WATERLOO — Even after being part of state championship teams in baseball and soccer at Gibault High School, what senior Wes Degener accomplished Saturday was still pretty impressive.
Degener finished with a triple-double as he set career highs with 31 points and 11 steals and grabbed 12 rebounds as the Hawks knocked off Nashville 63-52 in a battle of state-ranked teams.
"It was definitely one of those nights," said Degener, who hit six of his first seven shots and scored a combined 21 points in the first and fourth quarters. "I didn't think it was going to be that kind of a night. My teammates had a lot of trust in me and I got a lot of free throws, I got to the line a lot."
He also repeatedly beat his man to the basket as Gibault improved to 6-0. Nashville (3-2) was tied for first in the Associated Press preseason Class 2A state rankings, while Gibault was seventh in Class 1A.
Nashville's 6-foot-7 sophomore Royce Newman finished with 20 points, half of those coming on free throws.
"We had a bad matchup on our defensive end with their bigs, they had a couple guys that were 6-5 (or taller)," Degener said. "But they had the same matchup problem on the other side, they couldn't keep up with our post players."
That quickness by Gibault also helped force 19 Nashville turnovers, while the Hawks had 15.
"The people that we had on (Degener) early picked up two fouls just bang-bang and we had to put different people on him," Nashville coach Brad Weathers said. "He either beat us to the basket or knocked some shots down. He's a good player."
Gibault coach Dennis Rueter ranked Degener's performance among the best he's seen.
"I could find some things he didn't do very well, but obviously he was really good," Rueter said. "He was just too quick for their bigger players. He made a couple shots, but by and large most of them were layups.
"He got an angle and with the way the game is called apparently these days, if he gets an angle on you he's going to be pretty hard to guard."
Rueter was referring to the IHSA's officiating mandate this season to strictly enforce the calling of hand-check fouls that impede progress.
Nashville was called for 24 fouls and Gibault for 19.
The Hornets fell behind 13-4 early, but battled back several times and twice had the ball with a chance to cut Gibault's lead to two or one.
A 3-pointer by Clint Johannes cut Gibault's lead to 46-42 early in the fourth quarter and another Johannes' shot brought the Hornets to within 50-46 with less that three minutes remaining. Johannes had 13 points while senior Nick Row had 11 for Gibault.
Nashville got as close as four one more time after Hayden Heggemeier hit two free throws with 1:04 remaining.
"Every time we cut it to three or four we either got beat defensively or we made a poor decision on offense and they were able to recover from that every time," Weathers said. "We're going to have to be able to handle this situation if we're going to continue to get better."
It was a study in contrasts throughout the night as Gibault applied pressure with superior guard play and quickness, while Nashville enjoyed a decided size and strength advantage inside.
"It was two extremes out there," Weathers said. "We tried to utilize our strengths and so did they. They did not want us to enter the ball inside and when we tried to counter that, we either threw it away or we had several issues with that."
A 3-pointer by Tyler Enright helped Gibault get out to a 13-4 lead, but Nashville answered with a 12-3 run that helped cut the Hawks' lead to 18-15 after one quarter.
Newman had 14 points at halftime, going 8-for-8 at the free-throw line in the process.
Gibault opened up a nine-point lead early in the second quarter, but Newman hit eight straight free throws to keep things close as Nashville trailed 31-26 at halftime.
Rueter knows it is far too early to read anything into a win like this.
"We've got a little bit better idea of where we're at," Rueter said. "Nashville's still feeling their way out a little bit, I don't think Nashville is where they're going to be in about a month."