EPWORTH, Iowa — It is hardly a secret by now, but Western Dubuque has some firepower.

The Class 3A No 7-ranked Bobcats were razor-sharp in all facets of their game as they handled Benton Community, 80-48, in their 3A substate opener Monday night. Dylan Johnson had a game-high 25 points, including three thunderous dunks and Garret Baumhover, who assisted on two of the rim-rockers, added 19 points of his own.

“We were able to have a lot more (of a crowd) here tonight, so that just brought the energy,” Johnson said of his slam dunks.

Western Dubuque (16-4) wasted no time jumping ahead early as it used an 8-0 run to open the game. Baumhover connected on two of his three treys in the opening minutes to catapult the run. After two consecutives steals and layups by Baumhover and Carson Schute, the Bobcats were ahead, 17-2.

Another 8-0 run early in the second quarter extended the lead even farther. Baumhover’s pinpoint alley-oop feed from the wing to Johnson for a slam sent the WD faithful into an uproar and gave them a 28-8 advantage at 5:01. Later in the quarter, Johnson proved he could throw down on his own, as he stripped the ball and took it the other way for a one-handed dunk to ignite the crowd even more. Western Dubuque forced 11 first-half turnovers to take a 38-23 halftime lead.

“Overall, I thought we did a pretty good job tonight,” WD coach Wayne Cusick said. “I thought we played like we focused — lost it a little bit before halftime, but then we talked about it and stayed focused on doing what we have to do in the third quarter.”

Benton got within 12 early in the third, when Blake Daugherty connected on one of his five 3-pointers, but Western Dubuque quickly had an answer. Baumhover and Johnson paired up again for another highlight in the midst of a 13-0 run that put the game away for good. After a steal, Baumhover was headed for a wide-open layup when he perfectly bounced it off the backboard to a trailing Johnson for another crowd-rocking hammer and a 51-30 advantage.

Western Dubuque advanced to host Waverly-Shell Rock — which defeated Dubuque Wahlert, 61-54, in its quarterfinal — in the next round.

Johnson said if his team follows a similar formula, they will be ready come Thursday.

“We just played good as a team and were communicating out there; I think that helped us,” he said. “We just need to come in to practice tomorrow and the next couple of days and build on it.”

Cusick wants his guys to appreciate the way they played tonight but be mindful of the journey ahead.

“They all have to feel good about themselves—they got some easy buckets to feel good about,” he said. “Next round is different; it’s a different animal. “We still have to come focused, focus on the fundamentals and make sure we can be the best version of ourselves that we can be. If we do that, we’ll be alright.”

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