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Cedar Rapids Kennedy the victim in a boys’ state basketball tournament stunner
Top-ranked Cougars lose for first (and only) time this season in Class 4A quarterfinals, 57-45, to Pleasant Valley
DES MOINES — Few saw it coming. Very few.
But it was no fluke. In this game, on this court, on this day and time, Pleasant Valley was the better basketball team.
So Cedar Rapids Kennedy’s extraordinary, historic season concludes. Not with a state championship but a stunning 57-45 loss to Pleasant Valley in a Class 4A quarterfinal Wednesday afternoon at Wells Fargo Arena.
Wow. Just wow.
“Looking back on it right now, I don’t even know what went wrong with us,” said Kennedy’s Micah Schlaak. “We can’t blame anyone but ourselves.”
Kennedy (22-1) finished a regular season unbeaten for the first time, went into the postseason ranked No. 1. The Cougars laid waste to virtually every opponent, winning by an average of over 31 points per game, their “closest” Ws a nine-pointer over Cedar Falls and a seven-pointer over Iowa City West.
They beat North Scott in a substate final by 28 points. Unranked and eighth-seeded Pleasant Valley (20-5) beat North Scott by three points twice in the regular season.
An upset? Naw, not here.
Only, yeah, here.
“You’ve got to do two things against Kennedy,” said Pleasant Valley Coach Steve Hillman. “You can’t have live-ball turnovers, and I thought we did a nice job of keeping our composure and not coughing it up. We had a few, but you’re going to have that. The second thing is defensively you’ve got to be keyed in. You can’t let them score around the rim, you’ve got to take the side 3s away. So, honestly, it was just us not turning it over and being focused defensively.”
Pleasant Valley had a 22-0 record last season before being upset in a substate final. Irony.
“We knew Kennedy was a good team. We were that team last year, being undefeated and being a little too confident, thinking we were better than we are,” said PV’s Connor Borbeck. “We knew going into this game it was going to be a toughness game. It’s a little bigger court, a whole different atmosphere than what we were used to. The tougher team was going to win the game, and we believed we were the tougher team, so we won the game.”
Kennedy averaged a 4A-high 77 points per game, known for making offensive runs that put games away quickly. But this was a slog, a half-court game in which Pleasant Valley ran the shot clock down repeatedly, didn’t turn the basketball over, hit big shots and expertly defended Kennedy’s all-state guard duo of Colby Dolphin and Kenzie Reed.
Dolphin and Reed tried to penetrate the lane but always found one or two guys in front of them when they did. They combined for 12 points, six each.
⧉ Related article: Photos: Pleasant Valley upsets No. 1 Kennedy in boys’ state basketball quarterfinals
“You’ve just got to be physically and mentally tougher in that situation,” Dolphin said. “They were really tough with us, physical with us. You’ve just got to be tougher. We knew they were going to try and grind us. I thought we got some good looks. We just couldn’t put them down.”
How weird it was that Kennedy, 4A’s top 3-point team, actually had one fewer trey in this game (6) than its opponent. Caden Rubel had four of them for PV, three in the first half when the Spartans established this was indeed going to be a game, taking a 26-22 halftime lead.
He finished with a game-high 23 points. Schlaak led Kennedy with 14, its only double-figures scorer.
Kennedy just never could get over the proverbial hump. A Dolphin and-one three-point play brought it within 46-45 with 2:25 left, but the Cougars never scored again.
“A few shots didn’t fall,” said Kennedy Coach Jon McKowen. “We didn’t have physicality on drives. It was just one of those games that we needed to grind out kind of an ugly one. The tempo was (slow), limited possessions. We didn’t get many points in transition.”
Thus Pleasant Valley moves on to Thursday afternoon’s 4A semifinals. Kennedy unexpectedly gets to reflect on the oh, so many things it accomplished this season.
And the one thing it didn’t.
“It just wasn’t our game,” said Kennedy’s Cyrus Courtney.
“It hurts, and it’s going to hurt,” McKowen said. “But there’s no regrets because there’s not one thing you would go back and change and say ‘We should have done this differently. If this kid would have worked a little harder.’ They all worked as hard as they could every single day.”
AT DES MOINES
PLEASANT VALLEY (57): Coy Kipper 0-5 0-0 0, Caden Rubel 7-12 5-6 23, David Gorsline 4-8 4-4 13, Connor Borbeck 4-10 3-3 13, Max Muszalski 4-6 0-0 8, Max Schmeltzer 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 19-42 12-13 57.
CEDAR RAPIDS KENNEDY (45): Kenzie Reed 2-6 1-2 6, Colby Dolphin 2-13 1-1 6, Cyrus Courtney 3-6 0-2 6, Micah Schlaak 6-8 1-1 14, Carter Newhouse 1-2 0-0 3, Jace Scott 0-0 0-0 0, Trey McKowen 2-6 0-0 5, Trevan Krumrei 2-5 0-0 5, Landon Deiters 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 18-46 3-6 45.
Halftime - Pleasant Valley 26, Kennedy 22. 3-point goals - Pleasant Valley 7-21 (Kipper 0-2, Rubel 4-9, Gorsline 1-3, Borbeck 2-7), Kennedy 6-22 (Reed 1-5, Dolphin 1-6, Courtney 0-1, Schlaak 1-2, Newhouse 1-1, McKowen 1-3, Krumrei 1-4). Rebounds - Pleasant Valley 27 (Gorsline 7), Kennedy 23 (Schlaak 6). Total fouls - Pleasant Valley 13, Kennedy 13. Fouled out - Dolphin. Assists - Pleasant Valley 11 (Kipper 5), Kennedy 11 (Reed 5). Turnovers - Pleasant Valley 9, Kennedy 10.
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