Special to West Valley Preps
The Ironwood Eagles boys basketball team have been absent from the quarterfinals of state tournament the past 11 years.
During the 2015-2016 campaign they posted a 9-17 record again missing the playoffs under first year head coach Jordan Augustine. The season ended with glimpses of a turnaround that came this year.
The No. 8 Eagles reached the second round of the 5A tournament visiting the No. 1 Apollo Hawks (24-3) Saturday and entering the match-up with a 17-9 record, a complete reversal of last year’s final win-loss total.
Even in its breakthrough season, Ironwood could not figure out Apollo in three attempts. The Eagles (17-10) lost 79-66 Saturday. The Hawks move onto the semifinals of the state tournament to play No. 4 Scottsdale Chaparral Wednesday.
Quoting the great John Wooden Coach Augustine said, “When you have guys like this you never lose a game you just run out of time,’ and we ran out of time 10 times this year.”
The Eagles appeared slow to close out on the Hawks shooters early in the first quarter. Apollo’s Dre Marin, a Southern Utah commit, would ignite for four threes in that quarter.
The Apollo coach’s son finished with 22 points and five three pointers.
“At the end of the day Marin’s one of the best players in the state. A couple of them were great close out’s he just hits big shots in big time games. He (Apollo head coach Jacob Marin) had a couple of wrinkles he threw into how they attacked our press that ended up getting him some wide open three’s,” Coach Augustine said.
However Ironwood fought hard in that quarter. Ignited by strong play down low by senior Geoff Hibbit and a couple of late three-pointers to close out the quarter they brought the game within six, 26-20, moving into the second .
That’s the closest the matchup would get as the Eagles were never able to overcome the deficit. At one point midway through the third the Eagles were again able to bring Apollo’s lead down to the single digits.
Hibbit would get called for a fourth foul in the third and forced to sit. In limited minutes, he finished with 10 points.
“Geoff’s our leading scorer on the team, averages eight rebounds per game and protects the rim. Our guys continued to compete but it feels like you’re playing one man down especially to one of the top teams in the state,” Coach Augustine said.
Ironwood’s senior point guard and floor general Cody Carmichael would come up huge in that third with Hibbit out adding seven points and finishing the game with 19.
Fouls would come up big, particularly in the fourth quarter when Apollo shooters were sent to the line nine times extending the lead to move on. Apollo standout Holland Woods, a Portland State commit, was sent to the line five times in the fourth, finishing with 33 points.
Ironwood senior Noah Foskitt added 11 points for the Eagles, giving the Hawks all they could handle in the paint.
With 10 seconds left to play the Eagles’ Hibbit had an alley-oop dunk that got the Ironwood crowd on their feet — an exclamation point to a great turn-around season and possibly a premonition for the team moving forward.
“We have a good group coming back and I’m excited about next year. Any success we have after this is an extension of the five seniors we’ll be losing. Those guys came in every single day and worked hard. They set the foundation,” Coach Augustine said.