DES MOINES — In his day job, P.J. Sweeney remodels kitchens and bathrooms.
“I just got tired of sitting behind a desk,” he said.
Sweeney has done some reconstruction — or more accurately, just plain construction — of the Clear Creek Amana girls’ basketball program, too.
“The program didn’t have the greatest foundation when we started,” Sweeney said. “I really wanted to build relationships with the kids and their families.
“You look in our gym, and there were so many red banners (for state softball teams), but no blue ones.”
Now, there’s one.
Clear Creek Amana makes its state debut Tuesday; the 15th-ranked Clippers (20-4) face No. 1 North Scott (23-0) in a Class 4A quarterfinal at 11:45 a.m. at Wells Fargo Arena.
CCA is the lone first-time qualifier in the 40-team state field. It advanced by shocking No. 2 Marion, 66-49, last Tuesday.
Since then, its been a lovefest for this team in Tiffin, Oxford and surrounding areas.
“The excitement around the program has been unbelievable,” Sweeney said. “It’s been overwhelming. All of the congratulations and well wishes from the community, from former players, from coaching peers ... in 48 hours, there have been more than 600 T-shirt sales.”
The year before Sweeney took over, Clear Creek Amana was 5-16. In his first season: 13-9.
His six-year mark is 76-56.
CCA suffered double-digit losses to Center Point-Urbana and Marion in December, then avenged both.
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The Clippers edged CPU, 49-48, on Feb. 14 to gain a share of the Wamac Conference West Division crown. Then came the big shocker: Karsyn Stratton scored 24 points in a 66-49 regional-final victory at Marion that sent CCA to state.
Now, a week later, it’s time to tune out the adulation and avoid the just-happy-to-be-here vibe.
“I don’t think that will be a problem,” Sweeney said. “We have a group of seniors that have been working for this a long time. Once we get (to Wells Fargo), we’ll be fine.”
McCrea and McDermott: Prairie's bar-raisers
They combined for more than 2,500 career points, but Sidney McCrea and Mallory McDermott will be remembered by Cedar Rapids Prairie Coach Josh Bentley for more than their numbers.
“When they got here, we weren’t really good at first, but they stuck with a young guy and took our program to a new level,” Bentley said after Prairie fell to Iowa City High, 59-40, in a Class 5A quarterfinal Monday morning. “They did amazing things for us.”
McDermott finished her career with 1,303 points, McCrea tallied 1,274. They will play at Western Illinois and Northern Illinois next year.
“They raised the bar for our program, for sure,” Bentley said.
Prairie finished 20-4.
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