Basket, steal by freshman Caitlynn Daniels sends Cedar Rapids Xavier to state

Girls' basketball: Sixth-ranked Saints (17-6) outlast No. 12 Waverly-Shell Rock, 42-38, in Class 4A regional final

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CEDAR RAPIDS — Caitlynn Daniels is still listed as a freshman, but her play suggests she’s ahead of the class.

The Cedar Rapids Xavier point guard’s driving layup broke a tie with 29 seconds left, and her steal on the ensuing possession helped the sixth-ranked Saints hold off No. 12 Waverly-Shell Rock, 42-38, in a Class 4A girls’ basketball regional final Tuesday night at Ron Thillen Gymnasium.

“I just saw the opening and I knew we had to take it because time was running down,” Daniels said. “I just saw the ball and went for it.”

Xavier (17-6) will bring a 10-game winning streak into the 4A state tournament. The Saints will open with a quarterfinal against third-ranked Grinnell (19-4) on Tuesday, Feb. 28 at 8:30 p.m. at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.

“Keep doing what we’re doing,” said senior Lexi Noonan, who tallied a game-high 18 points and added five rebounds. “Keep practicing hard and getting better every day.”

Daniels finished with six points and three assists, while senior guard Kiana Stanek — a three-point shooting specialist who converted her first two-point basket of the season in the regular-season finale Feb. 10 — scored six points in the second quarter, including two midcourt steals for breakaway layups that keyed a 10-0 burst and a 23-18 Saints’ lead.

“If she can add that to her game, she just makes it more double-trouble for everybody else,” said Xavier Coach Tom Lilly, who earned his 12th state-tournament berth in 18 seasons.

Waverly-Shell Rock opened the third quarter with nine of 12 points and grabbed a brief 28-26 edge, but a Noonan basket tied the game.

After a defensive stop, Xavier sophomore forward Emily Jasper pulled down a strong rebound and scored on a put-back, then cashed in a pair of free throws with three tenths of a second remaining in the third quarter for a 32-28 lead.

“I think we just had more offensive penetration at the end than they did,” Noonan said. “We were attacking the basket a lot more at the end, and they just wanted to shoot more outside shots. That really helped us out in the end.”

Midway through the fourth quarter, the Go-Hawks tied the game at 36-36 with back-to-back 3-pointers from senior forward Katie Harken. After the teams traded baskets, the stage was set for Daniels’ heroics.

“We knew that coming into this season that we had somebody special,” Lilly said. “She certainly proved that tonight.”

Jasper finished with six points and five rebounds off the bench. Harken, Payton Draper and Jayme Willemssen each scored 10 for Waverly-Shell Rock, which ends at 16-7.

AT C.R. XAVIER

WAVERLY-SHELL ROCK (38): Kelsey Young 0 0-0 0, Grace Reverson 2 2-2 6, Jayme Willemssen 4 2-3 10, Payton Draper 4 1-2 10, Katie Harken 3 2-4 10, Olivia Phillips 0 1-2 1, Abbey Their 0 1-2 1, Totals 13 9-15 38.

C.R. XAVIER (42): Kiana Stanek 3 0-0 6, Caitlynn Daniels 3 0-0 6, Kylie Brown 1 0-0 2, Lexi Noonan 6 6-8 18, Amelia Ivester 1 0-0 2, Maria Steffen 0 0-0 0, Maddix Stovie 1 0-0 2, Emily Jasper 1 4-4 6, Totals 16 10-12 42.

Halftime — Xavier, 23-19. Three-point goals — Waverly-Shell Rock 3 (Harken 2, Jasper).

l Comments: douglas.miles@thegazette.com

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