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DES MOINES — Going into Tuesday’s night session at the state tournament, no team had scored 60 points. Not a one.
That encompassed 10 games, 20 teams and three classes. The deadball era apparently has struck boys’ basketball.
But Cedar Rapids Xavier gave hope to the rest of the offensively challenged field Tuesday afternoon at Wells Fargo Arena. No, the Saints didn’t quite reach the coveted 60 mark, but they strung together two quarters of near-flawless ball to overwhelm Mount Pleasant, 59-44, in a Class 3A quarterfinal.
Xavier made 14 of 18 field-goal attempts in the second half to turn around a one-point halftime deficit and move along to the 3A semifinals for the third consecutive season. The defending champs are still very much defending.
“I think we just got a lot more comfortable in the second half,” said Xavier’s Matt Mims. “Also, I think as a team we started to work to get the best shot instead of just an OK shot. That’s what helped us.”
Mims is such a good point guard, a true distributor of the ball as Xavier Coach Ryan Luehrsmann said. The junior finished with 17 points and six assists.
The Saints spread the floor a lot in the second half and seemed to get layup after layup after layup on cuts to the hoop and perfectly timed passes. Xavier finished with 16 assists (seven by wing Nolan Butkowski) and four turnovers.
That’ll win you a lot of ballgames.
“We just got our energy up a lot coming out of halftime,” said Xavier center Max Techau, who had a game-high 20 points, the recipient of several of those quality feeds from teammates. “We just turned it on, started to move the ball really, really well, like we know we can do. Just kind of playing together. That really helped us.”
Xavier (14-11) beat Mount Pleasant (22-3) by 10 points in the regular-season opener and handily won a substate final last season. Yet it was the Panthers that had a stronger start, leading after a quarter, 18-13, and by eight points early in the second.
A clutch 3-pointer from light-scoring reserve Gabe Lux was part of a 9-2 run to end the half, pulling the Saints within 23-22. A Quinn Schulte corner trey capped a superb 23-point third quarter that moved Xavier ahead, 45-35.
“I just told the team to hold their composure together and stay poised,” Luehrsmann said. “We weathered the storm. They threw a couple of haymakers at us there, but we didn’t flinch. We took those shots, threw our own punches in the second half. I think it was key, our experience, being here before. We weren’t overwhelmed by the situation.”
“We knew the last two times we’d played them, Xavier had gotten off to a 9-0 lead,” said Mount Pleasant Coach Paul Rundquist. “That’s very difficult because the ball’s in Matt Mims’ hands so much, and he does such a good job of distributing the basketball. He’s got good size and can see over defenders. We came in wanting to fight and show we belonged here ... We’re taking steps. In saying that, games like this, there’s a lot to learn from.”
Brady Sartorious led Mount Pleasant with 19 points. Six-foot-nine Australian foreign-exchange student Tom O’Connor finished with 10 points and 10 rebounds, but wasn’t much of a factor in the second half.
Xavier now gets top-seeded Waverly-Shell Rock (23-1) in a 6:35 p.m. Thursday semifinal. The Go-Hawks, led by 6-10 UNI signee Austin Phyfe, crushed the Saints, 76-54, early in the regular season.
What’d Xavier learn from that game?
“They’re really frickin’ good,” Luehrsmann said. “They’ve got a big-time player in Phyfe and a bunch of tough, competitive kids. We learned that they are one of the best-coached teams in the state with Coach (Nate) Steege. We always have great games with them. We’re just hoping we can give them a good game on Thursday night.”
AT DES MOINES
MOUNT PLEASANT (44): Colin Mulford 0-2 0-0 0, Brady Sartorious 7-17 4-4 19, Jordan Magnani 3-9 2-2 8, Kiran Kohorst 2-5 2-2 6, Tom O’Connor 4-7 2-3 10, Tucker Johnson 0-0 0-0 0, Payton Kelly 0-0 0-0 0, Keegan Kohorst 0-0 0-0 0, Maison Ashton 0-0 0-0 0, Brody McGhghy 0-0 0-0 0, Jonathan Ita 0-2 0-0 0, Rhett Zeglen 0-0 1-2 1. Totals 16-43 11-13 44.
C.R. XAVIER (59): Matt Mims 6-10 5-5 17, Nolan Butkowski 1-5 1-2 4, Jackson Joens 4-6 1-2 10, Quinn Schulte 2-4 0-0 5, Max Techau 9-14 2-2 20, Gabe Lux 1-1 0-0 3, Spencer Dempewolf 0-0 0-0 0, Aaron Bartels 0-0 0-0 0, Jacob Hines 0-0 0-0 0, Kyle Moeder 0-0 0-0 0, Max Johnson 0-0 0-0 0, Bryce Schulte 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 23-41 9-11 59.
Halftime — Mount Pleasant 23, Xavier 22. 3-point goals — Mount Pleasant 1-10 (Mulford 0-2, Sartorious 1-5, Magnani 0-2, Ita 0-1), Xavier 4-11 (Mims 0-2, Butkowski 1-4, Joens 1-2, Schulte 1-1, Techau 0-1, Lux 1-1). Rebounds — Mount Pleasant 25 (O’Connor 10), Xavier 22 (Butkowski, Techau 7). Total fouls — Mount Pleasant 9, Xavier 9. Fouled out — None. Assists — Mount Pleasant 3 (Ki. Kohorst 2), Xavier 16 (Butkowski 7). Turnovers — Mount Pleasant 9, Xavier 4.
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