Kelby Telander, senior, was one of the best-performing members for the Varsity team this year, consistently being one of the top-scorers for the Bolts. (Katie Tippet)
Kelby Telander, senior, was one of the best-performing members for the Varsity team this year, consistently being one of the top-scorers for the Bolts.

Katie Tippet

Liberty Boys One Win from Well

The Liberty Boys basketball team are just one win away from state, even though they have had one crazy ride throughout the season.

March 2, 2021

This year has been a very interesting year for everyone here at Liberty, but for the Boys Varsity Basketball Team, it’s been unlike any other. 

The Liberty boys didn’t get to play in their first four games of the season against Washington High School, Davenport North, Dubuque Senior, and cross-town rival West High due to the ICCSD being 100% online learning. 

The first game of the season was finally played on December 18 against Prairie, and it was a close one. Liberty pulled out the win with a final score of 68-62. The Bolts were led by seniors Ira Hazeltine and Kelby Telander’s with 16 and 15 points (pts) respectively. Senior Ethan O’Donnell also added 14 pts. 

The boys then took on Cedar Rapids Jefferson and won 83-66. Telander led the team in scoring with 27 pts.

“After we missed our first four games, I was just eager and excited to get back on the court as much as possible at that point,” Telander said about scoring 15 and 27 points in the first two games.

The first ICCSD rival game of the season was at City High School. The Bolts boasted their talent and aggressiveness with an 80-50 win, led by O’Donnell’s 18 pts and junior Griffin Kraft’s 16 pts.

I never had to handle anything like a global pandemic when I was a senior in high school and to watch these young men handle themselves and navigate frustration, failure, and disappointment has been absolutely incredible,”

— Ryan Kelly

“Against City, everyone was playing very well, and we were all hitting our shots. It opened the floor a lot which helped me be more aggressive down low and get some big buckets for my team in the blowout win,” said Kraft. 

After a COVID exposure to the team, all play stopped, including practice, as they had to do a two-week quarantine. This caused them to miss two more games against Western Dubuque and Waterloo West.

As an entire team, it had been a very tough season. Co-Head Coach Ryan Kelly explained how tough this season has been for his team.

“I never had to handle anything like a global pandemic when I was a senior in high school, and to watch these young men handle themselves and navigate frustration, failure, and disappointment has been absolutely incredible,” said Kelly.

It has also been tough for the players especially during the quarantines. Grayson Tyler, senior, stated how the team tried to stay together during those times.

“Quarantine was very tough for our team, but we played cards online and also did workouts together over zoom to try to stay together and focused on the overall team goal,” explained Tyler. 

After the two weeks, the boys were cleared to play with only a couple of days before their next match-up. The game was the second match-up against Prairie. The boys pulled out another win in overtime with a final score of 64-63. Seniors Telander and Basil Aldoss led the scoring with 17 and 13 points. 

Just one day later, the boys took on Cedar Rapids Xavier. The Bolts stayed undefeated with a 48-40 point lead in a tight game. Hazeltine and Telander led with 11 points each. 

The next game proved to be the most challenging yet for the Bolts as they faced the first seed team in 4A: the Cedar Falls’ Tigers. The boys stayed competitive in the first half, but a fourth-quarter run from the Tigers took the Bolts out and earned the boys their first loss of the season with a final score of 87-63. 

After a positive test inside the program, the Bolts were forced to yet another two-week quarantine. 

Cody Schroeder, senior, explained that this quarantine was harder on the team than the first.

“Well, I have been playing with these guys for awhile now, and we’ve gotten to know each other very well. This year has been very difficult for our team, but since we have all a very tight bond together, it has really helped. With it being a lot of our senior seasons, you never know when it will be canceled, so we just make sure we take advantage of every opportunity with this team we get,” stated Schoreder.

As all the boys were eager to get back on the court, the two weeks ended against a very athletic team: Cedar Rapids Washington. For a second time, a late-game run caused the Bolts to lose their second straight game with a final of 56-52. 

After that, the boys lost another three games with the first against crosstown rivals, West High School. The Bolts lost a 17 point lead to drop their third straight game 78-69. Aldoss scored 17 points, and Telander added 16. This loss was followed by two more against  Cedar Rapids Kennedy and sixth ranked Dubuque Hempstead. The Bolts dropped both games, losing 59-43 and 66-46.

During a game against Dubuque Hempstead, Basil Aldoss, senior, dribbles the ball. (Katie Tippet)

“After losing 5 straight, we really had to focus on our end goal. Our goal is to make State. With our substate seed already out, we really used these games as a way to get better and practice our stuff for the postseason. Obviously, we wanted to win those games, but the more important thing is to get better every single day and make it to Des Moines,” O’Donnell said after a tough string of losses.

The boys finally got back in the win column when they traveled down to Keokuk to play the Chiefs. The first half was heated with a lot of back and forth play but a 36 point second half led the boys to a 63-36 point win heading into the playoffs. Telander led the team with 21 points and 6 boards.

The playoffs are finally here and the boys have never been more excited to play than now. The Bolts got the two seed in the Class 4A substate six bracket, which means they got a buy into the second round. They played the Davenport North Wildcats here at Liberty, which turned out to be a very competitive and high-paced game. The score was 26-24 at halftime, but a 26 point fourth quarter and a massive two-hand slam by Telander sealed the game with a final of 58-50. The Bolts will now continue to the substate final, only one win away from state. 

The next game is tonight at Bettendorf against the Pleasant Valley Spartans. They are ranked fifth in class 4A. Their leading scorers are Jacob Townsend averaging 12.6 ppg and Ryan Dolphin with 10.7 ppg. It should be a tight game for both teams, and the winner will advance down to State to play at the Well. Tip-off is at 7 p.m. sharp and the Liberty Journalism Staff will be live-tweeting updates. Make sure to follow @BoltsJournalism for updates. 

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Liberty Boys One Win from Well