then I think with our size, we’re able to get a lot of rebounds every game,” Sandfort added. “And another thing would be just being able to move the ball as the team and all of us playing together. That is what will make us a dangerous team.”
The Warriors led class 4A in three-point baskets last year by a wide margin with 275 made, the next closest was 178. Teams will have a tough time finding ways to defend the Warrior’s dangerous offense.
On the girls’ side of things, the Warriors will once again be a force to be reckoned with in the loaded CIML conference. The Warriors are returning a handful of weapons led by seniors Katie Dinnebier, Megan Earney, Peyton Kelderman, and Lindsey Kelderman. The team feels that the speed they have will be a strong area for them along with everyone being able to knock down a shot on the perimeter.
“We are a guard-heavy team and an undersized team. Over the past month we have been conditioning and improving our endurance to be able to play at the highest speed possible,” Dinnebier said. “We also have phenomenal perimeter shooting guards, and everyone is able to knock down an open three.”
They also feel like having the team chemistry will carry over from last season to this season will put them far ahead of other teams.
“I feel that our greatest strength as a team is our chemistry. We have such a strong bond off of the basketball court, and that definitely impacts the way that we play on the court,” Megan Earney said. “There is something about playing with your best friends out there on that court, that just makes it a million times better, and that is truly what we have to look forward to this year.”
Utilizing the speed and team chemistry the group contains will make them hard to stop this upcoming season
Many people worry that the Coronavirus will have a lasting effect on the basketball season due to a difficult offseason in terms of preparing. But both teams feel comfortable with the condition of their team given the circumstances.
“With the given conditions of the pandemic, having experienced players that can adjust to a fluid situation will be a great benefit to us,” Head Coach Chris Guess said.
Both teams have been able to get back together over the course of the past few months at a limited capacity which they feel was important.
“We were able to get back together over the summer in some small groups and that was really helpful,” Coach Ohl explains. “We have been able to build on that and guys can get acclimated to one another again and getting to practice will be the next step.”
Although they are two different programs and contact is limited between both teams, they do feel like they are able to feed off each other’s successes and gain momentum off each other.
“It’s really awesome to go watch the girls go out there and dominate a ranked team by double-digit points and knockdown twenty threes,” Sandfort recalled. “And you’re like, oh man, we got to match that.”
With both teams being successful, they find it very simple cheering on each other.
“We feed off of each other and each other’s energy,” Megan Earney said. “Last year was a great example of that after both teams made it to the state championship game.”
The teams feel like they have a perfect opportunity to leave a lasting legacy on Waukee high school before the schools split up into two high schools.
“It’d be really cool for everyone in the community and the people behind us supporting us, not just the students, but everyone in the community, being all one for the last time before they split and become rivals,” DeVries said. “It would be really cool to go out kind of with that final last dance as one and being able to say that we went out on top.”
Both teams begin their journey at home with the girls starting their season on November 24th against Des Moines East and the boys begin their journey on December 1st against Des Moines Lincoln.