The Central Iowa Metro League has the reputation. The Mississippi Valley Conference, for now, has the title.
The premier big-school girls’ basketball league? About to be decided.
Class 5A and 4A regional finals are Tuesday, and among the 5A encounters are four MVC-vs.-CIML showdowns.
“I love where our conference is at,” said Cedar Rapids Washington Coach Chris James, whose 12th-ranked Warriors (16-5) play at No. 8 West Des Moines Valley (16-5). “I hope all of us are fortunate enough to do well.”
Big-school regional finals are on the home floor of the higher seed. Like Washington, No. 5 Iowa City West (17-3) hits the road. The Women of Troy are at No. 2 Waukee (17-4).
No. 9 Cedar Rapids Prairie (18-3), on the other hand, earned home-court advantage for its game against No. 14 Urbandale (12-9).
“We had to go on the road last year, and we determined that we didn’t want to do that again,” Prairie Coach Josh Bentley said. “We’re thrilled not to be traveling.”
In the other 5A game Tuesday involving an area team, No. 6 Iowa City High (18-2) hosts Bettendorf (16-6). In 4A, No. 1 Marion (20-1) — the defending state champion — hosts Fairfield (14-6), and No. 14 Cedar Rapids Xavier (13-8) is at No. 11 DeWitt Central (16-4).
Winners advance to the state tournament next week at Wells Fargo Arena, Des Moines.
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Last year, the state final was an all-MVC endeavor; West beat City High. But if you believe the BC Moore computer rankings, you’ll note that the top six teams all hail from the CIML.
“Everyone argues that the CIML is better,” Bentley said. “I like that we’re done talking and it’s time to play it out.”
The Washington-Valley battle figures to be a high-scoring affair; Valley averages 71.9 points per game, Washington 65.1.
“They love to run and shoot,” James said. “They get a lot out of transition. We like to score too, but we might be a little more deliberate (Tuesday). We might have an opportunity to get Hannah (Stuelke) going down low.”
West Coach B.J. Mayer said his team was nervous going into Saturday’s regional semifinal, but “now we can literally go out and play. Not many expect us to win, but we’re going to to give it a go.
“We’ve got the pieces, and we’re going to need them all.”
Tuesday's Class 5A regional finals
Bettendorf (16-6) at No. 6 Iowa City High (18-2)
7 p.m., at Iowa City High
City High is the MVC Mississippi Division champion, and last year’s 5A state runner-up hasn’t missed a beat despite the graduation of 2018 Miss Iowa Basketball Ashley Joens. Younger sister Aubrey Joens has picked up the slack and is averaging 23.3 points per game. She is a junior, as are double-digit scorers Rose Nkumu (18.3 ppg) and Paige Rocca (10.5). Nkumu also posts 4.5 assists and 3.5 steals per contest. Bettendorf is after its first state appearance in 15 years, and is led by Kylie Wroblewski’s 17.2 ppg.
No. 14 Urbandale (12-9) at No. 9 Cedar Rapids Prairie (18-3)
7 p.m., at Prairie
One of these teams is going to end a fairly lengthy state drought; Prairie last qualified in 2006, Urbandale in 1994. Prairie possesses one of the state’s backcourt tandems in juniors Sidney McCrea (16.0 points per game) and Mallory McDermott (12.4) and senior Sarah Schmitt (10.9). Schmitt has signed with Nebraska-Omaha, and McDermott has committed to Western Illinois. Urbandale is led by the Gyamfi sisters, both of which stand 6-foot-1 — Maya, a junior, averages 13.6 and 9.4 rebounds per game while Jada, a freshman, adds 8.2 ppg.
No. 12 Cedar Rapids Washington (16-5) at No. 8 West Des Moines Valley (16-5)
7 p.m., at Valley
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After dropping its final two regular-season games to 5A top-10 teams, Washington bounced back to beat Waterloo West, 61-49, in the regional semifinals. The Warriors are explosive, and that makes them dangerous against anybody. Seniors Sammy Mia (13.5 ppg) and Caitlin Riley (11.3) provide veteran leadership, and the Warriors also have a young supertalent in 6-foot-1 freshman Hannah Stuelke (16.5 points, 7.9 rebounds per game). Valley is after its fifth state appearance in six years, and the Tigers lead 5A at 71.9 points per game. Maryland signee Zoe Young averages 23 points and 4.5 assists per game.
No. 5 Iowa City West (17-3) at No. 2 Waukee (17-4)
7 p.m., at Waukee
The defending 5A state champion, West is on a nine-game win streak and ran away with the MVC Valley Division title. But the Women of Troy have to hit the road to Central Iowa and are underdogs against a Waukee outfit that scores 71.5 points per contest. The Warriors have been to state 10 of the last 11 years. Five Waukee players average at least 8 points per game, led by seniors Paityn Rau and Anna Brown at 14.4 and 13.6, respectively. West lost senior Emma Koch before the season to an ACL injury, but remain a threat to go deep behind the trio of seniors Lauren Zacharias and Callyn Morgan and sophomore Audrey Koch (Emma’s sister and the top scorer at 15.5 ppg).
Tuesday's Class 4A regional fianls
No. 14 Cedar Rapids Xavier (13-8) at No. 11 DeWitt Central (16-4)
7 p.m., at DeWitt
The Saints are hopeful that a typically challenging regular-season schedule will vault them into big things in the postseason. It has worked in the past; Xavier has reached the state tournament 12 times since 2000 under Tom Lilly, with four championships. UAB recruit Caitlynn Daniels is a playmaker, averaging 15.6 points and 5.4 rebounds per game. Emily Jasper is the lone senior and adds 12.5 ppg. Central made a big climb from last year’s 7-14 mark, and a pair of freshman was a major reason why. Taylor Veach and Allison Meadows are averaging 14.2 and 11.1 points per game, respectively.
Fairfield (14-6) at No. 1 Marion (20-1)
7 p.m., at Marion
Marion is in the midst of its glory days. The Indians are 70-3 the last three seasons, and are the defending 4A state champions. Marion employs primarily a rotation of six, led by UNI recruit Kayba Laube, a junior who averages 16.9 points per game and shoot 46 percent from long distance. Sophomores Riley Wright and Ella Van Weelden add 12.3 and 10.0. Fairfield reached the state tournament last year, and was knocked out in the first round by Marion, 71-39, behind 14 Marion 3-pointers. Junior Shaylin Drish paces the Trojans at 15.2 ppg.
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