116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — Cedar Rapids Xavier ran into a red-hot team and stopped it in its tracks. On the strength of a clampdown defense and a monster night from Kyla Mason, Xavier booked its first trip to the girls’ state basketball tournament since 2019, taking down Keokuk 58-36 in a Class 4A regional final Tuesday night at Xavier.
“I’m just overjoyed,” Mason said. “I don’t think I’ve ever felt this way. I’m just super happy.”
Winner of 17 straight, ninth-ranked Keokuk (18-4) ran into a swarming Saints defense. At the top of Xavier’s scouting report was Chief star forward Abby Wolter, who came into the night averaging 24 points per game.
“(Wolter) is a special athlete,” Xavier head coach Tom Lilly said. “She looks like she could probably do any sport that she wanted to do. We ended up deciding that we would not try to alter too much in terms of our game plan, but we knew we would have to recognize where she was at.”
The plan worked. Wolter got hers, scoring 21, but the Saints (17-6) limited the rest of the Keokuk roster to 15. Xavier limited the Chiefs to 33-percent shooting and forced 21 turnovers.
On the other end of the floor, Mason tore the interior Keokuk defense to shreds. With Wolter’s presence looming large on the perimeter, the Saints fed the ball inside to Mason. Entering play averaging nine points, Mason went off for 28, adding nine rebounds.
“I think my teammates were just getting me the ball at the right times,” Mason said. “That really just allowed me to put the ball in the bucket so I give the credit to my teammates.”
In a slow and deliberate first half, Mason was the offense. She scored the first points on a layup 3:07 into the game. She scored the Saints’ first eight and finished the first half with 16 as Xavier seized a 22-9 lead.
“She’s always had a knack ever since I first started recognizing her in seventh grade,” Lilly said. “She had a way of being around the ball a lot. When you’re around the ball a lot, good things can happen. It finds a way into her hands.”
The Chiefs had difficulty getting good looks at the basket, attempting just 14 shots through two quarters while committing 12 turnovers.
Keokuk took care of the ball in the third quarter and slowly began chipping away. Wolter scored eight of her points in the frame and the Chiefs trailed just 36-26 entering the fourth.
A bucket by Makenna Altgilbers trimmed the lead to eight. That’s as close as it got.
Lexi Beier knocked down a pair of free throws for the Saints and, following a turnover, cashed in a 3. Libby Fandel turned Keokuk over again and found Mason all alone under the basket and the Chiefs called timeout, trailing 43-28 with 5:04 remaining.
In a blink of an eye, the lead swelled to 24. Xavier continued forcing turnovers and converting them into easy baskets. A Wolter layup finally ended the 16-0 run, but the damage had been done.
“I think the big basket by Lexi Beier, I think that just ignited the flame,” Lilly said. “All of a sudden it was like ‘let’s go’. It just snowballs sometimes. It works both ways. I’ve been on teams when the shoe is on the other foot. So I know exactly how their coach feels. He has a young team and they’ll battle back.”
With three of the Class 4A regional finals postponed Tuesday night, the Saints will wait until Wednesday to learn their opponent for next week’s state quarterfinals at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.
XAVIER (58): Libby Fandel 2-8 0-0 5, Lexi Beier 3-6 2-2 11, Kyla Mason 11-18 6-6 28, Lexi Turner 3-6 0-0 7, Mary Kate Moeder 2-6 3-4 7, Emma Arnold 0-0 0-0 0, Riley Jonker 0-0 0-0 0, Sydney Huber 0-2 0-0 0, Maya Karl 0-0 0-0 0, Maddie Steger 0-1 0-0 0, Taylor Rexroth 0-2 0-0 0, Aaliyah Beier 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 21-49 11-12 58.
KEOKUK (36): Natalie Ames 0-3 0-0 0, Makenna Altgilbers 2-5 1-3 6, Makayla Altgilbers 0-2 5-6 5, Abby Wolter 8-15 5-7 21, Kayde Martin 1-6 2-5 4, Camryn Atterberg 0-2 0-1 0, Ireland Seay 0-0 0-0 0, Haylee Davis 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 11-33 13-21 36.
Halftime — Xavier 22, Keokuk 9. 3-point goals — Xavier 5-14 (Huber 0-2, Fandel 1-4, Lexi Beier 3-4, Turner 1-3, Moeder 0-1), Keokuk 1-4 (Ames 0-1, Makenna Altgilbers 1-3). Rebounds — Xavier 28 (Mason 9), Keokuk 22 (Wolter 7). Total fouls — Xavier 17, Keokuk 8. Fouled out — none. Turnovers — Xavier 11, Keokuk 21.