MARION - As the prep volleyball season nears the midway point, Cedar Rapids Xavier identified a vital ingredient if the Saints are to retain their No. 1 ranking in Class 4A.
Now is the time to turn up the defense.
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CEDAR RAPIDS — Come for the importance of the games. Or just to watch the individual brilliance of the two best junior boys’ basketball players in the state.
They would be A.J. Green of Cedar Falls and Joe Wieskamp of Muscatine. Their teams play separate Class 4A substate final games Tuesday night at the U.S. Cellular Center, beginning at 6:30.
It’s up to Cedar Rapids Kennedy and Iowa City West, respectively, to try and stop them. At least slow them down enough to win and make it to the state basketball tournament.
“This will be the fifth time in two years we’ve played (Green),” said Kennedy Coach Jon McKowen. “This will be the seventh time in three years. It’s just a matter of execution and doing what we do well.”
Green is a 6-foot-3 shooter deluxe who averages 22 points per game and shoots 44.7 percent from 3-point range. When he’s on, it’s very, very difficult to contain him.
Just ask Cedar Rapids Prairie, which he victimized for 29 points last weekend in a 4A district final, and he didn’t score in the fourth quarter. His college offers include Stanford, Iowa State and Northern Iowa, where his father, Kyle, is an assistant coach.
“He’s so different,” McKowen said. “Most high-school scorers get open shots or go to the basket. A.J. makes tough shots, he creates shots, scores the majority of his points from 15 feet out. He can play at different speeds.”
Kennedy (17-5) lost twice in the regular season to Cedar Falls (16-7), and the Tigers have beaten the Cougars four straight times. Kennedy has won seven games in a row after a midseason lull.
“We can’t forget about their other guys,” McKowen said of Cedar Falls.
Even having to face Wieskamp, top-ranked West (19-3) will be a heavy favorite in its game. Two of the Trojans’ three losses have come to strong out-of-state teams.
Don’t forget that West has a Division I player of its own in senior guard Connor McCaffery, who has committed to play for his dad, Fran, at Iowa. Sophomore Patrick McCaffery is considered one of the top 50 players in his class.
Wieskamp, too, will be a Hawkeye. The 6-foot-6 swingman leads 4A in scoring, averaging 30.5 points and 10.5 rebounds, shooting 57 percent from the floor.
Muscatine has a 15-6 record.
“He’s got the whole package,” West Coach Steve Bergman said. “He can shoot the 3, he can get his own shot off against most guys. He’s a really good offensive rebounder, he can block shots. I would say he is a very well-rounded player.”
Bergman was asked if he is comfortable with the way his team is playing.
“This is where we’re at. We don’t have a choice,” he said. “Could we be playing better? That’s hard to say. I can say I like where we’re at, for the most part.”
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