SIOUX CITY — Neither Keaten Bonderson nor Carter DeRocher will be able to sleep for the next couple nights.
The two Gehlen Catholic High School guards were filled with excitement on Tuesday after beating Woodbury Central 86-56 in a Class 1A-District 2 championship. The game was hosted by Bishop Heelan at O’Gorman Fieldhouse in Sioux City.
With the win, the Jays face a familiar foe on Saturday at Le Mars High School for the right to play at the state tournament in a couple weeks. That team is Remsen St. Mary’s.
“I think it’s pretty special,” Gehlen coach Mike Langel said. “We’ve been playing each other every year for the last hundred years and every one is special in my mind. I don’t think we’ve ever played them in a substate (final) before. I think both schools will be pretty proud of what goes out on the floor.”
These two teams know each other quite well. Gehlen has beaten the Hawks twice, but before that, the Hawks won eight games in a row over their rival just nine miles from Remsen.
“I’ve never been this excited,” Bonderson said. “We wanted this all year, again. It just feels amazing, because I’m kind of tired of going out in the playoffs. It feels good to make it to the big game. I’ve always wanted to play in one of these big games, and I finally get the chance to.”
Bonderson made sure his performance was good enough to give him and the Jays a shot at the substate final.
The 6-foot sophomore scored 30 points in the win, and he scored 15 in each half. Bonderson made 10 two-point field goals, three 3-pointers and a free throw.
Bonderson created most of his opportunities in transition, forcing the Wildcats to turn the ball over and getting fastbreak layups and even a couple of dunks.
“Our fastbreak offense and defense is what helps us win games, I think,” Bonderson said. “Getting back on defense, it prevents them from getting easy layups. Coach Mike (Langel), our defensive guys, has been on that all year. That’s definitely helping us win.
“Getting those dunks, especially in these types of games is awesome,” Bonderson said. “There’s tons of energy, and I was itching to get one the whole game. I finally get one, and I was like, ‘OK, it’s time to take off.’”
Bonderson wasn’t the only Jays scorer who took off in Tuesday’s win.
Carter DeRocher also scored 24 points for Gehlen, which improved its record to 24-1. DeRocher, a 6-foot-2 junior, hit seven shots that included a 3-pointer. DeRocher also had a fastbreak dunk during the win.
Gehlen set the tone out early, leading 14-4 early in the first quarter, and the Wildcats couldn’t catch up to the highly-seeded Jays.
“They can shoot the ball, and they’re a very good team,” Wildcats coach Josh Wilkerson said. “They’re hard to match up with. They’ve got Bonderson and DeRocher out there who can just hit it. Then, their role players just stepped up in the beginning.”
Wildcats junior Dallas Kluender led his team with 22 points, and 13 of those came in the first half. Cane Schmitt also chipped in with 14 points.
The Wildcats ended the season with a 14-9 record, a big improvement from three wins in 2019-20.
“I’m very proud of our boys,” Wilkerson said. “I’m proud of how they came together as a group. When they grow older, they’re not going to remember the wins and losses. They’re going to remember the lessons of coming together.”
Get in the game with our Prep Sports Newsletter
Sent weekly directly to your inbox!