The Perry boys basketball team made school history this season, and a look back at the memorable season and a glance ahead were both featured at their annual team banquet in the PHS commons Tuesday.
Perry was 15-10 overall and 8-6 in Raccoon River Conference play. The Jays appeared in the state tournament for the first time since 1988, falling to top-ranked and eventual third-place finisher Pella in the quarterfinal round.
Assistant coach Adam Bloom discussed the freshman season and introduced his team, with Jim Prombo reviewing the junior varsity campaign while announcing he would be swapping his JV duties for the seventh grade head coaching spot next season.
Head coach Ned Menke made a special presentation to veteran assistant Jim Richmond, who was on the bench at the state tourney for the first time in his 31 years as a coach. Richmond was awarded a framed game net from the Atlantic gym, where Perry had topped sixth-ranked Glenwood in overtime to secure their spot at the state tourney.
Perry had cut down the net at the far end of the court, so Richmond’s memento was the very net through which the 10 most important points in 28 years of Bluejay basketball had passed.
Menke spoke passionately about the varsity squad, noting the “team had really come together” at a Feb. 10 practice in the middle school gym.
“We were a terrible defensive team up to that point,” he admitted. “We had a drill that we normally assign seven minutes for, but the guys just turned it up and we went for a half-hour. That was when we became the team that went on the 5-0 run to get us to State.”
Players were saluted for academic and all-conference honors they had earned, with Shammond Ivory given a signed ball for shattering the career scoring record, as he reset Mark Einck’s 1978 standard of 1,306 to 1,708 points.
“Somebody is going to break it one day,” Menke said of the record. “Even if it takes almost 40 years, someone will break it, because that is what happens to records, but whoever does it is going to be one heck of an outstanding player.”
Each member of the varsity team was given a packet of statistics and other items from the coaches and all received their commemorative basketball provided by the Iowa Farm Bureau. Presented to all players who made the state tournament, each ball was signed by the entire team.
Menke briefly touched on the distraction caused in the post season by jeers directed at his team.
“I had no idea what was going on when suddenly KCCI shows up at a practice and is there for half an hour,” he said. “That disrupted things, and no sooner had they left than WHO shows up for a half hour.
“All the guys were in the background dunking and showing off and trying to get on camera,” Menke laughed. “I knew then there was no point in even trying to get anything done, so we just called it off. However, I have to say I am very proud of the way we handled the whole situation — if you had told me before the season something like this would happen I would not have believed we would have reacted the way we did and I am proud of how the young men handled it.”
Menke noted the challenge facing the next group of Bluejays will be a difficult one.
“Our conference is really poised to take off,” he said. “The conference is loaded with talented sophomores and juniors who will all be back next year, so it will be very important for our players who are coming back and those who are coming up to keep working hard in the off-season. It was not easy to do what we accomplished this year, and it is not going to get any easier in the next few years, so we are really going to have to work hard.”
Special praise was given by Menke to the PHS Booster Club, the school administration and especially to the fans, who, he said “were a big part in making this season, especially the last week of it, something really special.”
Richmond spoke briefly, thanking Menke for his leadership and reminding those present that the head Bluejay was the 2016 Character Counts Coach of the Year for Perry.
Trey Dantzler, Shammond Ivory, Alex Long, J.R. McCord, Solomon Pierce, Ryan Rathje and Sean Riley were seniors for Perry this season and will be able to recall that, in their final cage campaign they were part of a historic season.