DES MOINES — They abolished the archaic “seat-belt rule” this season. Prep basketball coaches could actually stand up on the sideline and direct their teams.
That’s except when you’re working with a technical foul.
Cedar Rapids Xavier’s Ryan Luehrsmann was assessed a ‘T’ he still doesn’t understand three minutes into the second quarter of Saturday night’s Class 3A state championship game. He said he was never told why he was hit, just that he was.
So, plop, on his seat Luehrsmann remained the rest of the way, which had to be just excruciating, especially in the closing seconds. The guy rightfully wanted to celebrate what his team had done.
Xavier made play after play after play in the fourth quarter to shock Dubuque Wahlert, 62-57, ending the Golden Eagles’ attempt at a championship three-peat.
That also was the year the last time a school with Cedar Rapids in its title won it all (Prairie). The last time a C.R. parochial school was a state champion was Regis in 1984.
By the way, legendary former Regis Coach Dick Breitbach was in the house Saturday night at Wells Fargo Arena. He had to be proud.
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“I’ve been dreaming about this for I don’t know how many years,” said Xavier’s Mitch Burger. “Playing AAU ball all those years ... I’ve dreamed of this. I’m at a loss for words right now. It’s been a great experience.”
“We knew we were capable of having a special year, but never in our wildest imagination did we think we’d be ending it on this night, being able to come out with a win,” Luehrsmann said. “But when you work hard and surround yourself with good people, you have a chance. That’s in life and in moments like this in sport.”
Wahlert (21-6) was a decided favorite in this game. The Golden Eagles won a prior encounter between the teams, 68-56, which gave Xavier a six-game losing streak to conclude the regular season.
Who’d have thought that was the last time the Saints would lose?
“Our team peaked at the right time,” said Xavier’s Matt Mims.
“It was nice playing the underdog role,” said Xavier’s Ryan Stulken. “Everybody thought we wouldn’t win. Spirit Lake was a higher seed, Pella was a higher seed, Wahlert is a juggernaut.”
But Xavier (19-8) beat them all. The Saints were able to take down Wahlert with 66.7-percent shooting in the second half and some timely plays on offense and defense.
Wahlert had a four-point lead of 47-43 early in the fourth quarter, but Xavier scored the next nine points to go ahead for what turned out to be for good. The seminal moment of the game came with just under two minutes to go, when Max Techau made a pair of free throws and Mims stole a pass on Wahlert’s ensuing possession, driving for a layup that made it a 56-49 game.
Mims finished with 11 points. Fellow sophomore Jackson Joens had a team-high 18, also showing uncommon poise for a young player.
“(Assistant) Coach (Brad) Stovie told us before the game this was just like any other game,” said Joens, the only Saint to make the 3A all-tournament team. “We had to treat it like we were going out to play a normal game. Do what we do.”
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What they also did was take care of Wahlert’s Cordell Pemsl a lot better. The Iowa Hawkeyes signee destroyed them with 35 points in the regular season but was contained to the tune of 15 points here.
“They just mixed it up a lot defensively,” Pemsl said. “A 3-2 zone, 2-3, 1-3-1, man. It seemed like every time we came down the court, they were changing it up.”
“To be honest with you, we didn’t want to show our hand in that (first) game,” Luehrsmann said. “We played pretty vanilla, hoping we’d have another chance later on down the line. We were blessed to have that opportunity tonight.”
And make the most of it, of course.
“We ran into a pretty hot team,” said Wahlert Coach Tom English, whose team played without injured starting forward Sage Maiers for a second-straight game. “They came down here and played some pretty good basketball, really had a good game tonight.”
“At the end of the day, basketball is a player’s game,” said Luehrsmann. “Tonight they were big-time players. They stepped up and made critical plays when needed.”
AT DES MOINES
C.R. XAVIER (62): Mitchell Burger 6-12 2-4 16, Matt Mims 4-12 2-2 11, Jackson Joens 5-7 6-6 18, Ryan Stulken 2-5 3-4 9, Max Techau 2-3 2-2 6, Nolan Butkowski 0-0 0-0 0, Bryce Schulte 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 20-40 15-18 62.
DUBUQUE WAHLERT (57): Josh Schmitt 5-9 0-0 15, David Wedewer 2-9 2-2 8, Austin Kluck 4-5 0-0 10, Riley Till 4-7 1-2 9, Cordell Pemsl 6-10 3-6 15, David Iwowari 0-1 0-0 0, John Timmerman 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 21-42 6-10 57.
Halftime — Xavier 23, Wahlert 20. 3-point goals — Xavier 7-16 (Burger 2-5, Mims 1-4, Joens 2-3, Stulken 2-3, Techau 0-1), Wahlert 9-18 (Schmitt 5-8, Wedewer 2-7, Kluck 2-2, Timmerman 0-1). Rebounds — Xavier 24 (Stulken 6), Wahlert 21 (Pemsl 13). Total fouls — Xavier 7, Wahlert 17. Fouled out — Till. Turnovers — Xavier 7, Wahlert 10.
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