For people who understood the Warhawks, though, the slow start may have been understandable.
West Fork needed to replace six seniors from the 2016-17 roster, but just as importantly, the Warhawks’ recent success was predicated in large part by some height that was no longer available.
On Friday, the Warhawks took on a Bishop Garrigan team that had a substantial height advantage, but the a retooled West Fork team walked away with a 72-68 win that not only secured the Class 1A, District 3 title, but it marked the 13th consecutive win for West Fork.
“They learned a lot and didn’t give up,” West Fork coach Frank Schnoes said. “They knew they had to find a way to win.”
For West Fork, finding the way to win started with fundamentally-sound play on the defensive end of the court.
In the current winning streak, the Warhawks have held opponents below 50 points more than half of the time.
The offense, though, which used to be dominated by inside play, moved a little farther away from the basket.
The Warhawks, who have been averaging six 3-pointers per game and shooting nearly 36 percent from long range, connected on 13-of-21 3s on Friday.
“We had to change our style a little bit,” West Fork sophomore guard Ian Latham said. “We lost so many seniors it took us a while to find our groove.”
What makes the Warhawks so difficult from long range was on full display on a night where four different West Fork players made at least two 3-point shots.
Zach Martinek, who leads West Fork at nearly 19 points per game, hit on 5-of-6 three pointers and finished with 25 on the night.
Latham finished with 14 points and a pair of three pointers while Mitchell Halloran had 12 points on four made 3s.
West Fork (19-5) will face a 21-3 Don Bosco team on Monday at Clear Lake High School with a spot in the Class 1A state tournament going to the victor.
If the new-look Warhawks can have similar success on the offensive end to match their usual defensive effort, another trip to Des Moines, something that did not seem likely a scant six weeks ago, will become a reality for the tradition-rich West Fork program.