In a matter of one week this spring, Cascade became the basketball capital of Iowa.
The Cougars won the first girls basketball state championship in program history on March 3 at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines by edging Grundy Center, 41-37. Six days later on the very same floor, the Cascade boys won their first state championship in program history with a 49-38 triumph over Treynor.
The community’s memorable March has been selected the No. 1 sports story in the tri-state area by the Telegraph Herald sports staff.
“Everybody is really just genuinely happy in Cascade,” Cascade boys coach Jacob Brindle said days after his team won the title. “The whole town is kind of basking in this right now. Both teams play a certain way, kind of a blue-collar brand of basketball. Share the ball, spread the wealth.
“In a lot of ways, both teams are a microcosm of our community. I don’t think the kids on either side felt any kind of pressure. Our community is just so supportive that there was never really any pressure to win.”
The No. 3-seeded girls benefited from top-seeded Treynor and second-seeded Panorama falling in the early rounds at Wells Fargo. The Cougars also needed triple overtime to defeat North Union.
Nicole McDermott was named captain of the Class 2A girls all-tournament team, joined on the squad by teammate Jordan Simon. Their coach, Mike Sconsa, was named 2A coach of the year.
The Cougars were even less favored in the boys tournament, where they drew the No. 6 seed in the Class 2A field. But Cascade took down No. 3 Van Meter, No. 2 Sheldon and No. 1 Treynor in succession to claim the championship.
Haris Hoffman led the boys with his own turn as captain of the all-tournament squad, alongside fellow Cougar Gannon O’Brien.
The basketball championship highlighted a remarkable run for several boys in the school. Cascade earned the No. 1 ranking at one time or another during the football, boys basketball and baseball seasons.
DUBUQUE COUNTY LEGION TEAM MAKES HISTORY
Dubuque County embraced an underdog role all the way to the American Legion World Series in Shelby, N.C., during a remarkable August. The team essentially played seven elimination games and won six of them to make the Elite Eight from a pool of more than 3,500 teams from around the country.
Comprised of players from all six high schools in the county, Dubuque County upset defending champion Johnston to win the Iowa state championship in Cedar Rapids. It then won the Central Plains Regional in Dickinson, N.D., behind regional MVP Sam Goodman, of Western Dubuque, to become the first Iowa team to reach the Legion World Series since 1986.
Dubuque County continued its historic run when it became the first Iowa team to win a game at the World Series since 1976. It came within one run of the semifinals.
Goodman won the James F. Daniel Jr. Sportsmanship Award, and Dubuque Senior’s Sam Link won the Louisville Slugger Award for batting .555 at the World Series. Both players also earned spots on the all-tournament team.
BOBCATS DRIVE TO DOME
The Western Dubuque football team needed a few scenarios to go its way on the final night of the regular season to qualify for the Iowa Class 3A state football playoffs.
The Bobcats, who broke more than 20 team and individual school records, got in and left no doubt they belonged in the field despite being a district runner-up.
Western Dubuque throttled perennial powerhouse Solon, 48-13, and avenged an early season loss with a 45-21 victory at North Scott to reach the UNI-Dome. The Bobcats then handled the No. 1 seed, Sergeant Bluff-Luton, 35-18, in the semifinals before dropping a 34-20 decision to Cedar Rapids Xavier.
AREA PLAYERS IN THE NFL
Tri-state football fans had a little extra rooting interest on Sundays this fall.
UW-Platteville graduate Dan Arnold made the New Orleans Saints roster a year after making the team as an undrafted free agent but spending the 2017 season on injured reserve. Arnold caught his first NFL touchdown pass from future Hall of Famer Drew Brees in a 31-17 victory over Atlanta in late November.
Dubuque Wahlert grad Riley McCarron played in his first NFL game, as a member of the New England Patriots, before spending the bulk of the season on the Patriots’ practice squad injured reserve list. His former University of Iowa teammate, Worthington, Iowa, native Matt Tobin spent time on the rosters of the Patriots and San Francisco 49ers.
University of Dubuque grad Michael Joseph earned a spot on the Chicago Bears practice squad after an impressive camp in August.
Darlington, Wis., native and University of Wisconsin grad Alex Erickson played his third straight season with the Cincinnati Bengals as a wide receiver and return specialist.
Peosta, Iowa, native Steven Ihm enjoyed his biggest season since becoming a professional golfer in 2014, following a stellar career at the University of Iowa.
He began the summer with limited status on the Web.com Tour, meaning he needed to go through Monday qualifiers to earn spots in the weekend tournaments.
But Ihm earned a pair of top-10 finishes to qualify for the tour’s playoff round and earn his Web.com Tour card for the 2019 season. The highlight of his season came in mid-July, when he finished second, one stroke out of first place, at the Utah Championship.
The Dubuque Fighting Saints added plenty of clout to their ownership in June.
Current NHL players and Saints alumns Johnny Gaudreau and Zemgus Girgensons highlighted a stellar cast of investors who purchased the equity stake in the organization from outgoing owner Philip Falcone. Florida Panthers executive chairman Peter Luukko — the father of former Saints defenseman Nick Luukko — and former Stanley Cup winning coach Dan Bylsma added high-profile hockey names in Saints4Life Acquisitions, LLC, a group approved by the United States Hockey League. The new group also includes several investment professionals with a direct interest in the sport.
The announcement came weeks after former Saints coach Jim Montgomery became the head coach of the Dallas Stars after spending five highly successful seasons at the University of Denver.
BANNER YEAR AT WAHLERT
The Dubuque Wahlert gymnasium received a little remodeling work in the form of four new state championship banners.
The Golden Eagles won their first wrestling state team title in February despite sending just four qualifiers to Des Moines. In the spring, Wahlert celebrated Julie Westercamp’s return to coaching with the school’s state-record 10th state boys tennis title.
Wahlert successfully defended titles in the fall, as well. The girls cross country team won its sixth crown, and the volleyball team three-peated to extend its Iowa record to 20 state championships.
MAGICAL YEAR AT ED-CO
Edgwood-Colesburg took its athletic program to a whole new level during the calendar year by qualifying for the Iowa Class 1A state basketball tournament and the Class A state football semifinals.
Preston Rochford finished his career as Ed-Co’s all-time rushing leader following a season that closed with 1,872 yards, 26 touchdowns and a heartbreaking injury in the state quarterfinals.
After years of heartbreak and close calls, the Hempstead softball team made its first-ever appearance at the state tournament in Fort Dodge. The Mustangs put a scare into second-seeded Indianola before dropping a 4-1 decision in the quarterfinal round.
The University of Dubuque baseball team won the Iowa Conference regular-season and tournament championships for the first time in program history and advanced to the NCAA Division III national tournament. In February, Spartans pitching coach Luke Kalb lost a courageous battle with liver cancer. The former Dubuque Senior standout athlete was 32.