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Posted On: 02/12/18 8:30 AM
The favorite: East Marshall went through the regular season undefeated with a 20-0 mark, and they’ve gotten there on the strength of a dynamic defense that ranks third in 2A, allowing just 41.1 points a game. The Mustangs have played just three games decided by single digits this season, and they’ve used their “Big Three” to dominate games. Zaine Leedom (16.2) is the best and most versatile player in the district, a matchup nightmare as a 6-5 wing who can score inside and out, protect the rim and lead the break. Zane Johnson (15.8) helps Leedom on the glass and is an incredibly active, undersized big, and Tyler DeBondt (10.6) is one of the top point guards in 2A, with an assist-to-turnover ratio of better than 5-1. The ‘Stangs will need to get some production out of their role players, but their top three are good enough to win the district.
The biggest threat: PCM was pegged as the third seed in the district by the coaches, but we would’ve had them second. The Mustangs have played a rough schedule and gone through it with a 15-5 record. They average 64.8 points a game, good for 18th in 2A, and the ‘Stangs have a very balanced roster, with eight players averaging between 4.1 and 11.7 points a game. Andrew Van Ryswyk (11.7) is an efficient wing who can score inside and out, and the Mustangs aren’t going to be intimidated by anyone.
The dark horse: West Marshall was pegged as the second seed in the district, but they’ll have a tough road to the district title, as they’ll likely have to go through both PCM and East Marshall. East Marshall swept the Trojans, although both games were decided by single digits, and the Trojans have a tremendous scorer in sophomore guard Peyton Pope, who averages 21.6 points a game and shoots better than 50% from the arc. He’s a dynamic enough scorer to carry them to a pair of wins and a district title.
Players to watch
2018 Zaine Leedom, East Marshall
2018 Zane Johnson, East Marshall
2018 Tyler DeBondt, East Marshall
2019 Andrew Van Ryswyk, PCM, Monroe
2019 Reed Worth, PCM, Monroe
2018 Jackson Thomas, PCM, Monroe
2020 Peyton Pope, West Marshall
2018 Kevin Rewoldt, South Hardin
2018 Jarod Nichols, Colfax-Mingo
The favorite: Like East Marshall in the corresponding district, South Hamilton went through the regular season undefeated at 21-0. The Hawks are buoyed by an offensive attack that has four players averaging in double figures, and led by one of the state’s toughest point guards in Marco Balderas (14.5). He and Conner Hill (13.3) combine to form arguably the best perimeter defensive unit in the class, and one of the best in the state, and scoring against them as an opposing backcourt is extremely difficult. Logan Peters (11.9) and Cole Berg (11.7) give them additional scoring punch, and this group feeds off of Balderas and Hill’s defensive abilities with the No. 11 scoring defense in 2A, allowing just 46.4 points a game. They should cruise through this district.
The biggest threat: Clarion-Goldfield-Dows has gone 5-1 against 2A competition this year, and their backcourt of Sam Urness (18.6) and Rhett Darland (17.9) is potent offensively. They’ll have their work cut out for them trying to score against the South Hamilton defense, but if anyone in the district is going to do it, it’ll probably be the Cowboys.
The dark horse: Spencer Espejo (17.1) and Ryan Smith (16.9) lead an Eagle Grove team that earned the second seed in the district. All they have to do to play South Hamilton in the district final is beat Clarion-Goldfield-Dows, but they lost to them by 16 just under two weeks ago, so it’ll be tough.
Players to watch
2018 Marco Balderas, South Hamilton
2019 Conner Hill, South Hamilton
2019 Logan Peters, South Hamilton
2019 Cole Berg, South Hamilton
2018 Sam Urness, Clarion-Goldfield-Dows
2018 Rhett Darland, Clarion-Goldfield-Dows
2018 Spencer Espejo, Eagle Grove
2018 Ryan Smith, Eagle Grove
2019 Ben Heeren, Ogden
SUBSTATE FINAL PREDICTION
East Marshall vs. South Hamilton
In the words of Terrell Owens, “Get your popcorn ready”. This game is a battle between a pair of undefeated teams, and a rematch of last year’s substate final, won by South Hamilton by two. In that game, the Hawks got 32 points from the graduated Collin Hill. South Hamilton has been better than expected this season, but, call it more of a gut feeling than anything, East Marshall gets revenge for last year’s loss and gets to State for the first time in school history in another tight game.