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Mount Vernon-Solon highlights Saturday’s Class 3A girls’ basketball regional finals
No. 2 Spartans won the first 2 encounters by a total of 7 points
This is the stage the Mount Vernon Mustangs wanted. And the opponent.
“The kids are excited,” Coach Nate Sanderson said. “When the brackets came out, they were pumped — much more than I was.”
One of the best all-sports rivalries in the area, Mount Vernon-vs.-Solon takes on extra meaning Saturday. The 11th-ranked Mustangs (16-7) visit the No. 2 Spartans (21-2) in a Class 3A girls’ basketball regional final.
Tipoff is 7 p.m.
It’s one of three area 3A regional finals, and the Wamac Conference will be on center stage. No. 4 Benton Community (20-3) welcomes West Liberty (17-6), and No. 10 Vinton-Shellsburg (16-7) visits No. 6 Grinnell (17-5).
Winners advance to the state tournament Feb. 27-March 4 at Wells Fargo Arena, Des Moines.
Familiarity is a theme in all three games, particularly the Highway 1 encounter. Solon won a pair of tight games, 56-50 and 50-49, in the regular season.
“I don’t know if there will be much for adjustments,” Sanderson said. “We’re both pretty base in what we do.”
While Solon rolled through the first two postseason rounds, Mount Vernon had to grind out a 46-39 regional-semifinal win over Davenport Assumption.
“I thought we defended really well,” Sanderson said. “We were able to maintain a two-possession lead, and we were able to answer every push they made at us.”
Now they’ll try to contain Solon’s Callie Levin, a junior and a University of Iowa commit.
West Liberty-Benton features big stars
In Kelsey Joens and Jenna Twedt, West Liberty and Benton have two of the area’s top players. Those two played two a virtual draw in the team’s previous meeting Feb. 6, but Joens received more assistance in a 64-57 Comets win.
“They were very explosive offensively,” Benton Coach Jeff Zittergruen said. “Obviously, Joens is a very good player. All aspects of her game are very solid. But I think we have a better feel now for what their strengths are.”
Another win would send West Liberty to state for the first time since 1965. Benton was a 4A qualifier last year.
“We need to slow them down in transition, and in half-court, we need to be sound.”
Vinton-Shellsburg takes on scrimmage partner
Vinton-Shellsburg faced Grinnell in a Hall of Pride exhibition game in November, scoring a 62-53 “win.” The consequences of this encounter are far, far greater.
“Both teams are going to be very, very different than they were way back then,” Vikettes Coach Rich Haisman said. “Neither team is going to be afraid of the other.”
Vinton-Shellsburg senior Ashlie Meyer said, “I remember, (Grinnell) is really aggressive.”
In addition to the 3A regional finals, Saturday features regional semifinals in Class 5A and Class 4A.
Cedar Rapids Xavier (14-7), the reigning 4A state champion, welcomes Marion (11-11). Seven Metro/Iowa City 5A teams are in action.
Saturday’s Class 3A Regional Finals
(All games 7 p.m.)
No. 11 MOUNT VERNON (16-7) at No. 2 SOLON (21-2)
Solon won a pair of high-drama regular-season games (56-50 at Mount Vernon; 50-49 at home), and this figures to be another stresser. Winners of seven straight games, the Spartans will have the best player on the floor in junior Callie Levin. The future Iowa Hawkeye averages 18.9 points, 5.7 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game. Give Mount Vernon the edge in the post. Sophomore volleyball standout Chloe Meester (9.1 ppg, 5.5 rpg) is improving quickly, and scored 36 points in the two regular-season encounters. Mount Vernon outlasted Davenport Assumption, 46-39, in the regional semifinals behind 14 points from freshman Courtney Franck. Solon is bidding for its first state appearance in 17 years.
BC Moore computer projection: Solon by 5.
WEST LIBERTY (17-6) at No. 4 BENTON COMMUNITY (20-3)
If the Comets can duplicate their performance at Van Horne from Feb. 6 — a 64-57 upset of the Bobcats — they’ll make their first state-tournament appearance since 1965. Both teams are fueled by a likely 3A first-team all-stater. Iowa State University signee Kelsey Joens, a senior transfer from Iowa City High, averages 24.3 points and 12.2 rebounds per game in her first season playing for older sister Courtney Joens at West Liberty. Benton counters with Jenna Twedt (19.8 ppg), the school’s all-time leading scorer. West Liberty rallied from a four-point halftime deficit to get past Center Point-Urbana, 66-54, in the regional semifinals while Benton — a 4A qualifier last year — whipped Union Community, 65-38.
BC Moore computer projection: Benton by 10.
No. 10 VINTON-SHELLSBURG (16-7) at No. 6 GRINNELL (17-5)
These future Wamac Conference foes collide, officially, for the first time since 2009. Unofficially, they met in a Hall of Pride exhibition game in November (the Vikettes won it, 62-53). Vinton-Shellsburg hasn’t qualified for state since 1999, but is in the regional finals for the second straight year, thanks to a 55-40 win over Mid-Prairie on Wednesday. Vinton-Shellsburg’s six seniors have compiled a 61-32 four-year record. Alyssa Griffith leads the Vikettes at 12.0 points per game, and Abby Davis adds 10.6. The Vikettes will try to slow a Grinnell attack that scores at a 58-point clip (seventh-best in 3A). Like Vinton-Shellsburg, the Tigers are a veteran crew. Senior Bailey Strovers averages 12.1 points and 9.6 rebounds per game.
BC Moore computer projection: Vinton-Shellsburg by 4.
Algona (17-6) at No. 1 Estherville ELC (23-0)
No. 13 Clear Lake (21-2) at No. 3 West Marshall (22-1)
Harlan (14-7) at No. 5 Des Moines Christian (20-3)
No. 9 Osage (21-1) at No. 8 Dubuque Wahlert (17-6)
No. 12 Unity Christian (18-5) at No. 7 Sioux Center (17-5)
Saturday’s Class 5A Regional Semifinals
(All games 7 p.m.)
Davenport Central (7-14) at No. 1 Pleasant Valley (21-0)
Dubuque Senior (11-10) at Cedar Rapids Kennedy (13-8)
Sioux City West (10-12) at No. 4 West Des Moines Dowling (17-4)
Des Moines Roosevelt (15-7) at No. 12 Iowa City West (15-6)
Iowa City High (6-15) at No. 5 Davenport North (19-2)
Waukee Northwest (8-12) at No. 13 Ankeny (11-10)
Urbandale (6-17) at No. 6 Ankeny Centennial (15-6)
Bettendorf (11-10) at No. 11 Linn-Mar (14-7)
Cedar Rapids Jefferson (9-14) at No. 7 Southeast Polk (13-7)
Ottumwa (13-7) at No. 10 Iowa City Liberty (13-7)
Dubuque Hempstead (2-20) at No. 8 Cedar Falls (14-6)
Cedar Rapids Prairie (10-11) at No. 9 West Des Moines Valley (13-8)
Class 4A Regional Semifinals
(All games 7 p.m.)
West Delaware (7-15) at No. 5 Decorah (19-2)
Waverly-Shell Rock (16-6) at No. 13 Mason City (13-6)
Marion (11-11) at No. 6 Cedar Rapids Xavier (14-7)
Western Dubuque (4-18) at No. 9 DeWitt Central (14-7)
Fort Madison (16-6) at No. 7 Clear Creek Amana (16-4)
Keokuk (16-5) at No. 10 North Scott (12-9)