Oskaloosa boys basketball looking to capitalize on special season
Oskaloosa boys basketball celebrated its first ever Little Hawkeye Conference title Tuesday night, but when they cut down the nets, the Indians were thinking about something bigger than a conference championship.
“We’ve got bigger and better nets to cut, but tonight was a practice," said junior Cole Henry.
What is that bigger goal?
“Ultimately we want to go to Wells Fargo and we want to win a state championship," said senior Jarad Kruse.
Last season Oskaloosa made it all the way to the sub-state final where they fell to Mount Pleasant, but the Indians knew they had the recipe to come back and do something big.
“We really didn’t lose a whole lot – lost one player from last year," said head coach Ryan Parker. "So we thought we could do some special things and it just started escalating.”
The most obvious thing that makes this Osky team special is their duo of young, gigantic big men. 6’11” sophomore Xavier Foster and 6’9” junior Cole Henry are a tandem few high school teams in the country can match up with. How often do you see a high school team with this kind of size?
"It doesn’t happen very often,” said Foster.
But the foundation of this team is its seniors. Jarad Kruse leads the Indians in scoring, Spencer Tucker is a spectacular shooter and Tanner DeKock and Tucker Nunnikhoven round out a tight and talented Oskaloosa rotation.
“Those guys have been the rock," said Parker. "Those guys have been through thick and thin. You know, a six win season, to 15 last year, and then who knows where we’ll end up this year. You live and die by those guys because they’re the guys who helped turn this program around.”
Oskaloosa has been ranked in the top 5 all season, they even took over the number 1 spot for more than a month. The Indians picked up their second loss of the season when they fell on the road at to a top-5 Norwalk team. Losses have been important for Osky.
“Nothing’s guaranteed," said Foster. "Norwalk, we walked in with our heads too big.”
“It’s good to have a loss every now and then just so you know you’re not invincible," said Kruse. "And that you still have to work if you want to get to your ultimate goal which is a state championship.”
Oskaloosa finished the regular season 18-3. For a school that’s never won a boys basketball state title and went 6 and 16 just two years ago – this is special team.
“Very, very, very rare," said Parker. "It’s probably a once in a lifetime type thing when all the pieces fit together. You know these guys have for the most part been growing up together since they were little kids. Sometimes you put pieces together and they don’t mesh, well they have with this group because they’ve been so close to each other throughout the years…”
With the playoffs coming right up, the Indians have a simple plan.
“Just keep winning baby," said Henry. "Just keep winning.”