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DES MOINES — Capsules on Saturday’s games at the boys’ state basketball tournament at Wells Fargo Arena:
Cedar Rapids Xavier (15-11) vs. Sergeant Bluff-Luton (17-9)
Time: 6:05 p.m.
How They Got Here: By surprising quite a few people, particularly SB-L. The Warriors, making their first state tourney appearance, are the sixth seed, knocking off third-seeded Pella in the quarterfinals, 66-55, then handing second-seeded West Delaware its first loss of the season, 72-59, in the semifinals. Xavier, meanwhile, is the fourth seed. The Saints brushed past No. 5 Mount Pleasant in the quarters, 59-44, and toppled top-seeded Waverly-Shell Rock in the semis, 47-41, in overtime.
Synopsis: Similarities here. The first noticeable one is these teams play in predominantly Class 4A conferences, Xavier the Mississippi Valley and Sergeant Bluff-Luton the Missouri River Activities. Six of SB-L’s losses have come to 4A schools, including two by a total of three points to Sioux City East, which was in the 4A semifinals. Guard Chris Kroll has had a terrific tournament, leading the 3A field in points, including 32 against West Delaware. Sophomore guard Conner Groves had 17 against Pella. Beefy 6-foot-5 center Jackson Wright has had games of 10 and 17 points. Everyone in the Metro knew about Xavier guard Matt Mims, but he has opened up some eyes of others this week. He had 21 points, including a dagger 3-pointer in OT against Waverly. He, wing Jackson Joens and center Max Techau have been the Saints’ primary scorers all season, though Nolan Butkowski has been strong late in the season. Xavier isn’t deep but has seemed to get big plays from everyone who has played in the first two games.
Johnson says: This should be a fun and close game. It’ll be interesting to see how Xavier bounces back after a very physical game Thursday night against Waverly-Shell Rock. These Saints just seem to know how to get it done. Sergeant Bluff-Luton has lost six games by three points or less. This prediction is that you can make that seven. It’s a Xavier repeat.
No. 1 Iowa City West (22-3) vs. No. 4 West Des Moines Valley (21-4)
Time: 8:05 p.m.
How They Got Here: West had an unexpectedly tough time dispsensing of Newton in the quarterfinals, 57-51. The Trojans had few issues in knocking off Cedar Rapids Kennedy in the semifinals, 61-37. Valley got a last-second shot to beat Des Moines North in the quarterfinals, 57-55, and brushed past Sioux City East in the semis, 64-54.
Synopsis: These teams played in last year’s 4A title game, Valley winning, 46-39. West senior Conner McCaffery is a four-year starter and a candidate for 2017 Mr. Basketball. He has scored 18 points in each of West’s two games down here. Devontae Lane also is a four-year player, who has had games of 18 and 15 points. Sophomore Patrick McCaffery was saddled with foul trouble against Newton but broke back to the tune of 15 points, six rebounds and four blocked shots against Kennedy. The Trojans blocked 10 shots total against Kennedy. Probably Valley’s best player here has been 6-foot-8 senior center Charley Crowley. He had 20 points against Des Moines North and 25 against Sioux City East. Six-foot-six senior forward Quinton Curry missed the majority of the season with a knee injury but has returned to make a huge difference. He had 17 points and 13 rebounds against Des Moines North. Five Valley players average between 8.3 and 10.9 points.
Johnson says: How West deals with Valley’s size will be telltale. The Trojans certainly have the advantage in the backcourt. This will be close, but the feeling is West gets its revenge.
SATURDAY’S OTHER GAMES
Class 3A consolation: No. 2 Waverly-Shell Rock (23-2) vs. No. 1 West Delaware (25-1), 12:05 p.m.
Class 4A consolation: No. 6 Cedar Rapids Kennedy (20-6) vs. No. 5 Sioux City East (22-3), 1:45 p.m.
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