116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — One by one, they trudged up to Coach Jon McKowen. Most of them had their heads down, a sign of their individual and collective disappointment.
'I'm sorry, Coach,' Cedar Rapids Kennedy boys' basketball players told him as they shook his hand. 'I promise to give more effort.'
This was a week and a half ago. The Cougars were slapped around at home by Iowa City West, losing by 30 points.
It embarrassed a team that at one point was top ranked in Class 4A. Drake Brewster, one of the team's captains, spoke loudly in a player's only postgame gathering, demanding that things change.
Then, on their own, they located their coach in the locker room and apologized.
'I think that was our breaking point,' guard Jackson Foley said Friday night, after Kennedy won at Cedar Rapids Prairie, 69-63. 'We came together and realized that we had to get it figured out and start moving in the right direction.'
Which Kennedy has. It has won four in a row, blowing out Cedar Rapids Washington and winning close games against good teams from Prairie, Cedar Rapids Xavier and North Scott.
The Cougars are 14-5 and just got the No. 1 seed in their substate. My, how things have changed.
'We told Coach that we were all going to change our attitude and effort,' said Kennedy's Nick Duehr. 'Coach told us after the Iowa City West game that it was his fault that we lost, because he didn't prepare us enough. But Drake said that wasn't true. It was our fault, we weren't giving enough effort in practice. Going into Christmas, we were 6-0 and thought we were big stuff. But Iowa City West really humbled us.'
'That was all them,' McKowen said. 'It's a very mature group. That's why we keep winning close games. Their maturity. We can kind of get on them and show them why something is wrong, and they are kind of able to filter the message out of it and then take it to the floor. They are a tough group to rattle, and that's what I love about them.'
These teams play a fun brand of basketball, and this definitely was a fun game. Prairie (12-7) led by three points after the first quarter, by one at halftime and by two after three quarters.
But Kennedy scored nine of the first 10 fourth-quarter points to build a lead it never relinquished. The Cougars hit some clutch shots, going 6 for 11 from the 3-point arc in the second half.
And everyone contributed. Seven guys scored at least seven points, with Foley leading the way with 13 and Derrick Diggins adding 12.
'I thought we had good balance tonight, with some solid defense and some solid offense,' McKowen said.
Prairie got five treys from Jake Eilers in the first half, but he only got off one second-half shot, and it was a miss. Sophomore Keegan Murray did hit five 3-pointers in the second half for the Hawks, who were 14 of 31 from long distance.
'I think the main change was they made big shots, and we didn't,' said Prairie Coach Jeremy Rickertsen. 'They made some big 3s, especially in the fourth quarter. We missed some open looks, couldn't get to the foul line.'
Prairie is the second seed in a very good Substate 3, receiving an opening-round bye with Kennedy. It's possible the teams could meet again in a substate final at the U.S. Cellular Center, something that wasn't lost on Rickertsen.
'That is it,' he said. 'Let's get another shot at them.'
AT C.R. PRAIRIE
C.R. KENNEDY (69): Drake Brewster 3-6 0-1 8, Derrick Diggins 5-9 1-2 12, Matt Berst 3-11 2-5 9, Malik Haynes 0-3 0-0 0, Jackson Foley 3-7 5-6 13, Nick Duehr 3-5 1-2 8, Ki Jenkins 2-6 1-2 7, Isaiah Harris 2-3 0-0 4, Jack Wetzel 3-5 1-1 8. Totals 24-55 11-19 69.
C.R. PRAIRIE (63): Jake Eilers 5-7 0-0 15, Logan Serbousek 0-1 0-0 0, Max Smith Drahos 5-9 0-0 14, Keegan Murray 5-10 0-0 15, Griff Clark 5-10 2-2 12, Kris Murray 1-7 0-0 2, Levi Usher 1-4 0-0 2, Matt Lorenz 0-1 1-2 1, Darren Kilpatrick 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 23-51 3-4 63.
Halftime — Prairie 26, Kennedy 25. 3-point goals — Kennedy 10-22 (Diggins 1-2, Brewster 2-3, Foley 2-4, Berst 1-3, Haynes 0-2, Duehr 1-3, Jenkins 2-3, Wetzel 1-2), Prairie 14-31 (Eilers 5-7, Smith Drahos 4-6, Ke. Murray 5-10, Clark 0-2, Kr. Murray 0-5, Lorenz 0-1). Rebounds — Kennedy 34 (Berst, Diggins 7), Prairie 26 (Smith Drahos, Clark 7). Total fouls — Kennedy 8, Prairie 14. Fouled out — Kr. Murray. Turnovers — Kennedy 4, Prairie 8.
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