By Alex Foltz
The basketball season has wrapped up and the seniors have played their final games. The Muscatine High School boys had a phenomenal season, making it all the way to state and ending with a record of 16 wins and 8 losses. This is only the third time since 1960 that the Muskies have appeared at the state tournament. The Muskies also placed third in the Mississippi Athletic Conference.
Each of the six seniors made their own contributions to the team and will leave a hole that must be filled by underclassmen or new teammates. Antonio Melendez, Lex Hahn, Josh Hutton, Jackson Foulk, Joe Wieskamp, and Bryce Howard are all on to bigger and better things.
Brian Mussehl, the Voice of the Muscatine Muskies, gave some insight to the players and the season. Mussehl has been calling the Muskies for seven years now.
Melendez left Muscatine High School over semester break of his sophomore year to play on a traveling national AAU soccer team out of Kansas City. According to Mussehl, Melendez is a very good role model and the best defensive player on the whole team. Melendez is also a “completely unselfish and fantastic player.”
Hahn has made many improvements in his four years with the program. Standing at 6′ 5″, he is a very athletic player. Mussehl claims he is a “great kid, an athletic kid, and he paid the price and made himself a better player.”
Hutton took care of the ball this season, and according to Mussehl he was the best player to do so. His statistics show this, as he had 78 assists throughout the season. His skills throughout the season helped get the Muskies to Des Moines. Mussehl said he is “a great kid off the court as well and [I] couldn’t be happier for him.”
Foulk plays three different sports for the Muskies. Mussehl said that when the game is on the line, he is one of the players that need to take the shot. Foulk is “a great emotional leader and certainly loves being part of the Muskie family,” according to Mussehl. Foulk always gives it his all when he is on the court.
Wieskamp is a “once in a lifetime opportunity” for Muscatine to witness. He hit the 2,000-point mark this year and broke the scoring record for the 4A class. He is the all-time highest scorer and rebounder in the Mississippi Athletic Conference. Wieskamp will be a guard next year at the University of Iowa. Mussehl said that not much can be said of Wieskamp that hasn’t been said already, but he did say that the team celebrated the accomplishments of Wieskamp as much as he did himself.
“Wieskamp has set standards that people are going to be chasing for years,” Mussehl claimed.
Howard, while being troubled by his knees over the course of the past year, gave it his all this season. Mussehl stated that he gave his heart and soul to the program and was a key contributor.
The biggest highlight of the season was making the state tournament. The Muskies also tied for third place in the Mississippi Athletic Conference and beat Davenport North for the third time in the playoffs. The victory over Linn-Mar was also a huge accomplishment, as it sent them to the state tournament.
The Muscatine Fieldhouse was full many Friday nights, with the community supporting their basketball program.
“It was outrageous. It was a fun and entertaining winter sport season here,” Mussehl stated.
Mussehl said that he thought the best highlight of the season was the cake auction home game against Bettendorf. It was a high-intensity game, with Wieskamp scoring the first 31 points for the team, ending with a total of 54 points.
However, without a coaching staff to lead these athletes, the season would have been much different. Head coach Gary Balger ended the season with 629 career wins. In his two years at Muscatine, Balger has a record of 31 wins and 16 losses. When he took the job at Muscatine he claimed that he would take the team to the state tournament. Mussehl said that the assistant coach, Joel Wichers, is one of the top assistant coaches in the state.
“Without a doubt, this was the most entertaining season so far. The heart and soul of these kids was so entertaining to watch,” Mussehl said.
The state basketball tournament championship round takes place March 9.