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Posted On: 02/15/17 6:30 AM
The favorite: Ben Juhl has somewhat quietly been putting together a remarkable season, averaging 22 points a game on 64-48-83 shooting for Des Moines Christian. The lefty scoring machine is a tough matchup for anyone, and this group is LOADED with shooting. Juhl (48.0% on 75 3PA), Isaac Prewitt (46.9% on 96 3PA), Austin Mona (41.8% on 79 3PA) and Brandon Loverude (43.9% on 82 3PA) are all capable of lighting it up from deep, and are a big reason the Lions have the No. 2 scoring offense in 2A at 75.4 points a game. This is also a fantastic free throw shooting team (76.4% as a team), which could be a huge edge come district final time.
The biggest threat: The Mustangs of East Marshall have taken off since Grinnell transfer Zaine Leedom has become eligible, losing only twice in his 11 games (both to 1A power Gladbrook-Reinbeck). Leedom is averaging 19.4 points a game, one of four averaging in double figures, and his versatility on both ends of the floor is a huge boost for East Marshall. Tyler DeBondt has been the best guard in the state in assist-to-turnover ratio (5.83-to-1), and has been great running this team. I said before the season started that East Marshall was state tournament bound, so it certainly wouldn’t surprise me if they made it through this district, but DMC is a tough matchup for them on the defensive end. Still, though, with Leedom now in tow, this group can play with anyone.
The dark horse: PCM, Monroe is a traditionally strong program that will be well prepared for whatever is thrown at them. If they’re able to slow down their game against East Marshall, anything can happen, especially if Jackson Thomas is able to get hot from deep.
Players to watch
Ben Juhl, Des Moines Christian, 2017
Isaac Prewitt, Des Moines Christian, 2018
Zaine Leedom, East Marshall, 2018
Tyler DeBondt, East Marshall, 2018
The favorite: South Hamilton has won 13 of 15 games after the break, and have been sitting in the top 10 in 2A all season. Led by Truman State commit Collin Hill (21.9), this is a group that plays very well at both ends of the floor. Hill is obviously the headliner, but Marco Balderas (12.7, 130 assists, 29 turnovers) has been one of the most steady point guards in the state this season, and has chipped in 55 steals on the defensive end to boot. Conner Hill is one of the best perimeter defenders we’ve seen this season, and he’s got the ability to lock down anyone in the district. This team is ready to make a run.
The biggest threat: Dakota Jaeschke (14.2 points, 11.6 rebounds) is the type of player who could potentially give South Hamilton some problems for Southeast Valley, a big, physical banger. Keegan Goodwin (40.5 3P%) and Kaleb Jondle (15.1) provide additional scoring pop for the Warriors, who can score in bunches.
The dark horse: It’ll take a monumental effort for Ogden to knock off South Hamilton, but they’ve got a better chance at making a run than South Hardin does after they upset Roland Story. Ogden has a player who can control the glass in Ben Heeren, and if they can slow the game down, they could do something.
Players to watch
Collin Hill, South Hamilton, 2017
Marco Balderas, South Hamilton, 2018
Conner Hill, South Hamilton, 2019
Dakota Jaeschke, Southeast Valley, 2017
SUBSTATE FINAL PREDICTION
Des Moines Christian vs. South Hamilton
This game should be an absolute dandy. Both teams are among the top 10 in scoring in 2A, and each has a star they can turn to. Give us South Hamilton here in a tight, entertaining game, as Collin Hill, Marco Balderas and company outscore Ben Juhl and crew. Conner Hill’s defensive ability on Juhl is the difference here.