CEDAR RAPIDS — Tom Lilly has coached a number of outstanding athletes during his decorated career.
Defensively, none may be better than Aubrey Jones. The Cedar Rapids Xavier senior was locked in from the beginning of Saturday night’s Class 4A regional semifinal against visiting Decorah at Ron Thillen Gymnasium.
Jones was seemingly in every passing lane to start the game. She tossed in eight quick points, most coming after a stellar defensive play, as Xavier built a quick 15-2 lead en route to a convincing 62-18 win over a short-handed Vikings team.
The victory pushes the Saints (15-7) into a Tuesday night regional final on the road against Waverly-Shell Rock (19-2). The Go-Hawks advanced with a 53-43 win over Dubuque Wahlert.
Decorah closes its season at 12-10.
“The idea at the start was to try and tire them out,” Lilly said of the Vikings. “We knew they had some kids hurt and were playing with a limited bench so the decision was made to put the pressure on them right from the start.”
Jones took her coach’s message to heart, as she has done for much of her Saints career.
“She has an uncanny ability to be around the ball,” Lilly said. “She has always been that way. She has a knack for being around the basketball and she is one of the quickest kids I have ever coached. We’re happy she is on our side and real happy we don’t have to go up against her.”
Jones and fellow senior Libby Arnold have taken even more of a leadership role with the absence of Caitlynn Daniels, who went down with a knee injury earlier this season. Lilly said that has been important as the Xavier roster is loaded with young players.
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“Aubrey has picked things up and Libby Arnold, our other senior captain, is sometimes unsung,” Lilly said. “She does a lot of things behind the scenes in practice, leading the younger kids. We have a pile of them and she has really done a good job.”
Aree Beckmann led the offense, scoring 21 points, including five 3-point baskets. Arnold added 13 while Jones finished with 12.
Abby Milburn and Bryar Duwe led the Vikings with five points each.