Gavin Soppe wasn’t going to let a separated shoulder or a missing contact lens ruin his night.
After scoring 18 points before leaving in the third quarter with a separated shoulder, Soppe returned for the final 40 seconds and hit a pair of free throws with six seconds remaining to secure West Delaware’s 66-59 victory over Davenport Assumption in a Class 3A sub-state at the U.S. Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids Feb. 25.
The Hawks will play their first-round game in the Class 3A State Tournament at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines Tuesday, March 5.
Soppe’s final free throws came after he lost his contact lens.
“I lost my contact lens on that last drive when I was fouled. I’m pretty blind without them. I shot those last two free throws with one eye and a dislocated shoulder.”
The Hawks struggled early in the game, missing their first four shot attempts as Davenport Assumption jumped out to a 6-0 lead.
A Soppe drive to the hoop got the Hawks on the board. After Assumption took an 8-2 lead, Derek Krogmann hit an inside shot. Assumption answered again, and eventually led 12-5 before back-to-back three pointers by Kyle Kelley and Soppe brought the Hawks to within 12-11.
After another Knights’ basket, Soppe again hit a three-pointer as the Hawks fought back to tie the score 14-14 before Assumption’s Grayson Heiser hit a three-point shot at the buzzer to give Assumption a 17-14 lead.
Heiser, who averaged two points per game, finished with 19 points for the Knights.
Despite trailing after a quarter, head coach Matt Uthoff felt his team would be fine. “I felt great because those first shots we missed were layups. I knew we would get good looks.
“We just had to be patient and not settle. I felt our transition defense failed us in that first quarter, but we were able to hit some huge shots.”
Krogmann scored to start the second quarter and the Hawks trailed 17-16.
A pair of Hawk turnovers, a missed shot and a three-pointer by Heiser gave the Knights a 20-16 lead before Krogmann answered with a basket to cut the Knights’ lead to two.
Assumption ran off four points to lead 22-18 before West Delaware took a time out to talk things over.
Coming out of the time out, Soppe’s three pointer made it 24-21. After an Assumption basket, West Delaware tied it when Krogmann scored and was fouled. He nailed the free throw and scored again inside after West Delaware forced an Assumption miss.
After Assumption took a 28-26 lead, Krogmann’s put back tied the score 28-28 heading into halftime.
In the third quarter, Soppe’s jumper gave the Hawks their first lead of the night, 30-28.
It was a lead West Delaware never relinquished.
Krogmann found Logan Woellert streaking to the basket for a 32-28 lead. After Heiser’s three pointer brought Assumption within 32-31, Soppe answered with a three pointer, making it 35-31 West Delaware.
Assumption responded with a basket before a drive by Soppe and a short jumper by Woellert gave West Delaware a 39-33 lead with 3:16 remaining in the quarter.
After an Assumption timeout, Soppe left with the injured shoulder fighting for a rebound. A Woellert three-pointer from the corner made it 42-33 before Assumption ended the quarter on a 4-0 run to trail 42-37 heading into the fourth.
West Delaware started the fourth quarter on a 6-0 run. Another Woellert three pointer and a basket and free throw by Krogmann gave West Delaware a 48-37 lead.
Heiser’s three pointer cut the Hawk lead to 48-40.
Krogmann scored the next six points for West Delaware as the team traded baskets. After a pair of missed shots by Assumption, drives by Kelley and Woellert stretched the Hawk lead to 58-44 with three minutes to play.
Assumption could get no closer than five the rest of the way. A pair of free throws by Kelley made it 64-57 before Soppe closed things out with his free throws.
The Hawks were led by Krogmann with 27, Soppe with 20, Woellert with 12 and Kelley with seven.
West Delaware finished the night with six turnovers, a statistic that Uthoff acknowledged was huge. “We knew tonight that we would see a team that has all kinds of athletes and that we would get a straight up defense tonight. I knew we were going to have to handle their pressure. I had us down for six turnovers tonight. That was ultimately the turning point in the game for us.”
Uthoff said with both teams having great players, the game came down to how role players responded. “We talked about they had a two-headed monster that got about 33 points a night and our top two guys get us 36 a night. The key to this game was how players three through six were going to step up.”
“How about Gavin Soppe tonight?” Uthoff continued. “He probably had a career night. Jamison Smith knows his role. He knows what he does. He’s going to battle and compete and he made some huge plays for us defensively.”
Uthoff said his role players answered the call. “When we needed a play tonight, our role guys stepped up. They’ve been grinding all year long. Our guys are a special group of kids that have a will to win. Tonight, we did everything we needed to do to win.”