Payton Sandfort

Posted On: 12/21/20 12:51 PM

Dunkerton (6-1) at 2A #3 Denver (6-0)

After seeing Dunkerton play last year against Central City, I wrote about how the Raiders would be much improved this year, but they’ve even exceeded my expectations so far this year, off to a 6-1 start that includes a very good win over Janesville. The Raiders have three players averaging in double figures in junior forward Kaden Behrens (14.1), senior wing Jake KennedyJakeKennedy6'0" | SGDunkerton | 2021StateIA (12.0), and sophomore point guard Casey Gardner (12.9). Gardner in particular has been outstanding, averaging 9.4 assists a game, including a 15-helper outing against Tripoli. They’ll have their hands full against a really good Cyclones backcourt.

Denver is off to a 6-0 start, winning games by an averaging of 33.8 points a game behind 2A’s highest-scoring offense. All five starters are averaging in double figures, with their “Big Three” of Isaac BeshIsaacBesh5'10" | CGDenver | 2021StateIA (17.2), Bryce PhelpsBrycePhelps6'2" | PGDenver | 2021StateIA (17.8) and Kyler MatthiasKylerMatthias6'2" | CGDenver | 2021StateIA (17.0) all north of 17 points a game. This is a group that shares the ball at a high level, averaging nearly 20 assists a game and assisting on over 61% of their field goals. With the multitude of weapons that Denver has, they’re really difficult to defend.



3A #5 Waverly-Shell Rock (6-0) at Marion (3-3)

This is an interesting non-conference tilt that may tell us a fair amount about not only these teams, but also their respective conferences. Marion is on a two-game skid, dropping games to Solon and Mount Vernon, but they hold a nice win over 4A Kennedy and they have a lethal scorer in sophomore guard Brayson LaubeBraysonLaube5'10" | PGMarion | 2023StateIA (17.5), who is shooting nearly 53% from behind the arc. Senior forward Gage FranckGageFranck6'1" | SFMarion | 2021StateIA (15.7) has been solid as well, and sophomore guard Alex Mota (10.0, 45.0 3P%) has been a nice surprise early on. The Indians need to work hard on the glass against a bigger Go-Hawks team tonight.

Waverly-Shell Rock has bounced back from a down year nicely so far this year, winning all six games by double digits. The Go-Hawks have been led by junior guard Keaton FarmerKeatonFarmer6'1" | CGWaverly-Shell Rock | 2022StateIA (16.0), who has seen his efficiency numbers shoot up this year, which has been a big boost for this group. They have a fantastic rim protector in the paint in senior forward Caleb BurksCalebBurks6'6" | CWaverly-Shell Rock | 2021StateIA (13.8), who is averaging nearly 7 blocks a game. Scoring in the paint against this group is really tough with him at the back end of the defense, and it allows their guards to be a little more aggressive on the defensive end. If this game is tight late, however, the edge goes to Marion, a 71.6% team from the stripe, as opposed to W-SR’s 60.6%.


1A #10 Gehlen Catholic (7-0) at Unity Christian (4-2)

These teams met a few weeks ago, a game won by Gehlen Catholic, 62-54. They held the Knights to just 39.3% shooting in that game and forced 15 turnovers. Unity shot just 5-13 (38.5%) from the free-throw line in that 8-point loss. 

Gehlen Catholic has gotten excellent production from their backcourt of sophomore Keaten BondersonKeatenBonderson6'0" | PGGehlen Catholic | 2023StateIA (20.3) and junior Carter DeRocherCarterDeRocher6'1" | SFGehlen Catholic | 2022StateIA (18.7), who are one of the top-scoring tandems in 1A. Allowing just 44.3 points a game, the Jays have been excellent on both ends of the floor.

Unity Christian has a more balanced attack, with seven players averaging between 6.2 and 11.2 points a game, led by junior forward Bo Byl (11.2). The Knights have pounded the offensive glass this year, pulling down 14.3 boards a game on that end o the floor, which helps offset the 28.8% they shoot from behind the arc. They’ll need to do a better job taking care of the basketball in this rematch if they want to get revenge on the Jays.


Des Moines Christian (6-1) at 2A #4 Van Meter (4-0)

Van Meter has won five straight in this series between perenially strong 2A programs, and the Bulldogs have done it on the defensive end, allowing just 40.2 points a game in those five wins. Expect this one to be a rock fight again, as these teams rank 3rd and 4th in 2A in scoring defense.

Des Moines Christian has three players averaging in double figures in junior Adam WittyAdamWitty6'1" | SFDes Moines Christian | 2022StateIA (13.7) and seniors Ben LoverudeBenLoverude6'6" | PFDes Moines Christian | 2021StateIA (12.3) and Grant VeenstraGrantVeenstra6'2" | SFDes Moines Christian | 2021StateIA (11.2). The Lions like to get a lot of their offense going towards the rim, which plays into what Van Meter wants to do, as they almost always have a rim protector at the back end of their defense.

Van Meter has been led by junior guard Chris SchreckChrisSchreck5'9" | PGVan Meter | 2022StateIA (16.0), a quick lead guard who makes a major impact on both ends of the floor. Sophomore Carter Durflinger (13.3) has given them a good secondary scoring option, and junior wing Casey Trudo (10.5) has contributed on both ends as well. Taylor Birks (6.5) and Clark Fiala (8.5) give the Bulldogs some rim protection, and they’ll be key tonight against that Lions group that wants to score at the rim.


Payton SandfortPaytonSandfort6'7" | SFWaukee | 2021State#138NationIA

Ankeny (2-1) at 4A #1 Waukee (0-0)

This game is not only a rematch of last year’s 4A championship game, but the unveiling of one of the most talented high school rosters Iowa has ever seen.

Ankeny is off to a solid 2-1 start, with their loss coming to a good Pella team by four points. The Hawks have been breaking in a ton of new pieces, but have gotten strong production out of juniors Braden Simonsen (11.0) and Ryan CrandallRyanCrandall6'1" | SFAnkeny | 2022StateIA (12.0), sophomore JJ Kohl (10.0) and freshman Carson Johnson (12.0). This group is shooting 41% from behind the arc, and they’ll need to knock down a lot of shots if they want to keep pace with this high-powered Warriors attack.

Waukee was going to be the prohibitive favorite in 4A this year after bringing back Tucker DeVriesTuckerDeVries6'7" | SFWaukee | 2021State#123NationIA (Drake), Payton SandfortPaytonSandfort6'7" | SFWaukee | 2021State#138NationIA (Iowa), Pryce SandfortPryceSandfort6'4" | SFWaukee | 2023State#140NationIA (top 50 nationally in 2023), and Wyatt HestonWyattHeston6'7" | SFWaukee | 2021StateIA. Then they added Omaha BiliewOmahaBiliew6'9" | SFWaukee | 2023State#6NationIA and Malik AllenMalikAllen5'11" | PGWaukee | 2021StateIA to the roster. DeVries, Sandfort, Sandfort, and Weston all shot at least 45.3% from behind the arc last year, and each of them is long and athletic. Biliew transferred in from Dowling Catholic and is one of the top prospects nationally in the 2023 class. On this loaded roster, he won’t be asked to do a ton on the offensive end, but with his size, length and athleticism, he’ll benefit greatly by playing alongside so many talented shooters. With his ability to score inside and out, and lockdown on the defensive end, he’ll make a major impact. And all Allen did last year was lead 4A in scoring at Des Moines North, putting up 26.4 points and 5.2 assists a game. There are four high-major talents on this roster, and they’re deep. This group is long, supremely skilled, and they just got more versatile. It’s going to be a blast to watch this team play all year, and they get the party started tonight.