MUSCATINE — Camanche participated in a boys basketball tournament last summer in Kansas City. The Indians went 5-0 but weren’t given an opportunity to compete for the title since four other teams had the identical record.

"We said right there the (Iowa) state tournament can’t keep us out as long as we win,” Camanche coach Josh Davis said. “That’s something we’ve hung our hat on all season.” 

Well, the Indians have kept on winning. Now, they’re headed to Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.

For the first time since 1985, Camanche will play at the state tournament following Saturday night’s riveting 86-80 Class 2A substate final triumph over West Branch at Muscatine High School.

“This is such a great feeling,” senior Dakota Soenksen said. “We’ve been working for this all our lives. Finally to make it to state for this town, for these fans, it is great.”

Camanche had plenty of support. It filled up nearly the entire set of bleachers (lower and upper levels) on one side of the gymnasium.

They didn’t leave disappointed.

Thanks to an 11-0 surge in the fourth quarter, Camanche (22-2) broke free from a determined West Branch (18-6) squad to move on and set off a wild celebration afterward.

“You can’t explain this feeling,” freshman Cameron Soenksen said. “When you see all those people in the stands, it inspires you. You want to do it for them. The support has been great.”

Dylan Hundley was at the forefront of the game-changing run for the Indians. The 6-foot-4 senior had 21 points, 17 coming after intermission, along with 11 rebounds.

He broke a 70-all tie with just less than 5 minutes to go. Then after Dakota Soenksen nailed a 3-pointer, Hundley swiped a pass and took it the length of the court for a layup. 

“I take losing personally,” Hundley said. “I know everyone on the floor and everyone on the bench was giving us energy. I just wanted to do whatever I could to impact the game and turn it around in our favor.”

For three-plus quarters, the River Valley Conference foes exchanged baskets. West Branch poured in 11 trifectas and the two-headed attack of Cooper Kabela and Beau Cornwell combined for 58 points.

Camanche switched to a triangle-and-two defense to try and limit their looks.

“They put on a show in that first half,” Davis said. “We had to make some changes and put a little doubt in some of those other kids’ minds.”

Eventually, the Indians outlasted them with their balance and length.

Camanche had five players in double figures. In addition to Hundley, freshman Cameron Soenksen tallied 20 points and Dakota Soenksen finished with 18. Dev Patel chipped in 11 and David Gonzalez had 10.

“These guys have been great all year,” Davis said. “It was built on a lot of different players from a lot of different years. This group happens to be the ones that get to go there. I’m just so happy for them.”

Camanche lost to Cascade twice during the regular season. Otherwise, the Indians have conquered every challenge. They’ve done it with a free-flowing offense.

Davis’ team has attempted 625 3-pointers this season, more than any other team in the state regardless of classification.

“Everyone accepts their role here,” Davis said. “We’ve got shooters, we’ve got drivers, we’ve got bangers and we’ve got a center who doesn’t care if he takes a shot in warmups.

“There is just a lot of unselfishness here. In reality, we have a lot of pieces that fit and everybody does what’s best for the team.”

The Indians open state tournament action either March 6 or 7. Tournament pairings won’t be determined until later this week.

“Just unbelievable,” Hundley said. “This has been an amazing experience.”

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Prep sports editor, with emphasis on covering the Mississippi Athletic Conference and Iowa area high schools. I've been in sports journalism for 17 years, the last five at the Quad-City Times.