Experience may have been North Tama’s ultimate undoing

DES MOINES – It is hard to teach the experience of playing at the state tournament. It is almost impossible to simulate what players will see when they step on the floor at Wells Fargo Arena.

The fact that North Tama’s boys’ basketball team was playing in its first Iowa Boys State Basketball Tournament may have caught up to the Redhawks, who lost twice to two teams which had state championship game experience coming into the week.

“It definitely played a role,” North Tama coach Brandon Clubb said. “Our kids gave a lot of effort. But anyone who was down here and saw these games, I think it was clear that maybe we were a notch down from those other three teams in the final four.”

The Redhawks played right with Danville for the first 12 minutes. The Bears though used their state tournament to their advantage with a 9-0 run to end the first half and continued to turn the momentum into a blowout win.

Danville had played in the state championship the past two years in Class 1A. That is just experience that can’t be overlooked and can’t be overhyped. It matters. And it mattered this weekend for the Redhawks

“That was an issue certainly,” Clubb said. “Hats off to those other three teams. They are very good teams.”

Danville coach Ken Laffoon liked North Tama’s team. But he admitted that playing down at the state tournament before definitely gave his team an advantage coming into Friday’s 1A consolation contest.

“I think it plays a great role,” Laffoon said. “Every game for North Tama is a new experience. Playing in the first round game is a new experience. Playing in the semifinals is a new experience. Playing in the consolation game is a new experience. We have played in the last two title games. That is a lot of games. That definitely helped us.”

There is no shame in North Tama taking fourth overall. It was the program’s first state tournament appearance, the Redhawks won 26 games and were ranked in the top 10 most of the season.

And no one can take away the memories the players, coaches and fans gained throughout the week.

“It was amazing,” said Dalton Hulme, who 13 points in Friday’s consolation game. “It was a lot of memories with a guys I have known for a long time. We played our best and had a lot of fun.”

Senior Mitchell Boerm even said he would not have wanted to take part in the state tournament experience with any other group of guys.

“I love my guys,” Boerm said. “Getting here and listening to the crowd in the tunnel was awesome. It is nice to know that someone will sit in our trophy case forever. But there will be other trophies. It’s the memories that will mean the most to me.”

Boerm will likely earn a spot on the all-tournament after scoring in double-figures in all three games. He had 19 points in the win over Ankeny Christian and then finished off his week with 19 points and 13 rebounds against Danville (27-1). But he couldn’t deny what playing in this atmosphere previously meant for the Bears and Boyden-Hull, which beat North Tama in the semifinals on Thursday.

“They have been here for a reason,” Boerm said. “They just don’t have a few good players. They are all good players. They can defend, they can score and they definitely deserved to be here.”

Boerm also fulfilled a childhood dream in the loss to Danville when he threw down a dunk late in the fourth quarter. It was one of the few things North Tama had to cheer about in the second half though as the Redhawks were outscored 44-31 in the final 16 minutes.

“We had to keep putting points on the board because they are tough to stop offensively,” Clubb said. “We went through a stretch where we just didn’t put the ball in the hole enough. We can’t call timeout and keep telling the kids to do the same thing over and over again.”

First place, third place or fourth place, Boerm loved his guys and really enjoyed sharing his experience at the state tournament with what he called a “special group of kids.”

“I think people would envy what we have as a team,” Boerm said. “We have a great group of guys. I was real emotional before and after the game because we put all of our hearts and souls into this.”