Photo by Rob Howe
Your Prep Sports
Regional play began for girls basketball teams in Iowa last week but the playoff push really starts to heat up this week.
All five classes move into postseason play this week with six Your Prep Sports area teams opening regional play.
The end goal for every team is securing a spot at the state tournament that runs March 2-7 at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.
As the postseason gets into full swing for Your Prep Sports teams we take a look at five things to watch as area seek to secure state tournament trips.
There might not be a team in the state that feels better about how it closed out the regular season than Clear Creek Amana.
Clear Creek Amana won 12 of 13 games in 2020 but it was the final win of the regular season, a 49-48 upset of Center Point-Urbana that sends the Clippers into the postseason riding high.
It had already been a breakthrough season for Clear Creek Amana which brings a 17-4 record into the postseason.
However, the win over defending 3A state champion Center Point-Urbana provides a healthy shot of confidence for the Clippers that they can compete with the best teams in Class 4A.
Clear Creek Amana will need to do just that to keep its magical season alive.
The Clippers host Pella (11-10) in a 4A, Region 6 semifinal on Saturday and will likely get a rematch with second-ranked Marion (20-1) in the title game on February 25.
Marion defeated Clear Creek Amana 59-30 back on December 13 but this appears to be a different Clear Creek Amana team over the past several weeks.
It should be pointed out that Marion edged Center Point-Urbana 45-43 earlier this month, further proof that Clear Creek Amana is capable of playing with any tea in 4A.
Lets get it out of the way up front, there is no need for top-ranked City High to panic after ending the regular season with a 16-point loss at fourth-ranked Waukee on Saturday.
The top-ranked team in Class 5A since the preseason, City High is loaded with talent and experience and remains one of the top favorites to win the state title in a few weeks.
A road non-conference loss at the end of a four-game week doesn’t change any of that.
City High (20-1) still sits in prime position to reach the state tournament for the fourth straight season and secure the top seed in the 5A field.
With a full week between Saturday’s regular season finale its postseason opener on Saturday at home against Liberty High (3-17) City High gets a chance to rest and reset following its 55-39 loss at Waukee on Saturday, its seventh game against a ranked opponent in less than a month.
City High has home court advantage throughout the postseason which is notable considering the Little Hawks current 35-game winning streak at home that dates back to January of 2017.
The likely opponent for City High in the Region 1 title game is familiar postseason foe Bettendorf (14-7).
City High has beaten the Bulldogs in regional finals each of the past two seasons, winning 57-40 a year ago and 65-40 in 2018.
Few teams in the state regardless of class face a tougher road to the state tournament than West High.
West High (12-9) opens Region 5 play on Wednesday by hosting a solid Cedar Rapids Kennedy (10-11) squad.
Win and West High would likely face back-to-back two-hour road trips to last year’s two 5A title game participants in defending champ West Des Moines Valley (14-7) and sixth-ranked Southeast Polk (17-4).
Before you bury West High keep in mind that perhaps no team in the state has made more of a habit of peaking in the postseason over the past several seasons than the Women of Troy.
That trend seems to have already started.
West High won back-to-back games to close out the regular season, upsetting 4A second-ranked Marion 76-61 in its regular season finale on Saturday.
The road is daunting no doubt, starting with Wednesday against a Cedar Rapids Kennedy team West High defeated 57-38 less than two weeks ago, but the signs point to another late season surge for the BJ Mayer-led Women of Troy
West High shot 49 percent in back-to-back wins over Liberty High and Marion to close out the regular season including 41 percent (16-of-39) from 3-point range.
A 33 percent shooting team on the season, if West High has its supporting cast hit perimeter shots it makes 5-foot-10 junior Audrey Koch (18.7 points per game) that much harder to handle in the paint where she does her best work.
There are no conference tournaments to end the Iowa prep basketball season like there are in the college game but Regina could face its own version of a River Valley Conference tourney in 2A, Region 5.
Regina (14-7) opens postseason play on Tuesday hosting RVC South rival Durant (6-16) in the third meeting between the two teams this season (Regina won the first two matchups 58-18 and 44-25).
With a win on Tuesday Regina would host the winner of the an all-RVC North quarterfinal between Northeast (11-10) and Bellevue (12-9) (Bellevue swept Northeast in the season series with wins by 21 and 12 points).
Regina lost to Northeast 56-55 at home in December and defeated Bellevue 33-26 back on January 3.
Whichever RVC team emerges from the bottom half of the Region 5 bracket will likely have a rematch with top-ranked Cascade (22-0) in the February 26 title game.
Cascade defeated Regina 49-19 in Cascade in January.
In past season when West Branch players talked about making a postseason run the end goal was always the state tournament.
This season the Bears believe they have what it takes to do more than just make it back to Des Moines.
There is a reason why West Branch (18-3) believes it can win the first state tournament game in program history this season.
Actually, there are two reasons – tight losses to the top two ranked teams in Class 2A this season.
West Branch had opportunities to take down top-ranked Cascade (22-0) and No. 2 West Hancock (21-1) during the regular season but didn’t take advantage.
Those experiences should help West Branch over the next few weeks as it attempts to return to the state tournament for the third time in program history and first since 2016.
West Branch hosts Wilton (7-15) in a 2A, Region 6 quarterfinal on Tuesday and would host the winner of Pekin (12-6) and Wapello (14-5) on Friday.
Sixth-ranked West Branch will likely face a top-10 opponent in the title game if it advances.
Seventh-ranked Mediapolis (20-1) and No. 9 Van Buren (19-3) appear poised to meet in the other semifinal of a regional in which six of eight remaining teams have 11 or more wins.
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