Derek Archer, Girls COTY

(Council Bluffs) -- Lewis Central's first postseason victory in 55 years, a fantastic state tournament showing and a state runner-up finish have earned Coach Derek Archer the honor of being named the KMAland Girls Basketball Coach of the Year.

Archer's honor comes after a dream season for the Titans, who finished the season winning 15 of their last 17 games, qualified for the state tournament and pulled off two upsets to reach the state finals for the first time in school history. 

One week later, Archer and company are still feeling elation from their fantastic tournament. 

"It's still one of those things where we can't describe how much fun it was," Archer said. "We made a lot of different memories that we'll remember forever. What an awesome season. What an awesome week." 

Lewis Central's awesome regular season, where they went 17-5 record. The Titans played a rigorous schedule that included Class 3A champion Bishop Heelan, Nebraska Class A semifinalist Millard South, fellow Class 4A semifinalist Glenwood and Class 3A state qualifier Red Oak. 

The Titans finished their season by winning nine games in a row before their 49-35 loss to North Scott in the state championship game. While Coach Archer and his team would have loved to finish one spot higher, their journey to the championship game was nothing short of stunning.

The Titans entered the state tournament as the sixth seed and was tasked with facing a Ballard team that entered on a 22-game winning streak. The Titans and Bombers staged an instant classic, with Ballard squandering an early 10-point only for Lewis Central to do the same with a seven-point lead in the final two minutes, giving Ballard a 44-42 lead with less than 10 seconds remaining. Then Delaney Esterling knifed through the line and converted a layup in the waning seconds to tie it and send it to overtime, where LC held on for the 47-46 victory.  

"That was a roller-coaster of emotions," Archer said. "It's one of those games where if you come out on top, you look at it as what a game. What a game for everybody to watch, what a game for us to be playing in."

Up next for the Titans was a third-meeting with Glenwood, who had beat them twice in the regular season. The Rams rolled past all challengers, going 25-0 heading into their showdown with Lewis Central. 

However, the third time was the charm for Lewis Central, who relied on some timely three-point shooting to oust Glenwood 62-51 and advance to their first state championship game. 

"I think there's always an advantage when you get to the semifinals and you're playing somebody you know so well," Archer said. "There really wasn't a whole lot of preparation. Usually, you have to dig into film and you really have to dive into the scouting reports. This time we kind of looked at that we knew them and they knew us. We could spend a lot more time making sure we do the things we needed to do." 

Unfortunately, Lewis Central could not snap another streak, but did put up a valiant effort against North Scott, overcoming a 13-point halftime deficit to whittle it down to five midway through the third before eventually losing by 14. While the loss was tough, Coach Archer feels that it didn't take away from the experience.

"It was unbelievable," Archer said. "Just the whole experience for everybody involved was unreal." 

The Titans were led this season by a dynamic senior class consisting of Megan Witte, Delaney Esterling, McKenna Paulsen, Jayden Cross, Isabella Smith and Hadley Hill. During their four years, they were a part of a school-record 82 wins. 

"What a credit to them," Archer said. "It's something that will never be taken away from them. They have been just unbelievable from the moment they got into high school. They're great teammates, they're selfless. What a way for them to cap their high school careers in a state title game."

Lewis Central's tournament run was a wild ride that featured a state finals trip few probably saw coming, except for Coach Archer, his team and the Lewis Central faithful. They proved many people wrong, snapped two winning streaks, avenged two prior losses and made some school history, and because of it, Coach Archer is our KMAland Girls Coach of the Year. The complete interview with him can be heard below. 

Previous Girls Basketball Coach of the Year Winners

2018-19: Joe Wollum, CAM

2017-18: Devin Schoening, Thomas Jefferson

2016-17: Gail Hartigan, Treynor

2015-16: Thad Streit, Mount Ayr

2014-15: Rod Williams, Fremont-Mills

2013-14: Kenny Weed, Bedford

2012-13: Dan Martinez, Red Oak 

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