SIGOURNEY – Almost an entire year later, Nik Coble’s voice still cracks when he talks about the end to his junior season on the basketball court.
Coble is doing whatever it takes to ensure his senior season doesn’t end with the same type of heartbreak. The 6-7 senior scored 22 points on Monday night in a 72-34 win, making the fifth-ranked (1A) Warriors the second team in the state to reach 11-0 on the season.
“We had a snow out on Friday, so I think West Sioux beat us to 11-0,” WACO head boys basketball coach Paul Kissell said. “It’s a good feeling to be in this position. The kids have worked hard. They’re seeing the benefit of all the hard work they’ve put into the program over the past four years.
“It’s one more game for us. We have some big goals. So far, so good.”
WACO’s experience, with seven seniors including Coble in the lineup, eventually made the difference against the younger Savages. After starting the season 4-0, Monday’s loss to the Warriors was the fifth straight for a Sigourney featuring two underclassmen as its top two scorers.
“We’re going in the right direction with the potential that we have as a program,” Sigourney head boys basketball coach Mitch Eslick said. “There are going to be some growing pains this year. The kids that are producing for us are young and they’ll continue to get better.
“I like the direction that the kids are going, but on nights like this it’s a matter of consistency. I saw one good quarter of it from our kids. We’ve got to find a way to put 32 minutes together of the four-minute stretches I’ve seen from our kids during this season.”
Sigourney collected a pair of early steals, got the first basket of the game on a tough running shot from Cade Molyneux and again took the lead on a baseline jumper from Mason Harter. Harter, a 6-6 freshman, measured up with Coble on the floor and led Sigourney with 10 points.
“I’m glad I’m a senior,” Coble joked about matching up with Harter. “I don’t have to go up against him for three more years. I wasn’t even 6-6 as a freshman.”
The 6-5 senior, however, made plenty of plays around the court on Monday, adding 14 rebounds to his night including eight alone in the opening minutes of the second half. Coble also had five steals and capped the night with transition dunk at the end of the third quarter, giving WACO a commanding 53-20 lead.
“Nik is a product of the hard work he’s put in,” Kissell said. “He’s gone from a 5-10 freshman to a 6-7 senior that played point guard in junior high, so he has the skills to handle the basketball all around the court. We’ve got a new weight room and he was in there all summer just working to get better for every sport. He was an all-district football player and he’s just rolled right into a great basketball season.”
That offseason work intensified for Coble after coming up painfully short of leading the Warriors to the state tournament last season. After hitting game-winning shots in district tournament victories over Southeast Iowa Superconference champions Pekin (North) and New London (South), Coble had the same opportunity at the end of regulation against Alburnett in the substate finals.
Coble’s shot to send WACO to state caromed off the rim. Alburnett hit 9 of 10 free throws in overtime, earning a 60-54 win to clinch the school’s first-ever state tournament berth.
“It’s not easy to do what we did last year and come up that short,” Coble said. “Alburnett represented our substate well, finishing as the runner-up at state. There was a lot of thought from everyone on the team after that game. We knew what we could do coming into this season.”
While WACO hopes to not only take that next step to qualify for state, but contend for a state championship in 2020, Sigourney (4-5) will look to continue growing as this season continues. The Savages bid to get back on the winning track includes tough road tests this week at HLV and on Saturday night at Pekin.
“When you throw in the holiday break, it’s been over a month since we’ve won a game,” Eslick said. “You need to have that winning feeling and it’s hard to get back sometimes. I know our players can play better. I look at where WACO is now. There’s no reason if we keep working hard that we can’t be where WACO is in the next couple of years.”