Breaking Down the Class 5A State Girls Basketball Tournament


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Your Prep Sports

Ryan Murken

The Matchups

No. 1 City High (23-0) vs. No. 12 West Des Moines Valley (13-10)

City High returns to the state tournament for the second consecutive season seeking its first win at state since 2014.

The lone unbeaten team in the 5A field and one of only six undefeated teams at state, City High has rolled through its schedule.

City High has outscored opponents by a 5A best 33.4 points per game with a 59-54 win over Cedar Falls in December its only game decided by less than nine points.

Led by the senior Ashley Joens and her state-leading 31 points per game the Little Hawks rank second in the state and lead 5A in points per game at 77.5.

Defending 5A champ West Des Moines Valley dropped to 5-8 with a six-game losing skid midway through the season but has won eight of its last 10 including a 58-44 win over fifth-ranked Ankeny Centennial in a regional final

The regional final win avenged regular season losses of 12 and six points to Ankeny Centennial and sent Valley to state for the second straight season and fourth time in the past five seasons.

No. 9 West High (16-7) vs. No. 3 West Des Moines Dowling (20-3)

West High rebounded from a four-game losing skid in late January to return to the state tournament for the second consecutive season with a 61-51 win over eighth-ranked Pleasant Valley in the regional final.

The Women of Troy are making their sixth state appearance in eight seasons and have gone 4-1 in opening round games during that stretch reaching the semifinals in their last two appearances.

Three of the seven losses for West High were to ranked out-of-state opponents with all four losses to in-state teams coming against state qualifiers.

West Des Moines Dowling is making its fifth state appearance in six seasons after falling to eventual champion West Des Moines Dowling in the opening round last season.

The Maroons lost two of three to end the regular season but won back-to-back regional contests by 27 points.

Led by sophomore point guard Caitlyn Clark with 27.3 points per game Dowling ranked second in 5A in scoring at 69 points per game this season.

Dowling is 4-0 against 5A state qualifiers this season with wins over Valley, Johnston and Waukee.

No. 2 Cedar Falls (22-1) vs. No. 10 Indianola (20-3)

Two read-hot teams making their fourth consecutive state tournament appearance meet in a quarterfinal matchup of a pair of the best defensive squads in 5A.

Indianola enters the state tournament riding a 12-game winning streak after avenging a season-opening loss to seventh-ranked Southeast Polk with a 60-57 win in a regional final.

The Indians rank fourth in 5A in scoring defense, allowing just 40.7 points per game and have given up more than 50 points in a game just five times.

Cedar Falls has taken a step forward at the state tournament each of the past three seasons.

The Tigers were quarterfinalist in 2015, reached the semifinals the next season and finished runner-up last season falling to West Des Moines Valley in the title game.

Cedar Falls has won 19 straight games following a five-point home setback to top-ranked City High on December 8th and haven’t had a game decided by less than nine points during that stretch.

The Tigers are stingy on defense holding opponents to 36.2 points per game, second best in Class 5A.

No. 4 Johnston (20-3) vs. No. 6 Waukee (19-4)

The only rematch among the 5A quarterfinals is a sequel to a one-point regular season thriller between CIML rivals.

Johnston won the regular season meeting 47-46 last month in Johnston in a contest that was every bit as tight as the final score indicates.

The rematches comes after both teams won regional finals by double digits over Mississippi Valley Conference foes.

Johnston downed Cedar Rapids Kennedy 68-51 and Waukee pulled away from Cedar Rapids Prairie for a 52-39 win

No team has made more state tournament appearances over the past decade than Waukee which is making its 10th trip to Des Moines in the past 11 seasons and fifth straight.

The Warriors are 4-5 in opening round contests since 2008 but haven’t won a game at state since a 72-58 win over West Des Moines Valley in the 2015 title game.

Johnston is a few plays away from an undefeated season, with the Dragon’s three losses coming by a combined five points.

The Dragons are 4-3 in games decided by six or fewer points and have five games decided by three points or less.

The Players

CITY HIGH: Ashley Joens, 6-0, Sr. Iowa State recruit has been the most dominant player in the state this season, leading the state in scoring at 31 points per game while shooting 62 percent from the floor and adding 11.8 rebounds per game. 

WEST HIGH: Logan Cook, 6-1, Sr. Iowa recruit leads West High with 14.5 points and 6.8 rebounds per game and is second on the team in assists (1.9) and steals (1.6).

WEST DES MOINES DOWLING: Caitlin Clark, 5-11, Soph. Ranked the top sophomore in the country by ESPN Hoopgurlz, the dynamic points guard ranks second in the state in scoring at 27.3 points per game while leading her team in rebounds (6.4), assists (3.9) and steals (2.4).

INDIANOLA: Grace Berg, 6-0, Sr. Missouri signee is one of only four 5A players to average at least 20 points per game (20.3) and adds a team-high 9.2 rebounds.

WEST DES MOINES VALLEY: Zoe Young, 5-10, Jr. A Maryland commit, Young ranks eighth in the state at scoring at 22.4 points per game and leads the Tigers in rebounds (7.7), assists (4), blocks (2.4) and steals (1.9).

JOHNSTON: Maya McDermott, 5-6, Soph. Dynamic point guard is a score (19.1 ppg), set up teammates (4.4 apg) and is one of the top shooters in the 5A field (45% from 3-point range).

WAUKEE: Jori Nieman, 5-8, Jr. Another strong point guard in the 5A field rank second in the state with 176 assists and averages 12.3 points and 2.4 steals per game.

CEDAR FALLS: Cynthia Wolf, 6-3, Sr. The fourth leading scorer on a balanced Tiger squad is a matchup problem on both ends of the court averaging 10.8 points, 8.4 rebounds and 2.5 blocks.

The Forecast

Ten different teams have won big school championships over the past decade making the 5A tournament one of the most difficult to predict.

This season is no different with a field full of teams capable of making a state title run.

City High opens with defending champion West Des Moines Dowling and will need to win a pair of games over CIML squad to reach the state title game for the first time since winning the 2008 title.

West High will need to get past West Des Moines Dowling for a shot at a rematch with second-ranked Cedar Falls in the semifinals.

The Tigers don’t have an easy road to a second consecutive title game, facing Indianola in a rematch of last year’s state semifinal in their opener.

The Favorite

The lone unbeaten team in the 5A field City High enters the state tournament as the favorite for the second time in five seasons.

City High came to Des Moines unbeaten in 2014 but stumbled in the semifinals to eventual champion West Des Moines Dowling.

The Little Hawks will have their hands full as they attempt to win their first title since 2008, starting with an opening round tilt with defending champion West Des Moines Valley.

The Focus

Is this the season the reign of CIML champions comes to an end in 5A?

The CIML conference has produced the last five 5A champions with a different CIML squad claiming the crown each season.

Last season Cedar Falls became the first non-CIML team to reach the 5A title game since the state went to five classes in 2013.

For the second straight season the 5A field is split, four teams for the CIML conference and four from the rest of the state.

Three the CIML teams to win crowns over the last five seasons are in the 2018 field including defending state champ Valley.

The Mississippi Valley Conference has three teams capable of claiming the title in top-ranked City High, No. 2 Cedar Falls and the last non-team to win a big school title in West High.

The Facts

*- The same eight teams that reached the Class 5A state tournament last season make up the 5A field this season.

*- Not only does City High senior Ashley Joens lead the state in scoring she is the only player in the 5A field averaging a double-double, grabbing 11.8 rebounds per game, most among 5A state qualifiers.

* - The Indianola duo of Grace Berg (20.3 ppg) and Maggie McGraw (18.5) combined for 56 of the Indians 60 points in a regional final upset of Southeast Polk. McGraw and Berg are the only duo in the 5A field both averaging over 18 points per game and have combined to score 59 percent of the Indians points this season.

* - Three of the seven loss for West High came to out of state competition. Class 5A qualifying teams were a combined 5-5 against teams from other states with West Des Moines Dowling going 3-1 in those games.

* - Cedar Falls is the only team in the 5A field with four players averaging double figures. Emerson Green (14.3), Kamryn Finley (13.5), Kiana Barney (11.3) and Cynthia Wolf (10.8) all average better than 10 points a game for the Tigers.

The Schedule 

Monday’s Quarterfinals

Johnston (20-3) vs. Waukee (19-4), 10 a.m.

City High (23-0) vs. West Des Moines Dowling (13-10), 11:45 a.m.

West Des Moines Dowling (20-3) vs. West High (16-7), 1:30 p.m.

Cedar Falls (22-1) vs. Indianola (20-3), 3:15 p.m.

Thursday’s Semifinals

Johnston/Waukee winner vs. City High/West Des Moines Valley winner, 10 a.m.

West Des Moines Dowling/West High winner vs. Cedar Falls/Indianola winner, 11:45 a.m.

Friday’s Championship

Semifinal winners, 7 p.m.