Prep Basketball

Iowa 4A, 5A girls' basketball regional finals: Prairie isn't dwelling on No. 9 ranking

Hawks aim to become Metro's first 5A state qualifier since 2016

Cedar Rapids Prairie girls' basketball coach Josh Bentley slaps hands with Jenna Leggat earlier this season. The Hawks p
Cedar Rapids Prairie girls’ basketball coach Josh Bentley slaps hands with Jenna Leggat earlier this season. The Hawks play at Davenport North in a Class 5A regional final Tuesday. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

The Cedar Rapids Prairie Hawks suffered a case of the hiccups toward the end of the girls’ basketball regular season.

After a 15-0 start, Prairie lost three games in a four-game stretch. As a result, the Hawks slid in two weeks from No. 3 to No. 9 in the Class 5A rankings and lost regional-final home-court advantage.

“I have some questions about that,” Prairie Coach Josh Bentley said. “I would love some justification on that. But you can’t dwell on it; you still have to go play.”

The Metro’s last surviving 5A team, Cedar Rapids Prairie (19-3) plays at No. 8 Davenport North (18-4) in a regional final at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

It’s one of six regional finals Tuesday containing area teams. Also in 5A, No. 2 Iowa City High (21-1) hosts Dubuque Hempstead (14-9) and No. 14 Iowa City West (14-9) travels to No. 7 Southeast Polk (18-4).

In 4A, No. 2 Marion (21-1) hosts No. 15 Clear Creek Amana (18-4), No. 5 Center Point-Urbana (20-2) welcomes No. 10 DeWitt Central (18-3) and No. 9 Cedar Rapids Xavier (15-7) visits No. 6 Waverly-Shell Rock (19-2).

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

When Prairie’s schedule came out, Bentley expected to learn most about his team in the five-game stretch at the end.

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“We knew we were going to be a little tired and a little beat up,” he said. “We did learn a lot. The veterans learned they needed their teammates, and the others learned that they needed to step up and contribute a little more.”

Among Prairie’s late losses was a 61-55 setback against North.

“They’re a good team,” Bentley said. “When you have a 6-foot-5 girl (senior Anne Awour), it allows your other players to take some chances defensively.”

In addition to the Prairie-North tilt, the Xavier-WSR and Central-CPU games stand out as potential dandies.

Xavier will be facing an elite post in Abbie Draper.

“They know what to do with her,” Xavier Coach Tom Lilly said. “Most of her stuff is done around the basket, and a lot of their stuff is done through her.”

The Saints are 5-3 since losing Caitlynn Daniels to a torn ACL.

“It’s been a learning curve,” Lilly said. “It took Aree (Beckmann) a while to understand that she would be getting the best defender from the other teams. And it took us some time to decide what to do at point guard. Once we went with (freshman) Lexi (Turner), it allowed everybody else to go back to their original positions and allowed us to go forward.”

CPU and Marion both are chasing their fifth consecutive state appearance; City High is going after its fourth in a row.

Monday's Class 5A regional finals

Dubuque Hempstead (14-9) at No. 2 Iowa City High (21-1)

Time and place: 7 p.m., at City High

Overview: City’s senior trio of Aubrey Joens, Rose Nkumu and Paige Rocca have enjoyed massive success — an 87-7 record, four MVC divisional titles, and a likely fourth consecutive state-tournament berth. But the Little Hawks have bigger goals in mind. That threesome averages 45.6 points per game among them, led by Joens at 20.2. City thumped Hempstead, 80-38, on Dec. 10 in Dubuque, but the Mustangs have heated up lately with 10 wins in their last 12 games, including a 52-47 regional-semifinal victory at Bettendorf, and a runner-up finish in the MVC Valley Division. Senior Riley Kay leads Hempstead at 16.0 points and 6.7 rebounds per game.

BC Moore computer projection: Iowa City High by 25

No. 14 Iowa City West (14-9) at No. 7 Southeast Polk (18-4)

Time and place: 7 p.m., at Pleasant Hill

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Overview: West pulled the upset of the 5A tournament series thus far, avenging a 33-point regular-season loss in outlasting No. 10 West Des Moines Valley — the defending 5A state champion — 56-54 in overtime. Matayia Tellis scored on a driving layup as time expired to force overtime, then Cora Saunders scored with 24 seconds left in OT to put the Women of Troy up for good. Another tough, long road test stands between West and a seventh state trip in 10 years. Southeast Polk snapped a three-game losing streak by whipping Linn-Mar, 64-35, in the regional semifinals. Junior Grace Larkins averages 22 points and 4 assists per game for the Rams. West counters with junior Audrey Koch (18.5 ppg).

BC Moore computer projection: Southeast Polk by 16

No. 9 Cedar Rapids Prairie (19-3) at No. 8 Davenport North (18-4)

Time and place: 7 p.m., at Davenport

Overview: It has been four years since a Metro school has qualified to state in 5A, and the Hawks have a good opportunity to end the drought. They started the season 15-0, then lost three of four games, but have rebounded with three consecutive wins, including a 54-28 victory over Pleasant Valley in the regional semifinals. Seniors Mallory McDermott and Sidney McCrea have steered the ship all season. McDermott averages 22.6 points per game, McCrea 18.0. The duo has combined to shoot 48.6 percent from the floor, 43.9 percent from long range and 86.7 percent from the free-throw line. North tripped the Hawks, 61-55, at home Feb. 8. Senior Camry Dillie leads the Wildcats at 11.4 ppg.

BC Moore computer projection: Cedar Rapids Prairie by 8

 

Monday's Class 4A regional finals

No. 9 Cedar Rapids Xavier (15-7) vs. No. 6 Waverly-Shell Rock (19-2)

Time and place: 7 p.m., at Waverly

Overview: Xavier hits the road to face a Go-Hawks club that has won 19 straight games after an 0-2 start. They’ll also be facing one of the best posts they’ve encountered this season in 6-foot-1 junior Abbie Draper, who averages 18.1 points, 7.5 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game. Xavier has overcome the season-ending injury of top player Caitlynn Daniels (knee), winning five of eight games since. Sophomore Aree Beckmann leads the active roster with 12.9 points and 5.0 rebounds per game, with senior Libby Arnold adding 11.1 points per contest. Xavier Coach Tom Lilly ranks 23rd all-time among girls’ basketball coaches in Iowa, with 553 wins. He has won four state titles at Xavier in 13 appearances.

BC Moore computer projection: Waverly-Shell Rock  by 4

No. 10 DeWitt Central (18-3) at No. 5 Center Point-Urbana (20-2)

Time and place: 7 p.m., at Center Point

Overview: Four straight years, Center Point-Urbana has not only reached the state tournament, but advanced to the semifinals. The highlight was last year, when the Stormin’ Pointers went all the way and won the 3A championship. CPU is up a class this year and faces a formidable challenge in the Sabers. CPU rallied from a double-digit deficit to win at DeWitt, 49-47, Jan. 7. Two good defensive teams here: CPU allows 32.7 points per game (third best in 4A), Central surrenders 38.5 (sixth). Sophomore Ryley Goebel leads the Stormin’ Pointers in points (17.0), rebounds (6.3) and steals (3.6) per game. Central is led by sophomore guards Taylor Veach and Allison Meadows, who score 36.3 ppg between them.

BC Moore computer projection: Center Point-Urbana by 7

No. 15 Clear Creek Amana (18-4) at No. 2 Marion (21-1)

Time and place: 7 p.m., at Marion

Overview: Marion is expected to make another deep run in Des Moines, where it has reached the 4A state final each of the last three years, including a title in 2018. Senior Kayba Laube aand juniors Riley Wright and Ella Van Weelden have been major factors in the recent success, and that trio accounts for 47.6 points per game, led by Laube’s 21.4. A UNI recruit, Laube is in the state’s top five all-time in 3-pointers. The Indians picked up a 59-30 win over CCA on Dec. 13 at Tiffin, but the Clippers have won 13 of 14 games since Christmas, including a 75-59 regional-semifinal win over Pella, in which Meagan Harvey scored 26 points and Karsyn Stratton added 25. Stratton leads the Clippers at 21.1 points per contest.

BC Moore computer projection: Marion by 14

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

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