WEST BRANCH — When their promising young center transferred after last season, you kind of wrote off the Iowa City Regina Regals. That was foolish.
Regina still had plenty of good players around, and those good players have produced a 16-2 record, an 11-game win streak and a No. 10 ranking in Class 2A. Throw a River Valley Conference South Division championship in there now, too.
That was secured Wednesday night via a 55-48 victory over West Branch.
“I didn’t really know how this year was going to go,” said Regina’s Masen Miller. “I was very hopeful. I knew we’d be pretty good, but I didn’t know how good. I knew the young guys had to grow up fast, and they have. It’s been a good year so far.”
It’s been a really good year for Miller. The junior point guard is outstanding, going into Wednesday second in the state in 3-pointers made, making them at an almost absurd 47.7-percent clip.
West Branch (14-4) did a good job defensively on him, as he was just 4 of 19 overall from the field and 2 of 12 beyond the arc. But his trey gave Regina a 45-43 lead with three minutes left, and the Regals never trailed after that.
“Just try and put it out of your mind and make the next play,” he said. “Knock down the next shot.”
“Shooting is only one part of his game,” said Regina Coach Jared Galpin. “He can put the ball on the floor and get to the rim. Then he’s just lights out from the free-throw line, for the most part. He just does so much for us.”
Miller finished with 21 points, sophomore Ashton Cook 14, Bryce Barnett nine. They’ve been the primary scorers all season for the Regals, who lost 6-foot-9 big man Even Brauns in a transfer to Iowa City West.
Regina was able to overcome a seven-point third-quarter deficit to beat West Branch for a second time this season. The clubs are the top two seeds in their 2A district and could meet again in a couple of weeks in a district final.
Beau Cornwell led the Bears with 15 points, but Regina held him to just four in the second half. West Branch’s career scoring leader missed a 30-plus footer with about 15 seconds left that would have tied the game.
“That was a tournament environment right there,” said West Branch Coach Jason Kern. “Hopefully it happens again in (the district final). That’s who we are hopefully going to run into, I think. We’ve just got to be smarter down the stretch. Some of that is my fault. I probably should have called a couple of timeouts and gotten us to settle down late. They just went on a little run.”
“We knew this was going to be a 32-minute game and probably then some,” Galpin said. “That’s what it was going to take. We had to gut it out. The schedule has been weird for everybody, playing this game at 5 o’clock (because of weather) was weird. We knew it was going to be a battle. We had to be really tough and get stops. Then we were patient offensively. Free throws down the stretch really helped us. That was probably the difference at the end.”
AT WEST BRANCH
IOWA CITY REGINA (55): Luke Stein 1-3 3-4 5, Ashton Cook 5-8 3-6 14, Prescott Arendt 2-3 0-0 5, Bryce Barnett 2-4 4-5 9, Masen Miller 4-19 4-5 21, Patrick Clark 0-2 0-0 0, Alec Wick 0-1 0-0 0, Jack Keller 0-0 1-2 1, Joseph Molony 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 14-40 22-30 55.
WEST BRANCH (48): Ted Bridges 2-4 1-2 6, Trey Eagle 2-5 1-1 5, Brady Lukavsky 2-9 0-0 5, Zach Thompson 1-2 0-0 2, Beau Cornwell 6-22 2-2 15, Thomas Gould 2-3 2-2 6, Brett Schiele 2-6 2-4 7, Matt Whaley 0-1 2-2 2. Totals 17-52 8-12 48.
Halftime — West Branch 28, Iowa City Regina 25. 3-point goals — Iowa City Regina 5-20 (Stein 0-1, Cook 1-3, Arendt 1-2, Barnett 1-2, Miller 2-12), West Branch 6-25 (Bridges 1-1, Lukavsky 1-6, Cornwell 3-13, Gould 0-1, Schiele 1-3, Whaley 0-1). Rebounds — Iowa City Regina 39 (Cook 8), West Branch 27 (Cornwell 9). Total fouls — Iowa City Regina 12, West Branch 19. Fouled out — None. Turnovers — Iowa City Regina 16, West Branch 11.
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