Prep Basketball

Experience helps carry Iowa City High past Prairie in girls' state basketball quarterfinals

Little Hawks win 59-40, will face Johnston in the 5A semifinals

DES MOINES — Experience mattered. It mattered, big time.

“I think we were a little more comfortable at the beginning of the game, and we were able to use that to our advantage,” Iowa City High Coach Bill McTaggart said.

Second-ranked City High stung No. 9 Cedar Rapids Prairie with a 12-0 run to start the game and rolled, 59-40, in a Class 5A quarterfinal at the girls’ state basketball tournament Monday morning at Wells Fargo Arena.

“We’ve all been here before, and we were able to keep everything composed,” City’s Rose Nkumu said.

City High (23-1) will face No. 4 Johnston (22-2) in a semifinal at 10 a.m. Thursday. The Dragons topped No. 7 Southeast Polk, 75-71, Monday.

The Little Hawks’ identity is its senior trio of Nkumu, Aubrey Joens and Paige Rocca, all of whom were playing at state for the fourth consecutive year, highlighted (so far) by a runner-up run of 2018.

But if you’re looking for an MVP in this game, you could do worse than choosing Ella Cook. The junior posted 13 points and nine rebounds, and helped ignite the Little Hawks early.

“My job is to rebound,” Cook said. “Rebound and put the ball back, or rebound and get it to somebody else. It just depends on how the game is going.”

Here’s how it was going early Monday:

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Cook opened the scoring with an offensive rebound and putback, then it was Nkumu with a steal and score. Freshman Kelsey Joens nailed a 3-pointer, Cook converted inside and Kelsey Joens struck again from deep.

Just like that, it was 12-0.

“We came in confident and prepared,” Prairie senior Sidney McCrea said. “We believed and trusted in each other. But we gave up too many offensive rebounds, and maybe we weren’t ready to play defense.”

Prairie (20-4) recovered somewhat and got within 13-10 late in the first quarter, but City High scored eight in a row for an 21-10 lead, and carried a 27-17 advantage into intermission.

The Little Hawks pulled away steadily from there. The dagger came at the end of the third quarter. Aubrey Joens scored and was fouled. She missed the free throw, but Eviyon Richardson got the offensive rebound and basket for a 45-28 City lead at the end of the quarter.

Joens led all scorers with 18 points, and also collected eight rebounds and four steals. Cook scored 13, Nkumu 12.

McCrea and McDermott paced Prairie — which was making its first state appearance since 2006 — with 13 points apiece.

“Like I just told Sid, if it has to end, I’m glad it ended here,” McDermott said.

IOWA CITY HIGH 59, CEDAR RAPIDS PRAIRIE 40

5A State Quarterfinal, at Des Moines

C.R. PRAIRIE (40): Sidney McCrea 6-12 1-2 13, Kamryn Grissel 4-7 0-0 9, Mallory McDermott 4-8 4-5 13, Jenna Leggat 0-3 1-2 1, Hailey Cooper 1-5 0-0 2, Natalie Bennett 1-2 0-0 2, Lauren Williams 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 16-37 6-9 40.

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IOWA CITY HIGH (59): Rose Nkumu 5-6 2-2 12, Kelsey Joens 3-8 0-0 8, Ella Cook 5-6 3-4 13, Paige Rocca 1-9 0-0 3, Aubrey Joens 7-14 3-5 18, Carey Koenig 0-0 0-0 0, CeCe Kelly-Harvey 0-1 0-0 0, Georgia Kimm 0-0 0-0 0, Lauren Koch 0-0 0-0 0, Eviyon Richardson 2-3 1-2 5, Mia Driscoll 0-0 0-0 0, Jae Dancer 0-0 0-0 0, Ayanna House 0-0 0-0 0, Andie Westlake 0-0 0-0 0, Anna Knoche 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 23-47 9-13 59.

Halftime: City 27, Prairie 17. 3-point goals: Prairie 2-9 (McCrea 0-2, Grissel 1-2, McDermott 1-4, Bennett 0-1), City 4-16 (K. Joens 2-6, Rocca 1-5, A. Joens 1-5). Team fouls: Prairie 13, City 11. Fouled out: none. Rebounds: Prairie 21 (Leggat, Cooper 6), City 28 (Cook 9). Assists: Prairie 5 (McCrea 3), City 10 (Nkumu 4). Steals: Prairie 3 (three with 1), City 9 (A. Joens 4). Turnovers: Prairie 14, City 8.

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

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