The first three quarters belonged to Dubuque Hempstead.
The last one belonged to a 5-foot-9 reserve guard for Wahlert.
TJ Fowler scored 11 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter, including a pair of crucial free throws in the final 10 seconds to put the game out of reach, as the Golden Eagles rallied from a nine-point deficit to beat their rival Mustangs, 68-63, on Friday, at Wahlert.
It was a much, much-needed win for the Eagles (5-13), who were riding a six-game losing streak entering Friday. Hempstead was the team that started that spiral, handing Wahlert a 72-65 loss back on Jan. 24.
The Mustangs (13-6) -- ranked 10th in this week’s Iowa Class 4A poll -- looked as though they were heading to a regular-season sweep and a share of the city title with a 59-50 lead entering the final frame. Then Fowler emerged.
“He played a huge role tonight,” said Eagles coach Tom English. “Just in the last 10 days or so, he’s been getting more comfortable with the offense and what we do. Obviously, the kid can shoot it. It brings an element of quickness to the court for us.
“We’ve been getting better, but we didn’t have wins on the board to show for it. … I told (my team) that we deserved to win this game. Hempstead started this losing streak and it was appropriate that we ended it against them. They deserved it because of how hard we’ve been working through this losing streak.”
Fowler opened the fourth with a 3 to bring his team back within two possessions, 59-53. Jacob Schockemoehl followed up with a 3, to bring the Eagles within 59-56 with over 6 minutes to go.
Nick Kaesbauer converted a layup, and Michael Duax scored a jumper to push Hempstead back in front, 63-59. Fowler answered with his third 3 of the fourth quarter, cutting Wahlert’s deficit to 63-62 at the 3:20 mark, and the Eagles took the lead for good a possession later on Isaac Ripley’s putback seconds later.
“It feels great to come in and just hit some spectacular shots for my team to help us win the game,” said Fowler, who came into the game averaging 6.2 points.
English said he’s been slowly fazing Fowler into the gameplan, after an illness kept him sidelined through most of the first half of the season. Friday served as Fowler’s “breakout game,” according to English.
“Coach said just stick with it and you’ll get the win,” Fowler said. “Play defense, play hard, hustle, get good shots and that’s how we got the W.”
The Mustangs still had chances in this one. Schockemoehl hit a pair of bonus free throws to put his team up, 66-63, in the final minute. Kaesbauer air-balled a would-be game-tying 3-point attempt, giving possession back to the Eagles, but Cael Schmitt missed the ensuing bonus free-throw attempt for Wahlert, giving possession back to the Mustangs, down three, with 27 seconds remaining.
Kellen Strohmeyer’s 3 attempt hit front iron for Hempstead, and Fowler crashed between two defenders for what proved to be the game-winning rebound. The Mustangs fouled Fowler to preserve time, and he sank both bonus free throws to give the Eagles a five-point advantage with 7.4 seconds to play.
Hempstead was outscored, 18-4, in the fourth quarter, shooting 2 of 9 from the field and 0-for-2 on free throws as a team in final 8 minutes.
“We had our chances to bust that thing open. We were up 9-10 a few different times in the second half, but we just could never get that knockout punch,” said Mustangs coach Curt Deutsch. “We let them hang around. Wahlert’s extremely good in their gym. … Anytime you play an intracity game like this, you know you’re going to be in for a dogfight. The longer you let them hang around, things like this are going to happen.”
Schockemoehl led all scorers with 27 points in his final intracity game, including 8 of 9 on free throws. Duax led Hempstead with 22 points and Kaesbauer added 15.