WEBSTER CITY - One more hurdle is all that remains for the St. Edmond boys basketball team.
Seeking their 14th state trip in school history, the Gaels (17-6 overall) will clash with South Hamilton (20-3) tonight in a Class 2A, Substate 2 final.
Tip is set for 7 p.m. - weather permitting. Doors will open at 5 p.m.
Back on Dec. 21 of this season, SEHS escaped with a 57-53 road victory over the Hawks. Gael head coach Adolph Kochendorfer expects to see a much-improved South Hamilton squad, however, this time around.
"I know they have gotten a lot better since then, especially in close games (South Hamilton is 5-2 in games decided by eight points or less)," said Kochendorfer of the Hawks. "It all comes down to making them take tough shots. Rebounding the basketball will also be a big key."
In the district final on Tuesday at Manson, St. Edmond rallied from a double-digit halftime deficit to oust East Sac County in overtime, 62-60. Following a rare four straight losses, the Gaels have responded with five consecutive wins.
"We knew it would take some time to get all of our parts working together," Kochendorfer said. "I do think we're playing some of our best basketball at the end of the season, which is always what you hope for. A win like (Tuesday) always helps your confidence."
Senior Robby Burke (22.2), classmate Konrad Laufersweiler (12.1) and junior Matthew Bocken (8.7) are the main offensive weapons for SEHS, which secured its other postseason triumph against South Central Calhoun, 60-47. Junior Landon Peed (8.4) and sophomore T.J. O'Tool (1.4) round out the Gael starting lineup.
Burke also paces St. Edmond in total points (510), made field goals (215), made free throws (80) and rebounds (288). Peed has delivered team-highs in assists (132) and steals (24). Burke, a 6-foot-6 forward, actually ranks 12th in the state in total points and seventh in total boards.
"If (the Hawks) are going to take something away from Robby inside, it's important that we get other people to step up and make shots," said Kochendorfer, who holds a career mark of 464-196, including 346-124 in 21 years at SEHS.
Winners of 13 games in a row, South Hamilton prevailed over Eagle Grove (90-49) and Roland-Story (55-43) during its current tournament run. Freshman Collin Hill (16.9) and seniors Matt Hislop (14.3) and Trevor Ullestad (13.3) are the catalysts for the Heart of Iowa Conference champion Hawks, whose other setbacks came at league rivals PCM-Monroe (74-65) and North Polk (56-54).
"Hill is pretty good for a freshman," Kochendorfer said. "We were surprised by him the last time we played them (the 6-foot-4 Hill tallied 19 points in the earlier meeting)."
Since 2004 alone, St. Edmond has made six appearances in Des Moines, including runner-up showings in '04, '06, '08 and '12.
South Hamilton has punched five previous state tickets, with its last coming in 1991.
State action is set for March 10-15 at Wells Fargo Arena.