When the Ankeny Centennial boys’ basketball team suffered a 62-42 loss at Ames on Feb. 2, the Jaguars’ record dropped to 4-12 on the season.
Centennial coach Bob Fontana addressed his players in the locker room after the team’s seventh consecutive loss.
“I told them, ‘Don’t trip over what’s in the rear view mirror. Let’s move on–we’re 0-0 and let’s take it one day at a time,’ and they accepted that,” Fontana said. “We kept getting better and we got on a winning streak. The thing that I’m most proud of is how they stayed with it.”
The Jaguars reeled off five straight wins before closing out their season on Friday with a 68-53 loss at Waukee in a Class 4A substate semifinal. The top-seeded Warriors (19-2) advanced to Tuesday’s substate final against Des Moines Hoover (14-9) at Ankeny.
Centennial (9-13) led for much of the game and took a 53-51 lead on a jumper by Micah Johnson with 5 minutes left. Waukee then responded with a 17-0 run to close out the game.
“We had nothing to lose,” said Johnson. “The pressure was on them really.”
Andrew Curran scored 13 of his 15 points in the Warriors’ late run. He made a long 3-point goal with 4:32 remaining to put his team ahead for good.
Curran later made 10 straight free throws in the final 1:10 to seal the win. Waukee connected on 22-of-25 free throws, while Centennial went just 2-for-4 at the line.
“I thought there was a couple of questionable calls when it was a two-point game, but they made some plays down the stretch and we didn’t,” Fontana said. “And then when we were chasing them, they made their free throws.”
Johnson tied his career-high with 19 points in the loss. He went 9-for-12 from the field and also grabbed six rebounds.
Garret Severseike had 10 points. He was among the seniors who played their final game for the Jaguars.
“I hope anyone that saw that game saw what comes out of Ankeny Centennial,” said Severseike. “A lot of us have options to go play elsewhere and chase wins, but we stayed here and grinded it out. We love playing with each other, and I think that really showed tonight in the way we played.”
Dylan Jones led Waukee with 16 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks. Tucker DeVries added 13 points, including three of the Warriors’ eight 3-pointers.
Preston Kelling had seven points and five assists for the Jaguars. Lathan Brandt and Cody McCullough each grabbed six rebounds.
Centennial made 24-of-43 shots from the field (55.8 percent), one of its best shooting performances of the season. In the earlier loss to Waukee, the Jaguars connected on just 14-of-40 attempts (35 percent).
“We believed–our kids believed,” Fontana said. “I just kept telling our kids how much better we were than when we played them (on Jan. 26) and how much we’ve been improving and just taking steps forward each day, so we felt very confident in our chances to win.”
Severseike scored seven straight points in the first quarter to give Centennial an 18-13 lead. The Jaguars got six points in the second quarter from reserve Brady Petersen, whose rebound basket at the buzzer gave his team a 30-27 advantage.
“We were doing it for our seniors and never gave up,” Petersen said.
Centennial took its biggest lead, 39-33, on a 3-pointer by Severseike with 4:52 left in the third quarter. But the Warriors then answered with a 14-5 run, taking a 47-44 lead into the final period following Michael Vicente’s layup at the buzzer.
Johnson briefly put the Jaguars ahead in the fourth quarter before Curran countered with his long trey from the left wing. Curran had made only 16-of-52 attempts from behind the arc prior to that basket.
“We just wanted to get that win, but we fell a little short at the end,” Johnson said. “But I’m proud of the team. We fought as hard as we could.”
Fontana was also proud of his team’s effort.
“They laid it all out there on the line, and that’s all I can ask of them,” he said.