It could be a flood of Mississippi Valley Conference representation at the girls’ state basketball tournament. Or it could be a drought.
Or, more likely, something in between.
“I feel like we have a strong conference,” said Cedar Rapids Washington Coach Frank Howell. “We have an opportunity to show that … we’ll see how everything plays out.”
Six MVC teams have advanced to Tuesday’s regional-final round. None of them play each other.
Three of them (No. 3 Waterloo West, No. 8 Washington and Linn-Mar) face Central Iowa Metro League competition in 5A games. Three others (No. 1 Iowa City High and Cedar Rapids Kennedy in 5A, and No. 11 Cedar Rapids Xavier in 4A) are matched up with opponents from the Mississippi Athletic Conference.
Winners advance to the state tournament next week at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.
City High (22-0) is a heavy favorite in its game against Pleasant Valley (15-7) in the back half of an MVC-vs.-MAC double-header at Iowa City West. The other five games involving MVC teams can be classified as toss-ups.
Kennedy (15-7) tangles with No. 10 Muscatine (19-3) in the opening game at West (6 p.m.). Washington (18-4) draws No. 9 Southeast Polk (15-6), the defending 5A state champion, at Cedar Rapids Prairie.
At Marshalltown, Waterloo West (20-2) meets No. 6 Ankeny Centennial (16-6) at 6 p.m. and Linn-Mar (15-8) faces No. 4 Waukee (19-3) at 7:30.
And Xavier, the defending 4A champ, takes an 11-11 mark into its 7 p.m. battle with North Scott (16-6) at Mount Vernon.
In the area’s lone non-MVC game, No. 8 Western Dubuque (20-2) meets No. 5 Waverly-Shell Rock (19-3) in a 4A contest at Independence.
Behind the duo of Dani Franklin and Aleena Hobbs, and with the emergence of the rest of the squad, Washington has won 11 of its last 12 games and laid claim to the MVC Valley Division championship.
“This team has come about as far as any team I’ve ever coached in the course of a season,” Howell said. “It’s the type of team that you really want to see extend their season as long as possible.”
Kennedy came into the postseason with a three-game losing streak, but found some healing with a 46-31 regional-semifinal win over Cedar Rapids Prairie. The Cougars draw the best of the MAC in Muscatine.
“They’re really scrappy on the defensive end,” Kennedy Coach Tony Vis said. “They’re not overly deep, but (point guard Emily) Clemens really makes them go. We’ll have our hands full; they’re mentally tough and well-coached.”
Said Kennedy senior Paige Hendrickson: “If we play 32 minutes, stay positive and play for each other, we can play with anybody in the state.”
TUESDAY’S REGIONAL FINALS
No. 8 CEDAR RAPIDS WASHINGTON (18-4) vs. No. 9 SOUTHEAST POLK (15-6), Region 4
When & where — 7 p.m., at Cedar Rapids Prairie
Notable — The Warriors take aim at the defending state champions, who will be short-handed. The Rams’ leading scorer, Ashton Donels (16.7 points per game), has been suspended for the remainder of the season for unspecified reasons. A victory would send Washington to state for the seventh time in 10 seasons. The Warriors held off a Dubuque Hempstead threat in the regional semifinals and advanced, 70-56. Washington’s Dani Franklin is the leading scorer in Class 5A at 22.5 points per game while Aleena Hobbs adds 16.3. The Warriors are champions of the MVC Valley Division. Southeast Polk pulled away in the second half to beat Ankeny, 48-29. Abby Penquite is the leader of the active Rams roster at 13.4 points per contest.
CEDAR RAPIDS KENNEDY (15-7) vs. No. 10 MUSCATINE (19-3), Region 5
When & where — 6 p.m., at Iowa City West
Notable — The leadoff game of the West 5A twinbill figures to be a dandy. Kennedy ended a three-game slide with a 46-31 regional-semifinal triumph over Cedar Rapids Prairie on Saturday. When the Cougars are right, they’re an extremely difficult puzzle to solve, with all five starters averaging at least 7 points per game. They’re led by Morgan Martin (11.4 points per game), Stephanie Botkin (11.2) and Paige Hendrickson (11.1). Kennedy is after its first state berth since reaching the semifinals in 2009 and 2010. The champion of the Mississippi Athletic Conference, Muscatine allowed just two second-half points in a 53-14 regional-semifinal rout of Davenport West and has a dynamic point guard in Bradley recruit Emily Clemens (15.4 points, 3.8 assists, 4.3 steals per game).
No. 1 IOWA CITY HIGH (22-0) vs. PLEASANT VALLEY (15-7), Region 6
When & where — 7:30 p.m., at Iowa City West
Notable — A brilliant, dominant season by City High figures to continue and roll into Des Moines. The Little Hawks are second in 5A in scoring offense (68.3 points per game) and scoring defense (38.1), and have been sternly challenged only twice all season. They whacked Clinton, 75-21, in the regional semifinals and have a contender for Miss Iowa Basketball 2014 in center Haley Lorenzen, who averages 21.9 points and 9.6 rebounds per game and shoots 61 percent from the floor. Courtney Joens (14.6 ppg) and Kiera Washpun (13.5 ppg) provide more than enough help on the perimeter to keep opponents honest. Pleasant Valley handled archrival Bettendorf, 53-44, to get to this point and get 15 points per game from Sydney Dwyer, who likes to tee it up from outside (71 of 220 from 3-point range).
LINN-MAR (15-8) vs. No. 4 WAUKEE (19-3), Region 7
When & where — 7:30 p.m., at Marshalltown
Notable — This is a rematch of a game played exactly a month ago; Waukee won that encounter, 58-52. After two straight losing seasons, Linn-Mar has bounced back this year behind the arrival of the Sommer twins, who moved into the district from Dubuque Senior last summer. Katie Sommer averages 14.8 points per game, Kristie Sommer 14.7. They combine for about 5 steals per game. As Waukee’s district enrollment has exploded, the girls’ basketball program has grown with it. The Warriors made five straight state appearances from 2008 to 2012 before Cedar Rapids Washington stopped them short last year. This year’s team started 15-0, then lost three of four before bouncing back. Just one of the Warriors’ top five players is a senior, and sophomore Reilly Jacobson leads the way at 13.8 ppg.
No. 8 WESTERN DUBUQUE (20-2) vs. No. 5 WAVERLY-SHELL ROCK (19-3), Region 2
When & where — 7 p.m., at Independence
Notable — Other than top-ranked Harlan, nobody in Class 4A plays defense any better than these two teams. Northeast Iowa Conference champion Waverly-Shell Rock is second in the class, allowing 35.9 points per game while Wamac co-champion Western Dubuque is third at 38.2. Rose Simon-Ressler scored 23 points as the Bobcats outlasted West Delaware, 41-37, in the regional semifinals. Simon-Ressler leads the Bobcats at 12.7 points per game while sophomore Megan Maahs is good for 11.9 points and 11.0 rebounds per game. WSR took care of Charles City, 55-40, in the last round and is led by Morgan Neuendorf (16.9 ppg).
No. 13 CEDAR RAPIDS XAVIER (11-11) vs. No. 10 NORTH SCOTT (16-6), Region 3
When & where — 7 p.m., at Mount Vernon
Notable — Defending 4A state champion Xavier is a win away from its 11th state appearance in the school’s 16-year history, and the Saints need a win to avoid their first losing season. Xavier held off DeWitt Central, 51-42, in the semifinals behind a 16-point night by Lizzy Bailey. Hayley Deutmeyer leads the Saints at 13.6 points per game. Like the Saints, North Scott (a member of the Mississippi Athletic Conference) cut its teeth primarily against 5A competition. The Lancers’ top four scorers are non-seniors, led by Rachel Edmundson (13.3 points per game), who posted 20 points and nine rebounds in a 63-51 regional-semifinal win over Solon.
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