CEDAR RAPIDS — As the regular season drew to a close, the Xavier boys’ basketball team started feeling more pressure than ever.
Playing as the No. 1-ranked team in Class 3A with expectations to earn a “three-peat” this year — the Saints took aim at a third state championship in a row.
Senior guard Jackson Joens, a starter and key player in the previous two championships, said the team is not thinking about the past.
“There is definitely pressure, but we try not to think about what we have already accomplished, just what is ahead of us,” Joens said before Monday night’s 59-56 win over South Tama in a substate final at the U.S. Cellular Center.
The team is finding success in focusing on themselves and not listening to what other people have to say.
“We have blocked out the outside noise and have focused on playing freely and with poise to be the best team that we can be,” senior guard Gabe Lux said.
Throughout the season, the Saints have grown closer, which also helps to relieve the pressure.
“We all care about each other both on and off the court and that definitely shows come game night,” Lux said. “Our team has bonded heavily through our hard work and accountability in practices, and it’s something we take pride in.”
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The Saints will begin their road to a third straight 3A state title on Tuesday, taking on Marion at 11:15 a.m. at the Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.