As Cascade advanced to the girls’ state basketball tournament, the Cougars’ rooting section was a Tri-Rivers Conference melting pot.
In addition to hundreds of folks from Cascade, there were players and parents from Maquoketa Valley. And from North Linn. They were rooting for their friendly foes, and soaking in the environment, knowing what awaits them Monday.
“The kids from the three schools get along well, and now that we’re in different regions, we’re pulling for each other,” said Maquoketa Valley Coach Scot Moenck. “We couldn’t be happier for Cascade. Now, we hope it’s our turn.”
Maquoketa Valley and North Linn hope to make it three from the Tri-Rivers in the show.
Regional finals in classes 1A and 2A are Monday. Among the 2A battles: fourth-rated North Linn (22-1) faces Iowa City Regina (18-4) at Iowa City West, and No. 14 Maquoketa Valley (18-5) meets No. 5 North Butler (19-1) at Oelwein.
In 1A, surprising Lisbon (10-15) takes on No. 5 Burlington Notre Dame (20-3) at Wilton, and No. 9 Meskwaki Settlement (20-4) meets No. 7 Colo-Nesco (22-2) in a rubber match between the Iowa Star Conference rivals at Newton.
Tipoffs are 7 p.m.
North Linn is in the regional finals for the second straight year. The Lynx fell short against West Marshall last season. Players and coaches agree, this year’s team is better prepared to reach Wells Fargo Arena.
“I think last year, we were too excited just to be (in the regional finals),” said senior Brenna Winn. “(This year), we’re not going to be satisfied until we reach our goal.”
Lynx Coach Brian Wheatley said, “I like our mindset better this year. After (we beat West Branch in the regional semifinals), there wasn’t a lot of celebration. The kids were focused on the next game.
“This is where we’ve wanted to be since the first day of practice.”
North Linn is the Tri-Rivers champion while Regina shared the Cedar Valley Conference title with West Branch.
“They’ve got good players, and they play well together,” Regina Coach Clark Anderson said of the Lynx. “We’ll have to play our ‘A’ game if we want to continue.
“We’re playing great defense right now. I like the way we’re playing, and I think our best basketball is still ahead of us.”
North Linn’s Nicole Miller averages 21.2 points per game, the second-highest scoring rate in 2A. Regina’s Jenna Lehman scores at a 17-point-per-game clip.
From its regional-semifinal win over Bellevue to tipoff Monday, Maquoketa Valley players will see none of each other in a school setting. The school is closed Monday due to Presidents Day.
“I’m not wild about it, but we’re going to try to make it as normal as possible,” Moenck said. “We’re going to practice at 9 (Monday morning), get them out of bed and moving. We’ll have a team dinner late in the afternoon.”
Moenck said the winner at Oelwein will be the team “that pays better attention to detail. It’s about rebounding, making shots, taking care of the ball, doing the things you have to do to win a game of this magnitude.”
MONDAY’S CLASS 2A REGIONAL FINALS
(All games, 7 p.m.)
No. 14 MAQUOKETA VALLEY (18-5) vs. No. 5 NORTH BUTLER (19-1)
BC Moore computer projection: Pick ‘em
Notable: After suffering a season-opening loss to Aplington-Parkersburg, North Butler has rattled off 19 straight wins. They’ve overcome some injuries to do it. The Bearcats have been a power in their nine years of existence; they are seeking their sixth trip to state. Maquoketa Valley will try to put up points against the second-best defense in 2A (29.5 ppg). The Wildcats have been tested twice in the postseason, beating Edgewood-Colesburg by four points and Bellevue by five. Renee Huber leads Maquoketa Valley at 13.2 points per game and Heidi Hoeger adds 11.1.
No. 4 NORTH LINN (22-1) vs. IOWA CITY REGINA (18-4)
Where: Iowa City West
BC Moore computer projection: North Linn by 12
Notable: After rallying past one Cedar Valley Conference co-champion (West Branch), North Linn takes aim at the other. The Lynx battled back from a 27-12 deficit in the second quarter to sidestep the Bears, 54-50, behind a 15-point, nine-rebound performance by Libby Falconer. Meanwhile, Regina parlayed a hot shooting night into a 69-43 dusting of Highland. The game matches two of the best area players in 2A: North Linn sophomore Nicole Miller (21.2 points per game) and Regina junior Jenna Lehman (17.0). Regina carries a seven-game winning streak.
MONDAY’S CLASS 1A REGIONAL FINALS
(All games, 7 p.m.)
LISBON (10-15) vs. No. 5 BURLINGTON NOTRE DAME (20-3)
BC Moore computer projection: Notre Dame by 19
Notable: Lisbon is another big upset away from the first state tournament in school history. The Lions raised some eyebrows with a 57-55 overtime win over No. 14 Preston in the regional finals. Zeva Light scored 19 points in the win, and leads the Lions at 9.4 points per game. Lisbon finished seventh in the Big East Conference before catching fire in the postseason. Notre Dame has breezed through regionals, flooring its first two foes by a combined 92 poitns. The Nikes are the highest-scoring team in 1A at 71.4 points per game, and three average in double figures, led by Morgan Myers (14.7 ppg).
No. 9 MESKWAKI (20-4) vs. No. 7 COLO-NESCO (22-2)
BC Moore computer projection: Colo-Nesco by 11
Notable: Its the rubber match for these Iowa Star Conference rivals. Both picked up road wins during the regular season — Meskwaki won, 62-57, on Dec. 11, then Colo-Nesco prevailed, 69-67, in the regular-season finale Feb. 5 that decided the league championship. Meskwaki is enjoying by far its most successful season in its brief history behind seniors Dia Keahna (21.2 points per game) and Tiana Thompson (12.6 points, 5.8 assists per contest). Madison Eley leads Colo-Nesco at 13.3 ppg. The Royals have won 16 straight games.
Brenna Winn, Brian Wheatley, Burlington Notre Dame, Clark Anderson, Class 1A regional finals, Class 2A regional finals, Colo-Nesco, girls basketball, Iowa City Regina, Jenna Lehman, Lisbon, Maquoketa Valley, Meskwaki Settlement School, Nicole Miller, north butler, North Linn, Scot Moenck