CEDAR RAPIDS – When Jeremy Rickertsen interviewed for the Cedar Rapids Prairie boys’ basketball head coaching job five years ago, he and activities director Rocky Bennett talked about many things, as you’d expect.
“One of them was championships,” Rickertsen said.
Which Rickertsen and the Hawks obtained Saturday afternoon with a 62-54 win over Iowa City West in the regular-season finale for both clubs. West is ranked seventh in Class 4A, Prairie eighth.
With a little help from Mississippi Valley Conference newbie Iowa City Liberty, this victory allowed Prairie (16-3 overall) to finish in a first-place tie in the Mississippi Division with Dubuque Senior, its first conference hoops title since 2001. Both went 14-2.
Liberty upset the third-ranked Rams on Thursday night, which Rickertsen could not believe when assistant coach Kenyon Murray texted him the score.
“I thought he was joking,” Rickertsen said.
“Championships come at different levels, but this was one of them we definitely wanted to get,” the coach said. “It means a lot to the kids, because they’re the ones who put in the work and the time in the summer and the offseason. They were very motivated, that’s for sure, and I think you saw that today on the court.”
“It means everything,” said Prairie’s Keegan Murray. “All the offseason work we put in, it’s just reflective of what we’ve done this year. This was the end result we were looking for. We’ve been talking about championships the whole year. It’s championship or bust for us, and this was just the first championship we wanted to accomplish.”
The others are a substate title, which would secure the school’s first state tournament appearance since 1998. Once you get to Des Moines, you then want to win it all, naturally.
Not trying to put the cart before the horse, this group of Hawks has that potential. Keegan Murray locked down West star and University of Iowa signee Patrick McCaffery defensively, holding him to just 12 points, 14 under his average, on 4-of-15 shooting.
Kris Murray, Keegan’s twin brother, had a game-high 26 points for Prairie, with Keegan chipping in 18. The game turned in the second quarter, when West’s Even Brauns was given a technical foul for a push on a Prairie player as the two ran down court following a Brauns bucket.
The Hawks cashed in on the two ensuing free throws for a 25-24 lead, got a Kris Murray three-point play and spurted to a 37-30 halftime lead. Seven straight points to begin the second half made it a 44-30 game, and West (15-4) never got closer than five the rest of the way.
The Trojans are the Valley Division champion, by the way. Jacob Klein’s 12 points off the bench tied McCaffery for team scoring honors.
“I knew it was going to be a tough matchup (against McCaffery),” Keegan Murray said. “Last year, he got us pretty good, and I took it personally upon myself to make sure he was shut down and not contributing as much. I knew if I did my part, overall we’d get a win.”
They did, a championship one at that.
AT CEDAR RAPIDS PRAIRIE
IOWA CITY WEST (54): Patrick McCaffery 4-15 4-4 12, Even Brauns 5-7 1-2 11, Nicholas Pepin 3-6 0-0 8, Marcus Morgan 4-8 1-2 11, Brayden Adcock 0-2 0-0 0, Jacob Klein 3-4 3-3 12, Tate Crane 0-0 0-0 0, Joey Goodman 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 19-44 9-11 54.
C.R. PRAIRIE (62): Keegan Murray 6-15 4-4 18, Kris Murray 9-14 7-9 26, Gabe Burkle 2-5 1-1 5, Harrison Cook 3-9 0-1 6, Logan Burg 0-5 1-3 1, Max Lampe 1-2 2-2 4, Garrett Pientok 1-4 0-0 2. Totals 22-54 15-20 62.
Halftime – Prairie 37, West 30. 3-point goals – West 7-15 (Pepin 2-3, Morgan 2-5, Adcock 0-2, Klein 3-4, Goodman 0-1), Prairie 3-14 (Ke. Murray 2-6, Kr. Murray 1-4, Burkle 0-1, Burg 0-1, Lampe 0-1, Pientok 0-1). Rebounds – West 22 (McCaffery 7), Prairie 35 (Kr. Murray 9). Total fouls – West 18, Prairie 14. Technical foul – Brauns. Fouled out – None. Turnovers – West 13, Prairie 11.
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