1995 Basketball State Champions

There was a time in IWA sports history when basketball was just something to do between volleyball and softball seasons. In 1985 the IWA soccer program was started, and it also quickly rose to prominence with a state championship in 1989. While the walls of the gym were filled with volleyball, cheerleading, and soccer state championship banners, basketball was nowhere to be seen. However, the basketball program started to make a name for itself with the school’s first district championship in twelve years in 1989, the first basketball final four appearance in the school’s history in 1993, and narrowly losing the quarterfinal game in 1994. Despite losing some fine seniors in the ‘94 class, including Angie Kohnen who at the time was the career scoring and rebounding leader, Coach Jim Johnson was very optimistic about the 1994-95 season. He recognized what he had. There was a very gifted group of players returning for the next year in addition to some exciting freshmen who would be joining the program. The ’95 team used their depth to their advantage by playing an up tempo offense and pressure defense to wear their opponents down. They rolled through the regular season with only four losses. After beating Rosati Kain in a thrilling overtime district final, the Red Knights defeated Villa in the sectional game, and had an easy victory over Mexico High School in the quarterfinal game. Going into the semifinal game, there was some trepidation since they were playing a St. James High School team that little was known about except that they had a record of 29-1. But the Red Knights quickly took control of the game and blasted the St. James squad by the score of 59-42. This put Johnson’s squad into the finals against Helias High School, which had a record of 30-1. Helias had control of the game early, but in a game of streaks, IWA kept fighting back. Helias looked like they were going to have a three point lead at half time until Kristie Eller got off a heave from beyond half court to cut the score to 29-29. The streaks continued in the second half with the teams continuing to exchange leads. At the end, Helias had a 50-49 lead when the Red Knights had to foul with only sixteen seconds left on the clock. When Helias missed the free throw, Kristie Eller ran down the rebound, raced up court, and fed April McKinney who banked in a shot for the winning basket. Bedlam ensued. This 1995 was a group of dedicated and talented young women who helped establish IWA as the basketball powerhouse that it is today.