DES MOINES — His Twitter handle is Peanut, but that’s ironic. There is nothing small about Matt Mims’ game.
The junior point guard’s driving layup with 41 seconds remaining provided the go-ahead points, and Cedar Rapids Xavier followed with a pair of back-to-back defensive stops for a heart-stopping 54-49 win over Sergeant Bluff-Luton in the Class 3A boys’ state basketball tournament championship game.
Speaking of back to back, that’s what it is title-wise for the Saints. Xavier was 4-9 at one point this season, regrouped and repeated.
“I wouldn’t want to do it with any other guys,” Mims said. “We’ve been through a lot this season. With the great coaches we have, they let us know that anything was possible.”
“Here we are again,” said Xavier Coach Ryan Luerhsmann. “It feels good, really good to be back on this stage and deliver again. These kids have shown unbelievable resiliency all year. We went through struggles but never stopped believing and knew this was our goal.”
Mims has a lot to do with them achieving that goal. His cold-blooded 3-pointer in overtime helped the Saints (16-11) beat Waverly-Shell Rock in Thursday’s semifinals.
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He had eight of his team’s first 10 points in the fourth quarter of this see-saw encounter, finishing with a team-high 17 and all-tournament captain honors. Quite a week for Peanut.
That’s the nickname the AAU coach of his older brother, Michael, gave him, by the way. His initials are M and M, and he’s not like the original M&M candies, as the story goes.
“Coach, he challenged me there, told me to make a play,” Mims said. “I just wanted to deliver for us. I kind of felt like I put a lot of work in the offseason for moments like this.”
Truthfully, he wasn’t the only Saint to step up Saturday. Max Techau battled beefy SB-L center Jackson Wright all night, scoring 12 points despite foul trouble.
Jackson Joens was terrific shooting it from distance in the first half, finishing the game with three treys, 11 points and two huge free throws with 12 seconds to go and his team up a point. Nolan Butkowski is the ultimate glue guy on a good team, contributing 12 points and team-high nine rebounds, his free throws with 3.8 left officially putting things out of reach.
Sophomore Quinn Schulte played really good defense on SB-L standout guard Chris Kroll, holding him to 6-of-18 shooting. Kroll, who was great in his team’s first two games here, missed the front half of a one-and-one free-throw situation with under a minute left and his team ahead, 49-48, didn’t get the roll on a lane drive after Mims hit his shot, then went long off the back rim on a game-tying 3-point attempt with 4.5 seconds remaining.
“I’ve been waiting for this game,” Butkowski said. “I didn’t do anything today, I was bored waiting for this game to happen. I knew I’d be ready when it came.”
“I love these guys,” said Techau, who played his freshman and sophomore years at Cedar Rapids Kennedy. “I’m so thankful I got to play here the last two years.”
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These clubs played predominantly Class 4A schedules, which certainly helped them get here. The lead changed hands 21 times and the score was tied three times.
Wright had a game-high 19 points for Sergeant Bluff-Luton (17-10), which made its first state tournament trip.
“Twenty-one lead changes. It was a classic,” said SB-L Coach Adam Vander Schaaf. “Other than the fact we’re sitting here disappointed, it was a great game.”
“Incredible game,” Mims said. “Fun game to be a part of.”
And a very fun team to be a part of these past two years.
“We wanted to defend, wanted to put us in special territory as one of the great teams in state history in 3A,” Luehrsmann said. “To their credit, these guys did that.”
AT DES MOINES
SERGEANT BLUFF-LUTON (49): Conner Groves 0-3 0-0 0, Chris Kroll 6-18 0-1 13, Ty Boekelman 0-0 0-0 0, Keegan Savary 4-6 0-0 10, Jackson Wright 8-14 3-4 19, Cole Salker 0-0 0-0 0, Collin Croston 0-0 0-0 0, Sam DeMoss 3-4 0-0 5. Totals 21-45 3-5 49,
C.R. XAVIER (54): Matt Mims 7-15 2-2 17, Nolan Butkowski 4-9 2-2 12, Jackson Joens 3-6 2-2 11, Quinn Schulte 0-1 0-0 0, Max Techau 6-10 0-0 12, Max Johnson 1-1 0-0 2, Bryce Schulte 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 21-44 6-6 54.
Halftime — Xavier 27, Sergeant Bluff-Luton 25. 3-point goals — Sergeant Bluff-Luton 4-12 (Groves 0-3, Kroll 1-5, Savary 2-3, DeMoss 1-1), Xavier 6-14 (Mims 1-5, Butkowski 2-4, Joens 3-5). Rebounds — Sergeant Bluff-Luton 20 (Wright 5), Xavier 27 (Butkowski 9). Total fouls — Sergeant Bluff-Luton 9, Xavier 12. Fouled out — None. Assists — Sergeant Bluff-Luton 7 (Kroll 4), Xavier 13 (Q. Schulte, Techau 4). Turnovers — Sergeant Bluff-Luton 5, Xavier 7.
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