The Lake Mills boys’ basketball team is hoping there will be more chapters to write in their historic run this season. They open play in the Class 1A state tournament on Monday.
The Bulldogs have rewritten the history books this season, highlighted their undefeated season, and winning the conference championship for the first time in nearly two decades. The Bulldogs will be making their second straight trip to the state tournament for the first time in school history. Besides the last two seasons, their only other trips came in 1973 and 1986.
Last season, the Bulldogs were the #1 seed but fell to #8 seed – and eventual champion – Wapsie Valley. Senior Dashawn Linnen leads the Bulldogs in scoring, averaging 19.1 points per game. He says the experience they gained last year will help with the nerves.
Lake Mills has never won a game at state and will open with a Montezuma team making their third straight appearance. The Braves beat West Fork in the third-place game last year at the 1A tournament and are led by a 2,000 point scorer, Trey Shearer. Montezuma also finished fourth in the Class 1A tournament in 2019.
A loss now for the Bulldogs will end the ultimate goal of winning a state title, but coach Kyle Menke says the team hasn’t been focused on the fact that they haven’t lost a game.
Lake Mills faced little challenge throughout the season, steamrolling their way to an undefeated regular season, though, the postseason has been a different story. They trailed Bishop Garrigan – the 2020 Class 1A runners-up – heading to the fourth quarter in the district final but won by outscoring the Golden Bears 17-10 in the final frame. The substate final against West Fork – who finished fourth at state last year – was also a challenge through the first eight minutes and again in the second half, but the Bulldogs pulled away for the 54-40 victory.
Lake Mills has three seniors in the starting lineup, two of which – Linnen and Caleb Bacon – were key components to their success last year. The other, Ryan Huston, has stepped up in a big way. The senior played in only 17 of Lake Mills’ 26 games a year ago. This season, Huston has played in all 25 and started 24 of them. Huston is careful with the basketball, with only 18 turnovers all season and a key to the Lake Mills defense, which allows opponents to score only 40 points per game.
Wyatt Helming has also stepped up to fill gaps from graduation. Helming has scored 212 more points this season than last. He averages 13 points per game, shooting 37% from the three-point range and nearly 60% from the field. He’s second on the team in rebounds, behind Bacon, the school’s all-time leader in rebounds, and leads the team with 52 blocks which he ranks 18th state-wide. Helming said following the district final, he didn’t feel any nerves thinking about state and feel ready to go.
Winning a state title in this year’s Class 1A field won’t be easy. Besides the challenge of their first-round opponent Montezuma. Lake Mills could also face Grand View Christain’s challenges, who won three state titles in 2017, 2018, and 2019. And it seems all roads lead to North Linn, who has dominated the past half-decade. The Lynx’s are making their fifth straight appearance in Des Moines, winning the title in 2019. They have been to the title game that lasts three seasons. They lost to Grand View Christian in 2018, won the Class 2A title in 2019, and fell in the Class 2A title last year to Boyden-Hull – who is poised to make a run at back-to-back title this season. With all of that, though, coach Kyle Menke says winning a title has been a dream for these seniors since they started playing basketball, and the goal is to win it.
Coach Menke will join KIOW’s Zarren Egesdal tomorrow morning for the Coaches Corner Program to recap the postseason and preview the state tournament. The interview will be available here on KIOW.com at 10 AM tomorrow.
Lake Mills will open the tournament Monday at 2:00 pm. The game will be broadcast live on KIOW (107.3) with play-by-play commentators Chris and Zach Throne on the call. Chris was a first-time all-stater for the Bulldogs in 2010. Chris was a three-point weapon throughout his career as a Bulldog, including making 10-three’s against West Fork in 2009. Zach also played basketball for Lake Mills but excelled in football. He was recently named an all-conference offensive lineman for the Waldorf Warriors football team this past fall. KIOW will also have full coverage on our website with postgame interviews and more from Des Moines.