1996-97 Creston Basketball

(Creston) -- Each weekday from now until August 26th, KMA Sports will be announcing the inaugural KMA Sports Hall of Fame class. Throughout the 2016-17 sports year, these 20 inductees will have special induction ceremonies, but August is designed for the announcements.

Today's inductee is our second of five state championship teams in our inaugural class. And it's one that is arguably the greatest basketball team KMAland has ever seen. The 1996-97 Creston boy's basketball squad went 25-1 and cruised to the Class 3A state championship, winning their state games by 10, 23 and 17.

"We had an exceptional group of guys," former Creston Coach Mike Gerleman said. "I started coaching them in fifth grade, and they just kept getting better. And they grew."

The Creston starting five had just one player under 6-foot-4, going 6-foot-7 and 6-foot-6 in the post and 6-foot-5 and 6-foot-4 on the wings. Future Iowa quarterback Kyle McCann was on one of the wings and averaged over 30 points per game. Another wing, Ben Gerleman, was a future NAIA All-American at Northwesten College and averaged over 20 points to go with a reported 18 assists per game.

"They averaged 81.5 a game," Gerleman said. "We were a half court pressing team and some full court press. That just took people out of their offense. They were magic together."

Joining McCann and Gerleman in the starting lineup was 6-foot-7 center Jeff Finn, 6-foot-6 Eric Owens and 5-foot-10 point guard Brady Steenhoek. Finn would go on to play basketball at Grinnell, Owens starred at Missouri State in football and Steenhoek played baseball at the next level.

The talent was certainly there, but the biggest turning point came in the 1996 state tournament when they lost a two-point heartbreaker to Western Christian in the state semifinals. There was no stopping the Panthers the following year.

"(The 96 tournament) was the start of something big," Gerleman said. "We had the ball on the rim when the buzzer went off, and it didn't fall. That gave them confidence to come back their senior year. I knew we were going to win the tournament."

The Creston team will officially be inducted into the KMA Sports Hall of Fame next summer at a special 20-year reunion.

KMA Sports will announce a new inductee each August weekday morning during the 7:50 AM sportscast. Track the Hall of Fame announcements/inductees below:

FALL

Football: Announced August 26th at 7:50 AM

Volleyball: Angie Spangenberg, Red Oak/Harlan (Induction: 9/27)

Boys Cross Country: Ray Graves (Induction: 9/29)

Girls Cross Country: Missy Buttry Rock (Induction: 9/29)

Team: Clarinda Boys Cross Country 1956 State Champions (Induction: 9/6)

WINTER

Boys Basketball: BJ Windhorst (Induction: TBA)

Girls Basketball: Announced August 18th at 7:50 AM

Wrestling: Announced August 12th at 7:50 AM

Team: 1996-97 Creston Boy's Basketball (Induction: July 2018)

SPRING

Girls Track: Sandra Hays (Induction: Corner Conference Track Meet)

Boys Track: Announced August 23rd at 7:50 AM

Girls Golf: Announced August 16th at 7:50 AM

Boys Golf: Announced August 19th at 7:50 AM

Girls Tennis: Announced August 17th at 7:50 AM

Boys Tennis: Mark Paulson (Induction: TBA)

Soccer: Announced August 15th at 7:50 AM

Team: Announced August 25th at 7:50 AM

SUMMER

Baseball: Mike Mercer (Induction: TBA)

Softball: Announced August 24th at 7:50 AM

Team: Announced August 22nd at 7:50 AM