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IOWA CITY — During school on Friday, Iowa City High senior Jason Jones wasn’t sure he was even going to be able to play in the Little Hawks’ substate semifinal against Cedar Rapids Prairie.
A head cold that had made its way through the team caught up with him. Head coach Don Showalter wasn’t sure either.
Jones led City High into the substate final — to face crosstown rival Iowa City West, no less — with 21 points and six rebounds in a 66-55 victory. It was one of those performances, his coach said, where maybe being sick almost helped his focus.
“His hustle (was great). He’d been sick all day, so we were hoping he’d even be able to play,” Showalter said. “He had a really bad head cold and sore throat. Sometimes when you’re not feeling well it’s really better because you don’t get really high before a game, as far as over-ready. He was really solid tonight.”
Jones agreed with his coach in that assessment after the game.
Neither tried to make his sickness out to be debilitating, but it did affect him. As the player who is charged with being the second half of a focused paint presence, Jones’ role is a pretty big one. He delivered thanks to a little youth and a lot of adrenaline.
“The main thing I was focused on (before the game) was my sickness and whether I’d be able to go. But that didn’t happen,” Jones said. “The first half, I was able to play through it, but I still felt it. It kind of bothered me, making me short of breath and I wasn’t able to go as hard. But I got over that. The adrenaline kicked in.”
The Little Hawks (13-9) dominated in the paint throughout the game, with several possessions capped off with put-back points — a few of them backbreakers as the Hawks (8-15) did all they could to play spoiler.
Prairie put in a press in the second half that City High had trouble with — including a 10-second violation — and gave Showalter something to stew on for the weekend preparation before they head to Cedar Rapids to play West.
City High had to fend off a feisty Prairie team to get it done, and Showalter wasn’t shy about how hard the Little Hawks had to work to do it.
“They’re a scrappy team. They’re going to hit 3s, and we knew that coming in,” Showalter said. “With Naeem (Smith) and Henry (Mulligan) and Nile (Ringen), we really hadn’t had a problem with pressure all year long, so I don’t know what it was tonight. They changed it up a little with zone pressure. We’ll obviously work on it and see what we can do about it.
“The first game of the postseason kind of validates a little bit of what we had done during the year. We had some really good wins.”
One of those big wins was a 10-point victory over West, on Feb. 12. A win against a team with so much success and so much talent gives the Little Hawks belief.
They don’t shy away from what they’re up against, but that doesn’t mean Showalter’s bunch is afraid. City High-West 3.0 tips off at 8 p.m. on Tuesday at the U.S. Cellular Center. More than just city pride, a trip to Des Moines and the state tournament is at stake.
“Obviously we’re going to have to play well again, but I know our kids really think we have a chance,” Showalter said. “They’re the best team in the state, in my opinion. They’ve been the best team in the state for the past five or six years. They have four Division I players on the court — maybe five. I think our kids don’t back down from them. We’re just going to go out and play. We’re not going to give them anything that’s going to be easy.”
AT IOWA CITY HIGH
CEDAR RAPIDS PRAIRIE (55): Max Smith Drahos 4-10 13-17 21, Cal Clark 5-10 0-0 13, Jake Eilers 1-4 0-0 2, Jalen Rima 2-8 3-5 8, Logan Serbousek 0-0 0-0 0, Ryan Oxley 3-7 0-0 7, Mason Hook 0-2 1-2 1, Griff Clark 0-1 0-0 0, Darren Kilpatrick 1-5 0-0 3, Levi Usher 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 16-47 17-24 55.
IOWA CITY HIGH (66): Naeem Smith 4-7 4-7 12, Henry Mulligan 2-7 0-0 5, Nile Ringen 2-6 4-7 10, Jason Jones 9-13 3-5 21, Micah Martin 3-7 2-5 8, Gabriel Nkumu 0-1 0-0 0, Charles Johnson 2-8 0-0 4, Conrad Donnelly 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 24-52 14-27 66.
Halftime – Iowa City High 31, Cedar Rapids Prairie 20. 3-point goals –Prairie 6-15 (Smith-Drahos 0-1, C. Clark 3-5, Eilers 0-1, Rima 1-2, Oxley 1-3, G. Clark 0-1, Kilpatrick 1-2). City High 4-9 (Mulligan 1-4, Ringen 2-3, Dillon 1-2). Rebounds – City High 32 (Jones, Martin, Nkumu 6). Prairie 28 (Rima 9). Total fouls – Prairie 23, City High 14. Fouled out – Rima (Prairie). Technicals – Martin (City High), Bench (Prairie). Turnovers – Prairie 10, City High 8.
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