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Posted On: 02/14/18 8:00 AM
The favorite: Cedar Rapids Xavier, the two-time defending champions in 3A, are an overwhelming favorite in this substate, and quite frankly, it would be a major, major upset if they don’t make it through. The Saints have won 11 of 14 games after the holiday break, with the three losses coming in close games to strong 4A teams – Prairie by 3, Senior by 4 and Cedar Falls by 6. Matt Mims (22.1) and Jackson Joens (17.4) are the headliners, and while they haven’t gotten outstanding production out of their other role players, they’re getting enough to win plenty of games in a loaded MVC, and they shouldn’t be tested too much against any team in this substate.
The biggest threat: It’s hard to see any team from Xavier’s half of the bracket testing them, so the biggest threat will come from the favorite to come out of the bottom half, and that’s South Tama. The Trojans are led by Gabe Shields (14.5) and Sterling Tyon (13.3), and they’re a solid defensive team that allows just 53.4 points a game. They swept likely semifinal opponent Independence, and with four other solid contributors, and getting to play their first two games at home, they should get through the bottom of the bracket and play Xavier in the substate final.
Others who could make some noise: There are some teams with quality individual players throughout the rest of the bracket, and if those players are able to get hot, they could carry them to some wins.
Benton Community guard Spencer Touro (17.9, 46.1 3P%) is a highly gifted scorer who is capable of taking over games and is a tough shot maker, so it doesn’t really matter how well you defend him, he’ll be able to score. Dylan Spina (40.5 3P%) gives them another shooter, and Nathan Michels (13.4) is a long, athletic slasher who can get to the rim. They’re an explosive offensive team, averaging 66 points a game (8th in 3A), but struggle defensively allowing 61.2 a night (51st).
Center Point-Urbana recently got 6-6 big man Grant Dirks (18.7) back from injury, and with his ability to score inside and out, he’s a tough matchup. If he can control the paint on both ends of the floor, the Stormin’ Pointers could keep things interesting against Xavier in a potential semifinal meeting.
Independence has a trio of double figure scorers in Sean Geertsema (14.8), Zach Snyder (12.7) and Cliff Baldwin (10.5). Geertsema can control the game with his ability to protect the basketball and score, and Snyder is an animal on the glass.
The final standout is Darius Moore (21.1) of Clear Creek-Amana. He’s an incredibly athletic wing who can fill it up and defend the perimeter, and the Clippers have won four of their last five games.
Players to watch
2018 Matt Mims, Cedar Rapids Xavier
2018 Jackson Joens, Cedar Rapids Xavier
2018 Gabe Shields, South Tama
2018 Sterling Tyon, South Tama
2018 Spencer Touro, Benton Community
2018 Grant Dirks, Center Point-Urbana
2018 Sean Geertsema, Independence
2018 Darius Moore, Clear Creek-Amana
SUBSTATE FINAL PREDICTION
Cedar Rapids Xavier vs. South Tama (game played at US Cellular Center, Cedar Rapids)
This is a mismatch, and it should play out as such. Xavier’s dynamic duo of Mims and Joens are accustomed to the big stage, and they should roll over a South Tama team that is solid, but just not on the same level of the two-time defending champs. The Saints roll to Des Moines, where they’ll be the favorite to take home title No. 3.