CEDAR RAPIDS — You look for sleepers every year in the NCAA basketball tournament. Same thing goes for the Iowa high school boys’ basketball postseason.
Identify Belle Plaine as one of those sleepers. The Plainsmen are a No. 3 seed in Class 1A, District 7 but definitely a dangerous one.
BP is 15-3 and on an eight-game win streak going into the weekend. The losses came on back-to-back nights in December when leading scorer Kobe Grieder did not play in one game and played with the flu in the second.
“Definitely,” Belle Plaine Coach Justin Northrop said, when asked if he thinks his team is under the radar. “We’ve been going up toward Gladbrook the last couple of years. We’re kind of in this goofy in-between area geographically. My guys would have wanted to play Montezuma again, but I kind of wanted to stay away from that direction. When we found out the way we did and just knowing a little bit about everybody, we couldn’t have been more happy, honestly.”
Northrop is quick to point out it’ll be difficult to advance, no matter what. Calamus-Wheatland (14-3) is the district’s top seed and Alburnett (14-5) is No. 2. Unbeaten New London is the No. 1 seed in the corresponding district.
Northrop led Belle Plaine to its first state tournament in 2015 and has made his alma mater’s program a perennial winner. He said this season’s team had a turning-point moment in early January, after a lopsided loss to third-ranked Montezuma.
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“We got run out by Monte. One, we couldn’t have played worse, couldn’t get out of the gates with them. And they made everything. We just got blasted,” Northrop said. “So we had a little meeting, and I kind of asked (guard) Garrett Straight ‘What would you do if you were me? What are your ideas of what needs to happen?’ He kind of spoke up in front of everyone, kind of told them the way it was, how they needed to do this and that. He was right on everything. Since then, we haven’t lost.”
Grieder leads Belle Plaine in scoring at 19.4 points per game, followed closely by Straight at 15.6. Dylan Fry averages 10.2 points and a team-high 6.8 rebounds.
All are seniors.
The Iowa High School Athletic Association released substate brackets for Class 3A and 4A on Thursday afternoon, and there weren’t many surprises. Perhaps one of the few came in 3A-3, where Cedar Rapids Xavier was awarded a No. 2 seed by voting coaches over Davenport Assumption. Xavier has a losing record (7-8) to Assumption’s winning record (10-7), with both schools playing in a 4A conference (Xavier in the Mississippi Valley and Assumption in Mississippi Athletic). The seeds matter because higher seed hosts, meaning Assumption would play at Xavier in a second-round game, should both teams survive the first round. West Delaware (13-5) is the substate’s top seed.
The vote had us as a 2 seed too but when you put 6 WaMac coaches in the same room they are able to manipulate it how they want. We are looking forward to the challenge.
— Matt Fitzpatrick (@CoachFitz22) February 7, 2019
“The vote had us as a 2 seed too but when you put 6 WaMac coaches in the same room they are able to manipulate it how they want,” Assumption Coach Matt Fitzpatrick tweeted. “We are looking forward to the challenge.”
There actually are five Wamac Conference schools in the substate and one from the River Valley Conference (West Liberty). It is highly likely a Wamac school will advance to the substate final Feb. 25 at the U.S. Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids.
With games being flat-out canceled now because of the continued bad weather, schools are taking to Twitter to try and find last-minute games with other schools.
Yes, that is true.
It didn’t happen because of Twitter, but Class 2A North Linn and 1A No. 3 Montezuma are playing Saturday night in an “improvised” game at North Linn. Both are undefeated: North Linn is 18-0 and Montezuma 17-0. They had late openings in their schedules because of recent cancellations.