Boys’ Basketball: Winfield-Mt. Union Returns to State

Fairfield, IA- It’s not often two teams from the same conference collide to decide who will go to the State Tournament, but that’s what happened at Fairfield High School last night for the Class 1A Substate 5 championship. Defense ruled the night, and it was Winfield-Mt. Union that narrowly defeated Holy Trinity Catholic to advance to state 46-41.

The first quarter featured the two teams struggling to find open shots and off-line three-point shots. Luke Hellige scored four quick points to help the Crusaders take a 9 to 5 lead late in the first quarter, but an off-balance Gabriel Hemsworth three helped snare the game at 11 to enter the second quarter.

The second quarter completely belonged to the Wolves as Cam Buffington scored 10 of his game-high 18 points in the first half and helped Winfield-Mt. Union end the first half on a 12 to 2 run to lead 23 to 13.

For Winfield-Mt. Union’s head coach Klay Edwards–who was a key piece to the Wolves team that went to the state tournament in three straight seasons finishing in 2nd, 3rd, and 4th–defense is what his team prides themselves on,

“That’s kind of what we’ve hung our hat on all year. You know, sometimes you you’re not just, you’re just not putting the ball in the hoop, you know, like you’d like to. But you know, they kept fighting, you know, it got close there in the 4th, but senior leadership, you know, the guys did what they needed to do. And this time of year, you want to make just enough plays like that, it doesn’t matter if it’s one or thirty, you know. So just really, really good feeling for the boys.”

To start the second half, it was Holy Trinity Catholic making the early plays after two steals and quick buckets cut the lead to six, but Jake Edwards and Gabriel Hemsworth combined for five threes in the game and Edwards hit a big one to keep the Crusaders at bay.

Holy Trinity Catholic had an opportunity late in the third quarter to cut the lead down to seven after Layne Rung was fouled throwing up a three-pointer; however, he would go 1 for 3 at the line, cutting the deficit to nine, 36 to 27.

The Crusaders opened the scoring in the fourth quarter and went on a 9 to 2 run to cut the score to 38 to 36 with time running out as Layne Rung hit a three to finish the night with six points.

Yet, the seniors of Winfield-Mt. Union took over with Abram Edwards scoring four of his eight points in the fourth quarter as he collected two steals and two blocks. Gabriel Hemsworth made a free throw to give the Wolves a 44 to 39 lead with less than a minute remaining.

That’s when Crusader senior Conner Gehling made a lay-up to cut the lead to three and register his 1,001st career point. However, Buffington would secure the victory with some late free throws to give the Wolves the Substate championship.

A drenched coach Edwards talked about this senior class that has now made it to state in two sports,

“Relief and like, just complete satisfaction, I guess. So happy for these kids and their family. And the work they put in. And you know, to put this on top of going to the Dome in football, it feels really, really good and really special. And I’m just so proud of them. And I also feel really wet, but I’ll take that any day.”

Abram Edwards talked about the senior year he’s been able to enjoy with his teammates,

“It’s a lot of fun, I mean, all of these guys we’ve been playing together since we were little kids and just to do it with them is amazing.”

Holy Trinity Catholic’s all-time leader in blocks, Gehling, finished the game with 10 points and three blocks as the other senior for the Crusaders, Maddox Rung, cashed in for four points as head coach John Hellige was emotional talking about his two seniors,

“First of all, just amazing student athletes. Love and death. Thank him as my own kids, honestly. But, you know, starting with Maddox, definite glue guy this year. Talk about a guy that’s completely bought into the system. Team Captain, stat stuffer steals, assists, some points, rebounds. You know, he was playing that two guard and was our second leading rebounder. Just an amazing kid. Amazing human being. Gonna do great things in life. And then Connor, Galen’s just been, you know, the heart and soul of the team for four years now. three-year starter and 1000 points scorer, nobody works harder than Connor. He’s transformed himself into just an off the charts leaper, 5 or 6 dunks this year, and you know, just an amazing senior year and happy for those guys. And going to look forward to him doing big, big things in life.”

(Left to Right: Conner Gehling, Head Coach John Hellige, and Maddox Rung)

Holy Trinity Catholic finished the season with a 19-6 record.

The 20-2 Winfield-Mt. Union Wolves snatched the #4 seed and will face off against #5 Lynnville-Sully on Monday, March 4th, at 12:15 pm for the Class 1A Quarterfinals. Coach Edwards plans on getting his kids to a college gym to practice in a similar atmosphere to Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, but also knows his seniors will be able to lead the team.

“Yeah, it’s just amazing, I’m blessed, you know, Coach McCarty’s blessed in football to have these type of kids and these families… You know, the right time for me, I guess, that I can rely on those guys and honestly like I do a little bit of coaching, but these guys know what they need to do and they just do it.”

KILJ 105.5 FM,, will have the call with the pregame show at noon.

WMU Scorers: Buffington 18, Jake Edwards 11, Hemsworth 9, Abram Edwards 8

HTC Scorers: Hellige 16, Gehling 10, Layne Rung 6, Adam Sobczak 5, Maddox Rung 4