Prep Basketball

Discovery of inside game has fueled Xavier surge

No. 8 Saints face No. 5 CPU in 4A regional final

Cedar Rapids Xavier’s Amelia Ivester (34) protects the ball from Cedar Rapids Prairie’s Halle Person (34) during their game Jan. 5 at Prairie. Xavier plays at Center Point-Urbana in a Class 4A regional final Tuesday. Prairie is at Waukee in a 5A game. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
Cedar Rapids Xavier’s Amelia Ivester (34) protects the ball from Cedar Rapids Prairie’s Halle Person (34) during their game Jan. 5 at Prairie. Xavier plays at Center Point-Urbana in a Class 4A regional final Tuesday. Prairie is at Waukee in a 5A game. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)

Tom Lilly made a late-season discovery. A post game.

“(Amelia) Ivester and (Emily) Jasper have really been a key down the stretch,” Lilly said.

Not coincidentally, Cedar Rapids Xavier has made a sprint to the finish line. The eighth-ranked Saints (14-8) take a six-game winning streak into their Class 4A regional-final girls’ basketball game Tuesday at No. 5 Center Point-Urbana (20-3).

Tipoff is 7 p.m.

The Xavier-CPU battle is one of six regional finals Tuesday in 4A and 5A, all of which involve Metro/Iowa City teams. Top-rated Marion (22-0) hosts Dubuque Wahlert in the other area 4A game.

In the most intriguing area 5A game, No. 9 Iowa City West (15-7) visits No. 8 Pleasant Valley. Also, No. 1 Iowa City High (22-0) hosts Bettendorf (17-5), No. 11 Cedar Rapids Prairie (16-6) is at No. 6 Waukee (18-4), and Cedar Rapids Kennedy (11-11) plays at No. 4 Johnston (19-3).

Winners advance to the state tournament next week at Wells Fargo Arena, Des Moines.

Xavier is a state fixture. This is the 20th year of the school’s existence, and the Saints have made 12 appearances with titles in 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2013. They reached the semifinals last year.

It will be a “challenge” to get back, Lilly said.

“(CPU) has some athletic players,” he said. “They’ve got the D-I kid in (Drake signee Allie) Wooldridge, they do a lot of different stuff defensively, and playing at their place isn’t the easiest task.”

On the other hand, Xavier is surging behind its improved post attack. Sitting at 8-8 after a home loss to Dubuque Hempstead, the Saints haven’t lost since, and the run includes two wins over ranked 5A teams.

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“We changed our defensive philosophy a little,” Lilly said. “We’ve taken more of a zone approach, and that’s really uncommon for us.”

Like Xavier-CPU, the matchup between West and Pleasant Valley figures to be an extremely competitive game.

“This is the first time in a couple years that we’ve been an underdog, and I think the kids will come out with a chip on their shoulders,” West Coach B.J. Mayer said. “We still feel like we’re one of the better teams in the state.”

The Women of Troy played a rugged schedule that included three losses to out-of-state competition. They have followed a four-game losing streak with three straight wins.

“We were in all of those games, but couldn’t get over the hump,” Mayer said. “We’re playing much better now.”

City High and Marion are heavy favorites to advance Tuesday; Prairie and Kennedy take underdog roles to Central Iowa.

Tuesday's Class 5A regional finals

All games, 7 p.m.

No. 9 IOWA CITY WEST (15-7) at No. 8 PLEASANT VALLEY (21-1)

Overview: A state semifinalist last year, West enhanced its schedule this season with three excellent out-of-state opponents (the Women of Troy dropped all three). West suffered through a four-game losing streak in late January but has bounced back. University of Iowa signee Logan Cook paces West at 14.5 points per game. Creighton recruit Rachael Saunders has played the last 13 games after missing the early portion of the season recovering from a torn ACL suffered at last year’s state tournament, and is averaging 11 points per contest. Pleasant Valley shared the Mississippi Athletic Conference title with North Scott, and the Spartans’ resume is enhanced by a midseason win over Rock Island (Ill.). PV allows 31.6 points per contest, a figures that leads 5A. Ellie Spelhaug leads the Spartans at 17.2 ppg.

BC Moore computer projection: West by 2.

No. 13 BETTENDORF (17-5) at No. 1 IOWA CITY HIGH (22-0)

Overview: The explosive Little Hawks have destroyed most everything in their path all winter. The only teams to stay within 10 points of City all season have been Cedar Falls and Iowa City West. Ashley Joens (30.6 points, 11.5 rebounds per game) is the favorite to capture Miss Iowa Basketball 2018 honors. A 5-foot-11 senior and an Iowa State University signee, Joens has accumulated 2,057 points in a remarkable career. But she’s far from a lone ranger. Sophomores Rose Nkumu, Aubrey Joens and Paige Rocca add 13.9, 13.5 and 9.2 points per game, respectively. Bettendorf has an extensive girls’ basketball tradition, but hasn’t been to state since 2004. Emily Ivory paces the Bulldogs at 13.0 points per game, and Kylie Wroblewski adds 12.7.

BC Moore computer projection: City High by 31.

CEDAR RAPIDS KENNEDY (11-11) at No. 4 JOHNSTON (19-3)

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Overview: Kennedy is coming off a thrilling 83-81 overtime win over Cedar Rapids Washington, a victory in which the Cougars overcame a 17-point deficit — and an 11-point hole with 2:30 to go in regulation. Hailey Dolphin hit a late 3-pointer for the winning points, and she finished with 34 as Kennedy avenged two losses to Washington and snapped a four-game losing streak. The senior leads the Cougars with 17.3 points per game. Johnston’s three losses all came against top-10 teams, by a total of five points. Sophomore Maya McDermott averages 19.2 points per contest. The Dragons are seeking their fourth consecutive state appearance; they were runners-up in 2016. Kennedy needs a win to avoid back-to-back losing seasons, something that has never happened in the program’s 45-year history.

BC Moore computer projection: Johnston by 19.

No. 11 CEDAR RAPIDS PRAIRIE (16-6) at No. 6 WAUKEE (18-4)

Overview: Prairie’s 16 wins are the most for the program in a season since 2006, which, coincidentally, is the last time the Hawks reached the state tournament. The Hawks boast one of the state’s best backcourts with the trio of Mallory McDermott (15.3 points per game), Sarah Schmitt (13.4) and Sid McCrea (12.9). A commit of Nebraska-Omaha, Schmitt is a junior; the other two are sophomores. Waukee has been a state staple, reaching Wells Fargo Arena four straight years and eight of the last nine. Anna Brown leads the junior-dominated Warriors at 16.1 points per game. Jori Nieman adds 12.4 points per contest, and her 168 assists is the second-highest figure in all classes and No. 1 in 5A.

BC Moore computer projection: Waukee by 9.

Tuesday's Class 4A regional finals

All games, 7 p.m.

No. 8 CEDAR RAPIDS XAVIER (14-8) at No. 5 CENTER POINT-URBANA (20-3)

Overview: After reaching the state tournament three of the last four years as a 3A school (it was a semifinalist last year), Center Point-Urbana moves up a class with a veteran crew led by Drake University recruit Allie Wooldridge, who averages 12.5 points and 7.4 rebounds per contest. Like always, Xavier’s MVC schedule has it prepared for a postseason run. The Saints survived in the regional semfinals against Western Dubuque, 50-46. A 4A state semifinalist last year, Xavier is led by dynamic sophomore guard Caitlynn Daniels (11.4 points, 4.7 assists per game). Emily Jasper adds 9.9 points per game, Libby Arnold 8.9. CPU exhibits similar balance, with Wooldridge getting significant help from Adrianna Katcher (10.2 ppg), Callyn Fox (9.1) and Olivia Brecht (8.5). Xavier Coach Tom Lilly ranks 26th all-time among Iowa girls’ coaches with 538 victories.

BC Moore computer projection: CPU by 10.

DUBUQUE WAHLERT (8-15) at No. 1 MARION (22-0)

Overview: Last year’s 4A state runner-up, Marion is a heavy favorite to march to Des Moines for the third consecutive year. The Indians have flattened the majority of their competition, beating 18 of their 22 opponents by 20 points or more. They are second in 4A in scoring offense (68.3 points per game) and No. 1 defensively (27.5). Balance is the buzzword, with nine players averaging more than 4 points per game, led by Kayba Laube (13.2 ppg) and Chloe Rice (10.6). Laube, a sophomore, has committed to UNI while Rice has signed to play at Saint Louis next year. Wahlert owns regional wins over Iowa City Liberty (64-51) and Clear Creek Amana (64-56), answering a four-game losing streak to end the regular season. Krystal Tranel leads the Golden Eagles at 16.3 points and 4.6 rebounds per game.

BC Moore computer projection: Marion by 38.


l Comments: (319) 368-8857; jeff.linder@thegazette.com

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