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CEDAR RAPIDS — If only they’d have had one more minute.
Cedar Rapids Prairie’s boys’ basketball team did everything it could Friday night to manufacture one of the most ridiculous comebacks you’ll ever see but ran out of time and saw Cedar Falls hold on for a 76-73 Class 4A substate semifinal victory at Prairie.
The Hawks peeled a 17-point fourth-quarter deficit all the way down. Well, almost all the way down.
“This team has fought back all year long, so we knew we had that in them,” Prairie Coach Jeremy Rickertsen said. “We talked before the game that we know we have the grit to overcome any obstacle, because we’ve done it all year. They showed that again. They just came up a little short.”
Cedar Falls (16-7) dominated most of this game, thanks primarily to the play of A.J. Green. The outstanding junior guard is one of the best shooters you’ll see, showing why he holds scholarship offers from the likes of Iowa State, Stanford and Northern Iowa with a 20-point first half.
He finished with a team-high 29, going 6 of 7 from the arc.
“I had a lot of energy coming into this game,” said Green, the son of UNI assistant coach Kyle Green. “The big crowds, I love playing in these types of games. Once you hit your first couple, you start feeling good like that, and it’s just a lot of fun.”
But Green didn’t score in the fourth quarter, Prairie’s desperation full-court press keeping the ball out of his hands, forcing some turnovers and leading to a comeback. It was a gradual rally, with a deep Kris Murray trey making it a one-possession game (74-71) with 14.7 seconds left.
After a timeout, Prairie fouled Johnson on the inbounds play, and he clutched up with a pair of clinching free throws.
“Going forward, we’ve just got to learn that we’ve got to keep the foot on the gas,” Green said. “If we get up by 20, try and push it to 30. Not let up.”
“A huge deep breath, yeah,” said CF Coach Ryan Schultz. “I think we obviously tightened up a little bit. They started hitting some shots ... I think we’ve got a lot of guys out there who are going to grow from situations like this. There are some things they can still work on. But, overall, I’m very, very proud of the guys. They came out and executed the things we talked about in practice. We made it interesting, but we did what we needed to do tonight.”
Cedar Falls plays either Cedar Rapids Kennedy or Mason City in a 4A substate final Tuesday night at the U.S. Cellular Center. Kennedy and Mason City had their substate semifinal postponed Friday because of weather and will make it up Saturday afternoon at 5 at Coe College’s Eby Fieldhouse.
Prairie, which ends its season 14-8, got a game-high 30 points from senior guard Max Smith Drahos. Junior Griff Clark added 18, and he is one of several key returnees for a program that has gone from downtrodden to competitive under Rickertsen’s leadership.
“We talked last year about when you are building a skyscraper, you’ve got to dig deep and build a strong foundation,” Rickertsen said. “We talked to our seniors last year who fought for us. It’s not pretty, but it has to be done. Then we talked this year about how these guys are the strong pillars that this is going to be built on."
AT C.R. PRAIRIE
CEDAR FALLS (76): Ben Gerdes 4-8 0-0 8, Jackson Frericks 1-3 4-6 6, Isaiah Johnson 7-12 5-5 19, Logan Wolf 3-6 5-8 11, A.J. Green 11-15 1-1 29, Jack Campbell 0-0 2-2 2, Daniel Martinson 0-0 0-0 0, Reese Gardner 0-0 1-2 1, Sam Gary 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 26-45 18-24 76.
C.R. PRAIRIE (73): Logan Serbousek 0-0 0-0 0, Jake Eilers 2-3 0-2 6, Max Smith Drahos 11-18 6-8 30, Keegan Murray 5-8 0-0 11, Griff Clark 8-16 2-2 18, Levi Usher 0-0 0-0 0, Kris Murray 2-6 0-0 6, Darren Kilpatrick 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 29-52 8-12 73.
Halftime — Cedar Falls 43, Prairie 28. 3-point goals — Cedar Falls 6-8 (Green 6-7, Gary 0-1), Prairie 7-17 (Eilers 2-2, Smith Drahos 2-3, Ke. Murray 1-4, Clark 0-3, Kr. Murray 2-5). Rebounds — Cedar Falls 29 (Johnson 7), Prairie 20 (Clark 7). Total fouls — Cedar Falls 12, Prairie 20. Fouled out — None. Turnovers — Cedar Falls 14, Prairie 10.
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