TRAER - Flying high above the rim, Mitchell Boerm threw down a two-handed slam for his final basket in a North Tama jersey.
Raising his play against the best at Wells Fargo Arena, Boerm's breakaway dunk perfectly punctuated an impressive three-game performance at the Iowa Boys State Basketball Tournament and an illustrious prep career littered with accolades.
But ask the three-year starter about any of his individual accomplishments and he's quick to deflect the credit to his teammates.
T-R PHOTO BY TYLER STRAND
North Tama senior forward Mitchell Boerm, the Times-Republican’s 2012-13 All-Area Boys Basketball Player of the Year, poses with the Redhawks’ Class 1A fourth-place state tournament trophy recently in the North Tama High School gymnasium in Traer. Boerm averaged 15.3 points and 6.3 rebounds per game for North Tama, which gained the program’s first state tournament appearance. Boerm is a repeat All-Area first-team selection who also earned second-team honors as a sophomore.
In turn, the Redhawks could just as readily defer to Boerm, the Times-Republican's 2012-13 All-Area Boys Basketball Player of the Year, when they needed a stop, a score or anything in between.
"Mitchell is invaluable," North Tama coach Brandon Clubb said of the two-time Iowa Newspaper Association all-state honoree. "There are very few kids like him. The way he's driven and where basketball sits in his life - he is very passionate about it."
The INA All-State second team selection propelled North Tama to its first-ever state tournament appearance and a fourth place finish in Class 1A, tallying a combined 50 points and 20 rebounds in Des Moines. A three-time T-R All-Area selection, the 6-foot-5 forward led a balanced North Tama squad in scoring (15.3 ppg) and rebounding (6.3 rpg) as the Redhawks set a single season school record for wins (26) en route to their third straight Iowa Star Conference South Division title.
2012-13 All-Area Boys Basketball Team
Player of the Year - Mitchell Boerm, North Tama
Coach of the Year - Brandon Clubb, North Tama
Josh Bagley, sr., AGWSR; Duncan Ferch, jr., West Marshall; Blake Gimbel, sr., Marshalltown; Brandyn Niemeyer, sr., Colo-NESCO; Zach Pierce, so., Gladbrook-Reinbeck; Conner Ubben, jr., BCLUW.
Jose Fonseca, sr., South Tama; Dalton Hulme, sr., North Tama; Camden Kickbush, so., Gladbrook-Reinbeck; Luke Petty, jr., GMG; Jacob Wrage, sr., North Tama; Bryce Zeisneiss, jr., South Hardin.
Dylan Lyman, sr., Grundy Center; Jacob Smoldt, sr., Gladbrook-Reinbeck; Ben Terrones, jr., East Marshall; Blake Warren, sr., GMG; Jake Webb, sr., Colo-NESCO; Matt Van Metre, jr., West Marshall.
"With our balanced team, it left open shots for me because the defense had to worry about other guys scoring as well," Boerm said of the Redhawks' varied attack, which boasted five players averaging eight points or more.
"We have a great group of guys," he said. "I tried to be the emotional leader by setting an example in practice, whether that's running hard or distributing the ball."
The Central College recruit's versatile presence carried over to the court, where he ranked first on the team in blocks (24), second in steals (64) and 3-pointers (19) and fourth in assists (65). Though often it was the plays that didn't show up on the stat sheet that proved just as valuable.
"Mitchell brings a lot of intangibles especially with his overall basketball knowledge," said Clubb - the T-R's All-Area Coach of the Year. "Defensively he was kind of like our Kevin Garnett. He's sitting back there calling everything out, helping everybody understand who they're guarding and where the screens are coming from."
Boerm joins AGWSR senior Josh Bagley as repeat first-team selections on the All-Area squad. The duo is joined by West Marshall's Duncan Ferch, Marshalltown's Blake Gimbel, Gladbrook-Reinbeck's Zach Pierce, Colo-NESCO's Brandyn Niemeyer and BCLUW's Conner Ubben.
Boerm, a member of the Iowa Basketball Coaches Association's 23rd Annual Academic All-State Team, savored his role as the Redhawks' defensive linchpin, often shading off his own man to hold down the fort inside.
"It's nice to have good post and on-ball defenders, which allowed me to play help defense," said Boerm - one of 10 players selected to the Northeast squad for the Iowa Basketball Coaches Association All-Star Game. "It takes a little basketball knowledge though because you don't want to overhelp and let your own guy score."
The North Tama standout developed his game from an early age playing AAU ball on the school team since third grade and joining squads featuring players from Marshalltown to Des Moines and Iowa City starting in sixth grade.
"Ever since I was little playing AAU basketball, I tried to pick up different traits from other kids," said Boerm, who has made major strides since his sophomore season with the Redhawks. "My sophomore year I was more of a just a true post - an undersized post. I've gained a lot of weight and some height since then and transformed into more of a forward. I have a better outside shooting game and my dribbling has improved."
Boerm bumped his field-goal percentage up to 49 percent this season (a 4 percent jump from a year ago) while also hitting nearly 40 percent from 3-point range (19-of-48) after making just one triple during his junior year, when he was named to the INA all-state third team.
Clubb has always been impressed with the senior's raw skills but pointed to Boerm's mental approach to the game in helping him reach another level.
"He's always had that skill set, but it's more of when to use certain things and just being a more heady player," Clubb said. "I think that's where he's come along - being a lot smarter and being able to utilize those skills a lot better."
Whether it was lending a hand on the defensive end or coming through with timely baskets on offense, Boerm raised his play when the stakes and competition intensified.
The unanimous Iowa Star Conference first-team selection capped his senior year with 19 points and 13 boards against top-ranked Danville in the Class 1A consolation game to finish with a career total of 1,189 points (12.3 ppg).
Boerm also contributed key double-digit scoring efforts against fourth-ranked Boyden-Hull (12 points), who repeated as Class 1A state champions, Ankeny Christian Academy (19 points, 7 rebounds), Iowa Mennonite (22 points, 9 rebounds) and Hudson (22 points, 12 rebounds).
Boerm equaled his career best with 30-point efforts against Clarksville and Union Community, though it was a 27-point, 10-rebound tour de force against seventh-ranked Dunkerton that truly displayed the Redhawk forward's full arsenal.
"That Dunkerton game was big," said Clubb, the Class 1A Region 4 sub-state Coach of the Year. "He hit some jumpers, took it inside and got some blocks on Kory Kuenstling (a 6-foot-9 INA all-state third team selection). Overall he played a great game."
Clubb credits the senior's maturity, experience and even-keel approach for raising his play when the pressure builds.
"He's just kind of wired that way. Basketball is his passion and with his personality and experience, it comes out on those big stages," Clubb said. "That's just natural for him."
Humility also comes easy for the Class 1A Region 4 sub-state selection, who before heading off to Central College to compete in both basketball and football, reflects fondly on all the opportunities presented to him with the Redhawks.
"I'm very blessed. We've always been a winning program in any sport at North Tama," said Boerm, an INA all-state first-teamer in football and a state qualifier in track. "Since we were little, we've always been part of a winning team and I'm very blessed to be able to say that."
The feeling is mutual for Clubb, who couldn't quantify Boerm's value to the program.
"He was the perfect combination of a player for us and he'll be missed in a lot of different ways."
Boerm will compete on the Northeast squad in the Iowa Basketball Coaches Association All-Star Series at Dallas Center-Grimes High School March 23. The Northeast squad battles the Northwest team in the Meadows Gym at noon, while the Southeast team faces the Southwest squad at the same time in the high school gym.
The consolation game is set for 4:30 p.m. followed by the championship game at 7 p.m., both in Meadows Gym.