DES MOINES — They always found a way.
Someone would hit a huge shot. Someone would make a crucial defensive play when it most mattered.
Cedar Rapids Xavier won back-to-back boys’ state basketball championships because it had good players and good coaches. It had guys who clutched up at clutch time.
The top-ranked Saints’ attempt at a Class 3A three-peat was ended Thursday afternoon by an opponent showing those very same characteristics. Third-ranked Glenwood was the team that made every late free throw, got a key stop or two and topped Xavier, 69-63, in an always-tight 3A semifinal at Wells Fargo Arena.
“Sometimes it just doesn’t go your way,” said Xavier’s Jackson Joens, sitting with a towel over his head in complete dejection. “It just happened to be at the state tournament. All the credit to Glenwood. They’re an unbelievable team, and they’ve got great players. We just didn’t make plays down the stretch. I don’t think it was about effort. The effort was there, the heart was there. We just couldn’t get it done.”
“It’s the law of averages,” said Xavier Coach Ryan Luehrsmann. “You can’t always win in life. Eventually you are going to have an off day. We had a little bit of an off day and still had a chance. I think that speaks to the character of our group.”
This one hit hard, especially for Joens and fellow senior Matt Mims. They were three-year starters who helped produce one heck of a run.
Mims is Xavier’s all-time leading scorer, Joens got his 1,000th-career point Thursday.
“The things we accomplished, I feel like we changed Xavier basketball,” said Mims, unable to fight back tears. “It was usually just a football school, but we had a few guys that just really loved basketball. We wanted to do great things, and we just worked so hard. The things we accomplished are amazing.”
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Back and forth, back and forth these teams went the entire way. Glenwood (24-2) led by a point at the end of the first quarter and at halftime, with Xavier holding a one-point edge after three.
A three-point play off transition by Quinn Schulte put Xavier up with 4:09 left, 54-53, but that was the Saints’ last lead. Nate Mohr’s two free throws a minute later gave Glenwood the edge back, and Mohr created probably the game’s most important play when he stole a Xavier inbounds pass a second after teammate Andrew Blum’s layup and scored for a 59-54 lead with two minutes to go.
Glenwood was 17 of 18 from the free-throw line, a huge stastitic. Blum had a double-double of 21 points and 13 rebounds.
Mohr also had 21 points, with his defense against Mims superb. Mims had 32 points in Xavier’s quarterfinal win over Marion but just 14 here on 4-of-20 shooting.
“My teammates were talking to me, we had a bunch of help defense,” Mohr said. “It wasn’t just me out there. He missed some shots. I just did the best I could.”
Joens also had a rather off night shooting, going 5 for 15 from the field for 14 points. Kyle Moeder (12 points) and Quinn Schulte (11) picked up some of that offensive slack.
So did senior center Aaron Bartels, who had a career-high nine points in just four minutes in the third and fourth quarters. Coming in, he had played in just 19 of Xavier’s 25 games, averaging 1.4 points.
“The thought process was if I got in, I was going to do everything I could to win,” Bartels said. “For me, that’s getting rebounds and getting some dish offs from the guards on our team. I was fortunate enough to help out a little bit. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough, though.”
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Xavier (19-7) does get to play one more game, albeit the 3A consolation against Waverly-Shell Rock at 10:30 Friday morning.
“One last dance with this group,” Luehrsmann said.
AT DES MOINES
GLENWOOD (69): Christian Stanislav 7-10 0-0 16, Andrew Blum 8-12 5-6 21, Nate Kennedy 0-1 0-0 0, Nate Mohr 5-14 8-8 21, Cody Burresh 1-2 0-0 2, Zach Carr 1-2 2-2 4, Ryan Blum 1-4 2-2 5. Totals 23-45 17-18 69.
CEDAR RAPIDS XAVIER (63): Kyle Moeder 6-7 0-0 12, Quinn Schulte 5-5 1-1 11, Jackson Joens 5-15 1-1 14, Matt Mims 4-20 3-6 14, Gabe Lux 1-4 0-0 3, Jacob Beckmann 0-1 0-0 0, Aaron Bartels 3-3 3-4 9, Mitch Heinkamp 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 24-55 8-12 63.
Halftime — Glenwood 26, Xavier 25. 3-point goals — Glenwood 6-20 (Mohr 3-12, A. Blum 0-3, Stanislav 2-2, R. Blum 1-3), Xavier 7-23 (Lux 1-3, Mims 3-11, Joens 3-8, Beckmann 0-1). Rebounds — Glenwood 27 (A. Blum 13), Xavier 29 (Mims, Schulte 6). Total fouls — Glenwood 14, Xavier 19. Fouled out — Moeder. Assists — Glenwood 8 (Mohr 4), Xavier 14 (Mims 7). Turnovers — Glenwood 11, Xavier 10.
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