Top-ranked City High Cruises Past Liberty High

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Photo by Jeff Yoder

Pat Harty

Your Prep Sports

IOWA CITY – It didn’t take long for the City High girls basketball team to show on Friday why it’s undefeated and ranked No. 1 in the state.

The Little Hawks bolted to a 22-4 lead and then cruised to a 70-22 victory over Liberty High at the City High gymnasium.

City High improved to 13-0 overall and 9-0 in the Mississippi Valley Conference, while Liberty fell to 2-12 overall and 1-8 in conference play.

The Little Hawks have also won 40 consecutive regular games.

“I think a key to any game like that is just to come out and execute and work as a team,” said junior guard Aubrey Joens, who led City High with 23 points. “Ball movement and working as a team is definitely going to help us further down the road.”

Joens scored 20 points in the first half and then only attempted one shot in the second half, which was a 3-pointer that she made to expand the lead 49-13 just seconds into the third quarter.

Her basket also put the game on a continuous clock, which takes effect when a team leads by at least 35 points in the second half.

The Little Hawks started the second half on a 12-0 scoring run and led 58-13 on a layup by junior point guard Rose Nkumu.

City High coach Bill McTaggart stopped using a full-court press in the second half and also removed Joens, Nkumu and junior starter Paige Rocca from the game with 3 minutes, 19 seconds left in the third quarter, and none of the three would play again.

Making matters worse for Liberty is that it had to play without leading scorer Cora Saunders due to an injury.

“They didn’t have everybody healthy, so I think that made it even more difficult for them,” McTaggart said. “They’re developing. In two years they’re going to be just fine.

“We have a little more experience and that showed tonight.”

Liberty is in just its second season of competing at the varsity level, while City High has one of the premier programs in the state.

Joens said the players and coaches hardly ever talk about being ranked No. 1 because they’re more concerned about living up to that ranking when it really matters at the state tournament.

City High suffered its only loss last season against rival West High in the state championship game.

“We just kind of play our game and not really worry about where we’re ranked,” Joens said. “I think our goal is just to win state this year, so we don’t really look at it what we’re ranked.”

Joens, Nkumu and Rocca combined for 53 points and also combined to make 21-of-33 shots from the field.

Nkumu made all but one of her nine field goal attempts, and she forced numerous turnovers on defense with her pressure and quickness.

Joens led City High with five 3-point baskets, while Rocca made four treys.

Rocca’s emergence as a reliable 3-point shooter makes it harder for defenses to focus on Joens, who has made a verbal commitment to Iowa State where her sister, Ashley Joens, now plays.

“Her knocking down shots helps me,” Joens said of Rocca. “They have to guard her so that gets me open. She just looks for me and is good at setting screens and getting me open.”

Liberty High  6   7   6   3  –  22

City High      26 20  21  3  –  70

Liberty (22) – Megan Davis 1-4 0-0 2, Jenna Saunders 0-3 0-0 0, Sam McPherson 2-5 0-0 4, Kayli Baldwin 1-5 0-0 3, Isabel Smith 4-8 1-1 9, Cecily Johnston 1-4 1-2 3, Neshy Byrd 0-2 0-0 0, Haley Napoli 0-3 1-2 1, Megan Uden 0-0 0-0 0, Erica Heisdorffer 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 9-34 3-5 22.

City High (70) – Aubrey Joens 8-14 2-4 23, Rose Nkumu 8-9 0-0 16, Paige Rocca 5-10 0-0 14, Ella Cook 2-5 0-0 4, Eviyon Richardson 1-2 4-6 7, Andie Westlake 0-1 0-0 0, CeCe Kelly-Harvey 0-1 0-0 0, Kacie Earl 0-1 1-2 1, Carey Koenig 1-2 0-0 3, Virginia Muturi 1-7 0-0 2, Georgia Kimm 0-1 0-0 0, Emily Knoche 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 26-54 7-12 70.

3-point goals – Liberty 1 (Baldwin); City High 11 (Joens 5, Rocca 4, Richardson, Koenig). Fouls – Liberty 10, City High 9.

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