DES MOINES - Winning a state championship and finishing an undefeated season are both possibilities this week for the Newell-Fonda boys basketball team.
Making the ninth trip to Des Moines in program history, the top-seeded Mustangs (25-0 overall) will square off with No. 8 seed West Lyon (20-5) in a Class 1A quarterfinal here Monday.
Tip is set for 12:15 p.m. at Wells Fargo Arena.
"I knew we had a good basketball team with a lot of experience coming back after going 18-6 last year, so I thought we had a good shot of (getting to state)," said N-F head coach Paul Loos, who previously directed the Mustangs to 1A state crowns in 1991, '97, '99 and '00. "We just have a good group of young men that have played together for a long time."
Second-ranked Newell-Fonda eliminated defending 1A state runner-up Storm Lake St. Mary's (84-37), Paton-Churdan (90-62), Alta-Aurelia (64-47) and Ar-We-Va (66-52) during their current postseason run. The Twin Lakes Conference champion Mustangs have registered 20 of their victories by double figures, with 14 of those coming by at least 20 points.
Newell-Fonda has fired at a 53.1 percent (713-for-1,343) clip from the field, while averaging a 1A-best 74.3 points per game.
"I think we have all the different qualities of our previous state teams," Loos said. "We like to play inside-outside, push the basketball, and play defense just like those other ones.
"At the same time, each team has its own character, too."
Senior all-stater Dalton Anderson (16.7), classmate Brady Bohe (16.2), junior Brady Dicks (14.5) and senior Dillon Anderson (10.6) are the offensive catalysts for the Mustangs. Bohe anchors the team in total points (404), made field goals (145), made free throws (72) and made 3-pointers (42), while Dillon Anderson has delivered team-highs in assists (99), steals (61) and blocks (21).
This past fall, Newell-Fonda reached the 8-man state semifinals on the gridiron, while West Lyon captured the Class A state championship.
"Our guys have been in big games before, but so have (the Wildcats)," said Loos, who holds a 434-190 career mark in 26 years on the bench. "I think it's probably a wash as far as that goes. It's all going to come down to who executes the best on the basketball floor.
"Whether at state or not, it's important in any game to get off to a good start. We fell into an early hole against Ar-We-Va (N-F rallied back from a 14-point halftime deficit against the Rockets), but we stayed the course, turned it up a notch and were able to punch a state ticket."
For the Wildcats, the senior quartet of Brandon Snyder (13.8), Cody Bauman (13.8), Kacey Myrlie (12.2) and Kyle Groeneweg (11.0) are all leaned on heavily. Snyder and Bauman have both netted 344 points this year, followed by Myrlie with 306. Snyder, a captain of the Class A all-state football squad and future Iowa Hawkeye, also leads West Lyon in assists (187), steals (69) and made 3-pointers (56).
"(The Wildcats) are similar to us in that they have good size and good shooters on the wing," Loos said. "They can get out and run in transition, and they come from a solid conference just like we do."
Aaron Johnson's West Lyon squad placed third in the Siouxland Conference at 14-4. Sioux Center, which was No. 10 in the last 2A poll of the year, defeated the Wildcats twice this winter. West Lyon's other setbacks came against Central Lyon, Sioux Falls Roosevelt and 3A state quarterfinalist MOC-Floyd Valley. Three of those losses were actually by four points or less.
Prior to this season, West Lyon had never qualified for state in boys basketball.
Like usual, a dedicated fan following has been a key factor in Newell-Fonda's recent fortunes.
"We've always had that sixth player as the motivator," said Loos. "That (support) pushes our kids to work hard on defense, which was a big thing in getting us (to Des Moines)."
Monday's winner moves on to meet either fourth-seeded Keota (24-1) or No. 2 seed Easton Valley (21-2) in a 1A semifinal here Thursday morning at 10:30 a.m.