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DES MOINES — These days, the power structure in big-school girls’ basketball has been, in a word, centralized.
Four straight years, four different Class 5A state champions. All from the Central Iowa Metro League.
The state basketball tournament begins Monday at Wells Fargo Arena, and in Class 5A, the storyline remains:
Why the CIML dominance, and how can the outsiders break through?
“Our league, top to bottom, challenges us every night,” said Josef Sigrist, whose West Des Moines Valley squad is ranked No. 2 and among the top title threats.
“You look at the B.C. Moore (computer) rankings, and CIML teams rank 1 through 6 in schedule strength.”
The roster of recent champions — Ankeny Centennial last year, preceded in order by Waukee, West Des Moines Dowling and Southeast Polk — is only part of the story.
All of the last four finals have been all-CIML affairs. Last year, Centennial beat Johnston, 46-42.
And in 2013, all four of the semifinalists were CIML teams.
“It’s a cyclical thing,” Iowa City West Coach B.J. Mayer said. “There are a lot of good coaches in the CIML, and right now, there are a lot of good players.
“Right now, we’re just kind of in their cycle.”
Added Iowa City High Coach Bill McTaggart, “Hopefully this is the year we put a stop to it.”
So the CIML has great players, great coaches and superior competition. Minimal travel to Wells Fargo doesn’t hurt, either.
“They’ll get to sleep in their own beds, and they’ll bring a lot of fans,” Mayer said.
This year’s field consists of five teams from Central Iowa — No. 1 Indianola (23-0) hails from the Little Hawkeye Conference, plus Valley (21-2), Dowling (19-4), Waukee (18-4) and Johnston (19-4).
Representing the Mississippi Valley Conference are third-ranked West (20-3), No. 4 City High (22-1) and No. 5 Cedar Falls (21-2).
“I think it’s going to be a fairly balanced (5A) tournament,” Mayer said. “We showed (in regionals) that we can compete.”
West downed Southeast Polk, 60-54, in a regional final. City High took down defending-champ Centennial, 48-32.
In addition, West played Valley tough in their regular-season game before falling short, 77-71. City High scrimmaged Indianola earlier this season, and though an official tally wasn’t kept, “it worked out pretty favorably our way,” McTaggart said.
Mayer coached West to the 2012 championship, and said that team and his current team “are very similar.
“That team was deep and had Ally (Disterhoft) and (McKenzie) Piper. This team is balanced, and has Logan (Cook) and Rachael (Saunders).”
McTaggart guided City High to a title in 2008. That team had Kelly Krei. This team has Ashley Joens, a versatile junior who has committed to Iowa State.
“I would say that if we’re going to be successful, we’re going to have to control tempo and we’re going to have to keep our turnovers down,” McTaggart said.
The 5A quarterfinals are Wednesday, the semifinals Friday and the title game at 8 p.m. Saturday.
“It’s going to be a hotly contested tournament,” Sigrist said, “and I like our chances.”
And at this point, it’s hard to argue.
GIRLS’ STATE BASKETBALL: THE LAST FOUR 5A FINALS
2016 — Ankeny Centennial 46, Johnston 42
2015 — Waukee 72, West Des Moines Valley 58
2014 — West Des Moines Dowling 66, Southeast Polk 55
2013 — Southeast Polk 43, West Des Moines Dowling 34
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