DES MOINES — Two days after the Glenwood boys finally cut down the net again, head coach Curt Schulte stood in the middle of a circle of his players and addressed the situation.
Monday night’s substate final win over Harlan, he said, was a night and a feeling they’d never forget, but after taking a day off to recover, it was time to get back to work.
The team’s motto since the season began had been “unfinished business.” Earning a substate banner hadn’t changed that.
“Today, let’s get up a lot of shots,” Schulte told them before practice began. “Let’s go game speed with things and get a lot of reps up. We’re not going real long, so let’s make this next hour really special.”
On Tuesday at 1 p.m., fourth-seeded Glenwood (22-2) will take on fifth-seeded Norwalk (22-2) in a Class 3-A state quarterfinal game at Wells Fargo Arena. It will be the Rams’ third state appearance in program history, and second trip in the past four years.
To Schulte, the team’s past four years — which have included 71 wins, two Hawkeye Ten Conference titles, four district titles and two state berths — is a far cry from where the program was when he took the reins in 2006.
“I inherited a team that was 1-21,” the coach said. “My first year, we ended up getting 10 wins, and we just kind of gradually kept climbing as the years went along.
“I’m real proud of our accomplishments.”
Heavily involved in what the team has achieved is a group of seniors that make up two-thirds of the Rams’ current nine-man rotation.
It starts with Wayne State signee Nate Mohr and Northwest Missouri State football signee Andrew Blum.
Mohr, who doubles as both the Rams’ floor general and best pure shooter, is averaging 14 points per game, along with 5.2 assists and 2.6 steals. Blum leads the team in rebounding, pulling down 7.5 per game and adding 12.8 points.
Junior Christian Stanislav, meanwhile, has emerged as both the team’s leading scorer (15.7) and second-leading rebounder (5.2).
Nate Kennedy, a lengthy track star and 3-point shooter, and center and Buena Vista University football recruit Cody Buresh round out the starting lineup. Seniors Jake Murtfeld and Blake Von Essen, sophomore Zach Carr and freshman Ryan Blum all play key roles off the bench.
No one shoots lower than 45 percent from the floor, everyone can defend and everyone can play high-tempo. Together, they’ve taken Glenwood basketball to a level that this group has been thinking about for a long time.
“When I was a little, I always knew that we would be good in high school,” Stanislav said. “We always had that talk, ‘What could we do with this team?’ ”
The 6-foot-3 Mohr and 6-4 Blum were both key contributors as freshmen for the 2014-2015 squad that captured Glenwood’s first state berth in 63 years.
But while they were playing a part in school history, the rest of their classmates were preparing for the varsity level by learning how to compete without them.
“I think that was good for everybody,” Mohr said. “They had to play without us, and they got their confidence, and now it’s really showing when they’re out there.”
Said Kennedy: “It let us really develop our game and kind of take a leadership role in the freshman and JV team.”
Glenwood welcomed a host of new faces into the mix over the next two years, but the team fell short of state both times.
The Rams dropped an overtime heartbreaker to Perry in the substate final in 2016, and lost to Atlantic by one last year.
“My freshman year,” Kennedy said, “I was really jealous that those two went on to state, and then my sophomore year (we) didn’t go, and then junior year (we) didn’t go, and I was still really jealous that those two made it.
“And then it finally all pays off.”
Schulte says this year’s squad has gotten where it is by staying focused and driven all year-round, even while competing in other sports.
Between all the shooting sessions, weight-lifting classes, summer tournaments and individual workouts, the Rams have spent a lot time working toward their goals outside of regular practice hours.
“They do a lot of things when people aren’t looking,” Schulte said.
They’ll have a lot of eyes on them on Tuesday in what’s expected to be a frenzied shootout between the two highest-scoring teams in Class 3-A.
Nowalk, which is led by a robust backcourt of Bowen Born (18.9 points per game) and Luke Vaske (19.6 points per game), puts up 78 points per game. Glenwood averages 74.
“Look at all the teams that are in,” Schulte told his team on Wednesday. “You’re right there with them.”