MARION - As the prep volleyball season nears the midway point, Cedar Rapids Xavier identified a vital ingredient if the Saints are to retain their No. 1 ranking in Class 4A.
Now is the time to turn up the defense.
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DES MOINES — Capsules on Wednesday’s games at the boys’ state basketball tournament at Wells Fargo Arena:
No. 1 Iowa City West (20-3) vs. Newton (19-5)
Time: 1:05 p.m.
Coaches: This is Steve Bergman’s 31st season as a head coach, his 26th at West. He has a career record of 541-181 and has won five state championships. Billy Liley is 34-14 in two seasons at Newton. Counting 12 seasons at a trio of high schools in the state of Washington, he has a career record of 209-128.
Tournament history: It’s rich and fruitful at West. The Trojans have qualified 15 other times and won six titles (1977, 1998, 2000, 2012, 2013 and 2014). This is West’s seventh consecutive berth, and it has placed fourth or better in the previous six. Newton is a state tournament qualifier for the ninth time, the first since 1992. The Cardinals won championships in 1926, 1963 and 1964.
Synopsis: Everyone knows about West’s offensive firepower. Senior guard Connor McCaffery is a four-year starter headed to the University of Iowa to play for his father, Fran. He averages a team-high 19.8 points per game and leads the Trojans in rebounds and 3-pointers and is a close second in assists. Senior guard Devontae Lane (14.8 ppg) leads that category. Sophomore forward Patrick McCaffery, Connor’s brother, chips in with a 14.3 scoring average. Newton’s two primary scorers are 6-foot-3 senior Connor Gholson (20.4 ppg) and 6-3 junior Garrett Sturtz (19.8 ppg, 6.4 rebounds per game).
Johnson says: Give Newton tons of credit. It plays in a primarily 3A conference (Little Hawkeye) but is 6-0 this season against 4A foes, including the three it beat in its substate (Urbandale, West Des Moines Dowling and Johnston). But let’s face it. Top-seeded and top-ranked West (whose only in-state loss was to Cedar Rapids Prairie) is a significant favorite here and an upset would be of mammoth proportions.
No. 6 Cedar Rapids Kennedy (18-5) vs. Dubuque Hempstead (18-5)
Time: 2:45 p.m.
Coaches: Jon McKowen is 65-29 in four seasons at Kennedy, with this his third state tournament trip with the Cougars. He is 285-85 in 15 seasons overall at Cedar Falls NU High and Ottawa (Kan.). Hempstead’s Curt Deutsch is 77-125 in eight years.
Tournament history: This is the very first state tournament appearance for Hempstead. Kennedy is making its 15th trip. The school won championships in 1972 and 1984.
Synopsis: Hempstead won the regular-season meeting between the teams, 51-44. The Mustangs avenged two of their five losses by beating rival Dubuque Senior in a substate final, 53-50. Hempstead is balanced offensively, with brothers Connor (13.3 ppg) and Lucas (13.0 ppg) Duax its leading scorers. Junior center Keith Johnson averages 12.9 points and 7.3 rebounds. Kennedy’s top two scorers are senior forward Drake Brewster (14.0 ppg) and junior guard Derrick Diggins (12.8). Despite being just 6-foot-2, Kennedy’s Matt Berst averages 7.7 rebounds per game. The Cougars are on an eight-game win streak.
Johnson says: Mega kudos to Hempstead for qualifying for the first time. These teams appear very evenly matched. They have identical records and are the 4 and 5 seeds (Hempstead the 4). Truly a 50-50 game. But something says Kennedy finds a way to turn around that regular-season loss.
WEDNESDAY’S OTHER GAMES
Class 4A quarterfinal: No. 5 Sioux City East (21-2) vs. No. 7 Bettendorf (18-5), 6:35 p.m.
Class 4A quarterfinal: No. 4 West Des Moines Valley (19-4) vs. No. 8 Des Moines North (18-5), 8:15 p.m.
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