They were so close.
Iowa City West was on the verge of its first trip to the girls’ state basketball tournament trip. But the Women of Troy let a late lead — and the opportunity — slip away.
That was last year. The memory lingers. And it inspires.
“Ever since that night last year, we’ve played for (Tuesday),” said West Coach B.J. Mayer. “We’re going to try to make it right.”
The state-tournament field will be filled Tuesday, and third-ranked West is one of five Metro/Iowa City schools gunning for a berth. The Women of Troy (20-2) face Bettendorf (17-5) in a Class 4A regional final at Muscatine. Tipoff is 7 p.m.
West is in its third straight regional final. The Women of Troy appeared to be in control of last year’s game against Pleasant Valley, then lost in overtime.
“I think a lot of it last year was the fact that we were so young. It was a step in the long process that has to take place with young kids,” Mayer said. “Hopefully we learned from that.”
In other 4A games, No. 2 Linn-Mar (20-2) — the defending champion — takes on No. 15 Cedar Rapids Xavier (15-7) at Jefferson High School, No. 6 Cedar Rapids Washington (18-3) meets No. 7 Pleasant Valley (20-2) at Prairie and No. 12 Iowa City High (17-5) tangles with No. 5 Southeast Polk (21-2) at Newton.
In 3A, No. 2 Mount Vernon (21-2) takes on No. 11 Waverly-Shell Rock (19-4) at Vinton, Decorah (13-10) faces No. 6 DeWitt Central (22-2) at Epworth, Washington (19-5) meets No. 4 Davenport Assumption (21-2) at Tipton, No. 13 Benton Community (19-4) plays No. 9 Pella (18-2) at Grinnell and No. 10 South Tama greets No. 8 Dallas Center-Grimes (20-3) at Ankeny.
Winners advance to the state tournament next week.
Linn-Mar has handled Xavier twice this season — the scores were strikingly similar at 51-33 and 50-31 — but Lions Coach Mike Brandt expects a tough, physical battle.
“Xavier is a great team and (Tom) Lilly is a great coach,” Brandt said. “They’re always extremely physical, and we have to be able to match that.”
Linn-Mar’s Kiah Stokes, a University of Connecticut signee, became the state’s all-time leading shot-blocker Saturday in the Lions’ win over Cedar Rapids Jefferson. Stokes has 500 blocks in her career.
“We’ve got to be strong and aggressive against Xavier,” Stokes said.
Mount Vernon is up a class after capturing the 2A state title last year. Benton Community is seeking its first state appearance while South Tama is after its first trip to state in five-player ball; the Trojans were six-player participants in 1989 and 1990.
TUESDAY’S REGIONAL FINALS
Iowa City High vs. Southeast Polk (Class 4A Region 3)
Site & time: At Newton H.S., 7 p.m.
Records & rankings: City High (17-5) is ranked 12th; Southeast Polk (21-2) is No. 5.
Notable: City High aims to make it to state for the first time since it won the title in 2008. Virginia Johnson was a freshman then and scored the winning basket of the championship game. Now she’s all grown up, a senior with a scholarship waiting at the University of Iowa. Johnson averages 23 points and 10.1 rebounds per game and shoots 63 percent from the field. Southeast Polk is piloted by first-year coach Todd Borrison, who won two state championships at Preston and another at Davenport Assumption. The Rams are dominated by underclassmen, led by junior Whitney Van Wyk (13.9 ppg) and sophomore Caitlin Ingle (12.9 ppg).
Cedar Rapids Xavier vs. Linn-Mar (Class 4A Region 4)
Site & time: At C.R. Jefferson H.S., 7 p.m.
Records & rankings: Xavier (15-7) is ranked 15th; Linn-Mar (20-2) is No. 2.
Notable: Defending state champion Linn-Mar is a win away from its fourth consecutive state trip and its fifth in six seasons. The Lions have defeated Xavier twice this season by similar counts of 51-33 and 50-31, but it would be foolish to count Xavier out in any postseason matchup. Linn-Mar’s Kiah Stokes has become the state’s all-time shot-blocking leader with 500 in her career. She also ranks fifth in rebounds and is averaging 25.2 points, 15.1 rebounds and 5.8 blocks in her final season before the heads to the University of Connecticut. Xavier has qualified for state eight times in the last 11 years, a stretch that includes three 3A championships. Alex Saxen leads the Saints at 10.6 points per game.
Cedar Rapids Washington vs. Pleasant Valley (Class 4A Region 5)
Site & time: At C.R. Prairie H.S., 7 p.m.
Records & rankings: Washington (18-3) is rated No. 6; Pleasant Valley (18-3) is No. 7.
Notable: Sometime early in the game, Washington’s Tia Dawson will reach the 1,000-point plateau for her career — she just needs one point to get there. The Warriors were state qualifiers four straight years from 2005 through 2008, and are trying to get to Des Moines for the first time since. Dawson leads a balanced Washington team at 11.5 points and 10.6 rebounds and has committed to Dartmouth College of the Ivy League. Ten different Warriors average at least 2.5 points per game. Pleasant Valley upset Iowa City West in last year’s regional finals and has the bulk of last year’s state-qualifying team back. Three PV starters average in double figures, led by Stacy Clark (15.3 ppg).
Iowa City West vs. Bettendorf (Class 4A Region 7)
Site & time: At Muscatine H.S., 7 p.m.
Records & rankings: West (20-2) is ranked third; Bettendorf (17-5) is unranked.
Notable: West High has reached the regional-final level for the third straight year, and this is the Women of Troy’s best chance yet to break through and advance to state for the first time in school history. West won its first MVC divisional title since 1979 and has a wealth of young talent — the top seven scorers consist of a sophomore (Ally Disterhoft, 15.1 ppg) and six juniors (including Mckenzie Piper, 12.0 ppg). Bettendorf squeaked past Muscatine, 29-27, in the regional semifinals and is led by 6-foot-2 post Megan Hayes (17.0 ppg).
Mount Vernon vs. Waverly-Shell Rock (Class 3A Region 3)
Site & time: At Vinton (Vinton-Shellsburg H.S.), 7 p.m.
Records & rankings: Mount Vernon (21-2) is rated second; WSR (19-4) is No. 11.
Notable: Last year’s 2A state champion, Mount Vernon is a step away from returning to Wells Fargo Arena to take its shot in 3A. The Mustangs endured a slowdown game against Anamosa in the regional semifinals before prevailing, 30-18. Posts Taylor Dicus (a first-team all-stater in 2010) and Amanda Platte average 12.6 and 12.3 points per game, respectively, and both shoot better than 60 percent from the floor. Mount Vernon captured the Wamac Conference East Division title. Aftin Phyfe paces the Northeast Iowa Conference-champion Go-Hawks at 12.4 points per game.
Decorah vs. DeWitt Central (Class 3A Region 4)
Site & time: At Epworth (Western Dubuque H.S.), 7 p.m.
Records & rankings: Decorah (13-10) is unrated; Central (22-2) is No. 6.
Notable: After falling to Waukon twice in the regular season, Decorah turned the tables in the regional semifinal with a 60-59 triumph. Moran Lonning hit the second of two free throws with 3 seconds left to break the tie. Lonning averages 14.5 points per game to lead a senior-dominated squad. Central counters with its inside-outside duo of Jen Keitel and Lindsay Smith, who have signed to play with Northern Iowa and Wisconsin, respectively. Central got out to a 21-4 lead in the regional semifinals, then held off Dubuque Wahlert, 42-39.
Washington (Iowa) vs. Davenport Assumption (Class 3A Region 5)
Site & time: At Tipton Middle School, 7 p.m.
Records & rankings: Washington (19-5) is unrated; Assumption (21-2) is No. 4.
Notable: Washington’s postseason road has been difficult from the start; the Demons’ first-round opponent was No. 14 Solon, a team they defeated on the road. Then they took care of Centerville in Round 2. Juniors Sydney Greiner (16.6 ppg) and Lauren Vittetoe (11.3 ppg) pace the Demons. Assumption has a new coach (Jennifer Goetz succeeded Todd Borrison), but the Knights have continued to dominate the Mississippi Athletic Conference. They did have some nervous moments in the regional semifinals, though, before holding off Keokuk, 66-64.
Benton Community vs. Pella (Class 3A Region 6)
Site & time: At Grinnell H.S., 7 p.m.
Records & rankings: Benton (19-4) is rated 13th; Pella (18-2) is No. 9.
Notable: An upset win over No. 7 Williamsburg — the Raiders had beaten them twice in the regular season — has Benton on the brink of its first state-tournament bid in school history. Madison Weekly scored 15 points and Megan Renfer added 12 as the Bobcats pulled it off. Weekly leads BC at 16.0 points per game. The Bobcats have won eight consecutive games. Pella has ridden a stingy defensive effort in both of its first two tournament games, holding Knoxville and Carlisle to 26 and 21 points. Makenzie Vander Molen paces the Dutch at 10.6 ppg.
South Tama vs. Dallas Center-Grimes (Class 3A Region 7)
Site & time: At Ankeny H.S., 7 p.m.
Records & rankings: South Tama (21-2) is ranked 10th; Dallas Center-Grimes (20-3) is No. 8.
Notable: South Tama takes a young team — the top six scorers consist of three juniors and three sophomores — in search of its first state-tournament appearance in 5-on-5. The Trojans made six-player bids in 1989 and 1990. Six-foor-4 Madison Baier paces the Trojans at 12.4 points per game. She shoots 60 percent from the floor. South Tama started the season 11-0 and captured the Little Hawkeye Conference championship. Ashton Yossi is the undisputed leader for Dallas Center-Grimes, averaging 16.7 points per game.
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