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.
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CEDAR RAPIDS — Some teams have never win a basketball state championship.
Fewer teams have won multiple basketball state championships.
Only the elite schools have won back-to-back basketball state championships.
The 2017 Xavier boys’ basketball team can consider themselves elite.
The journey for another state title started long before March. The Saints started working out with each other over the summer to prepare for this season.
“We wanted to be back at state again, so this past summer we had multiple shoot-arounds and tournaments on the weekends,” senior Bryce Schulte said.
Their hard work paid off, once again playing under the bright lights of the Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.
In the quarterfinal game against Mount Pleasant, senior Max Techau led all scorers with 20 points to lead the team to a 59-44 victory.
“We wanted to play with poise and toughness in every game,” head coach Ryan Luehrsmann said. “The team that maintains composure and is able to make plays under pressure is the one that ends up victorious.”
The Saints upset No. 1 ranked Waverly-Shell Rock, 47-41, in the semifinals. These two teams had already met in early December, and the Go-Hawks came out on top, 76-54. However, the Saints won the thrilling overtime game to advance to the state championship.
The Saints knew they had their hands full coming into the game with 6-foot-10 center and UNI recruit Austin Phyfe.
“We knew we weren’t going to stop him, so we just had to stay tough in there to slow him down,” Schulte said.
In the state championship game, the Saints topped Sergeant Bluff-Luton, 54-49. It was close most of the game, but along with junior Matt Mims’s layup, senior Nolan Butkowski and junior Jackson Joens hit free throws at the end to seal the win.
“My favorite part of the whole tournament was the free throws Nolan made to ice the game and secure the win,” Mims said.
Mims was named captain of the all-tournament team after scoring in double digits all three games and contributing assists, as well. Joens, who was named to the team last year, joined Mims as a member of the all-tournament team.
“I wasn’t expecting to get captain, so it was a really cool moment,” Mims said. “I never would’ve been able to do it without my teammates.”
Mims also was named to the Class 3A first team all-state by the Iowa Newspaper Association.
The Saints are looking for a three-peat next winter.