Prep Basketball

Linn-Mar at Prairie: A true girls' basketball regional tossup

Lions, Hawks converge for a 5A regional quarterfinal Wednesday

Linn-Mar's Keegan Krejca (right) slaps hands for the assist from Linn-Mar's Kaitlyn Brunson (5) during a game Jan. 5 aga
Linn-Mar’s Keegan Krejca (right) slaps hands for the assist from Linn-Mar’s Kaitlyn Brunson (5) during a game Jan. 5 against Cedar Rapids Washington. The Lions play at Cedar Rapids Prairie in a Class 5A regional quarterfinal Wednesday. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

Plain and simple, it’s a tossup.

“You couldn’t get two more evenly matched teams,” Cedar Rapids Prairie girls’ basketball coach Josh Bentley said. “The first time, we got lucky and held on.

“They’re improved, and hopefully we’ve improved, too.”

And there’s this, from Linn-Mar Coach Chad Tompkins:

“We’re two evenly matched teams. There are a lot of similarities,” he said. “Neither of us have a double-digit scorer, but are both really balanced.

“It should go down to the wire.”

Prairie (8-8) hosts Linn-Mar (9-8) in a Class 5A regional semifinal Wednesday. Tipoff is 7 p.m.

Their records couldn’t be much more similar. And neither can their recent history. Prairie prevailed in their regular-season meeting, 45-42, Jan. 12 at Linn-Mar.

“It’s probably going to come down to one or two possessions again,” Tompkins said.

Linn-Mar is a veteran crew; Kaitlyn Brunson (9.1 points per game), Hallie Peak (8.6) and Keegan Krejca (7.2) lead a class of nine seniors on the varsity roster. And the Lions have been aided by the emergence of sophomore Zoe Kennedy (9.0 points, 7.4 rebounds per game).

Prairie counters with a roster blended with experience and youth.

Seniors Hailey Cooper and Natalie Bennett average 9.3 and 7.8 points, respectively, and Catie Reittinger leads a talented freshman class. Five ninth-graders are in the Hawks’ regular rotation.

“Natalie and Hailey have grown a lot,” Bentley said. “They had been in a supportive role until this year, and now, they’ve had to learn to use their voice.”

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Elsewhere in town Wednesday, Cedar Rapids Kennedy (13-8) hosts Iowa City Liberty (4-11) in a 5A quarterfinal, and Marion (12-8) is heavily favored to handle Clinton (0-16) in a 4A contest.

Kennedy, without debate, is the hottest Metro team at the moment. The Cougars have won 12 of their last 15 games.

“Defense has really turned us around,” Cougars Coach Andy Courtney said. “This absolutely is the best stretch of my three years here.

“Sophia (Barrett) and Kaliyah (Sain), they’re our two leaders. They handle the ball and take a lot of the shots. But if we were going to jump to the next level, they had to bring the other girls up. It didn’t have to be on their shoulders.”

Class 3A regional semifinals are Wednesday, with winners playing for state-tournament berths Saturday. Among area ranked teams, No. 9 West Liberty (15-5) hosts Centerville (17-1), No. 10 Center Point-Urbana (15-6) welcomes Davenport Assumption (6-11), No. 12 Solon (16-5) entertains No. 15 Monticello (16-5), No. 13 Vinton-Shellsburg (18-4) hosts Williamsburg (11-11) and No. 14 Waukon (17-4) welcomes North Fayette Valley (20-2).

Wednesday’s Class 5A regional quarterfinals

(All games, 7 p.m.)

Region 3

Muscatine (8-8) at Dubuque Senior (11-6)

Region 6

Bettendorf (9-3) at Pleasant Valley (10-8)

Region 7

Iowa City Liberty (4-11) at C.R. Kennedy (13-8)

Region 8

Linn-Mar (9-8) at C.R. Prairie (8-8)

Wednesday’s Class 4A regional quarterfinals

(All games, 7 p.m.)

Region 2

Charles City (3-17) at Mason City (6-12)

Waterloo East (2-14) at Benton Community (14-7)

Region 5

Washington (2-18) at Oskaloosa (7-14)

Clinton (0-16) at Marion (12-8)

Region 6

Western Dubuque (4-17) at Decorah (11-8)

West Delaware (4-16) at Dubuque Wahlert (10-9)

Wednesday’s Class 3A regional quarterfinals

(All games, 7 p.m.)

Region 4

Iowa Falls-Alden (14-7) at Clear Lake (16-1)

Williamsburg (11-11) at Vinton-Shellsburg (18-4)

Region 5

New Hampton (6-15) at Osage (20-2)

North Fayette Valley (20-2) at Waukon (17-4)

Region 7

Davenport Assumption (6-11) at Center Point-Urbana (15-6)

Monticello (16-5) at Solon (16-5)

Region 8

Central Lee (13-8) at West Burlington (19-1)

Centerville (17-1) at West Liberty (15-5)

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

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