Ames (10-3) at 4A #4 Centennial (10-2)
Centennial won the first meeting between these teams back on December 22, 55-53, behind a big 21-point effort from freshman wing Lio Aguirre (9.8). Star guard Jaron Crews (16.0) had just 4 points in that game on 1-8 shooting, but did have 8 assists. Senior wing(10.5, 37.7 3P%) is a good shooter, and Chris Louis (8.1), Caden Kelling (8.6) and Brock Jensen (8.3) have given the Jaguars some more solid scoring options. The Jags are averaging 71.8 points a game, 2nd in 4A, while Ames is 2nd in scoring defense, giving up just 38.9 points a game, so something will have to give here.
Ames has won five straight after a two-game skid in January, and they’re playing solid ball now. The Little Cyclones are led by star junior guard(18.5, 5.2 assists), a lightning-quick, athletic lead guard who impacts the game on both ends of the floor. Senior wing (10.9, 42.1 3P%) gives them a perimeter scoring threat, while (8.8) is starting to become a major contributor following his transfer from Waterloo East. Nimble big man (8.4) is an intriguing player on both ends of the floor as well with his switchability on defense and inside-out scoring.
2A #6 Denver (15-3) at 2A #4 Aplington-Parkersburg (14-3)
This is a big-time game in the NICL East race. Dike-New Hartford leads with an 11-2 league mark, followed by Denver at 10-2, Aplington-Parkersburg 11-3, and Wapsie Valley 9-3. All five Denver starters scored in double-figures in the first meeting, a 88-77 win, and the Cyclones shot 25-28 from the free-throw line in that game. They’re led by their “Big Three” of senior guards(15.8), (16.4), and (16.8), a trio of four-year varsity starters. (12.2, 44.3 3P%) is the team’s best shooter, while Will Curtis (9.2) is a really strong fifth option.
Normally a very balanced team, Aplington-Parkersburg got 27 points from freshman Gavin Thomas (9.6) and 21 from junior(12.0) in their 88-77 loss in January. Seven players average between 6.1 and 12.5 points a game for the Falcons, one of the highest-scoring teams in the state. This group shoots the 3 well (38.6% as a team) and they have a ton of options. Look for a more balanced attack from the Falcons tonight.
North Scott (10-3) at 3A #7 Assumption (10-5)
Assumption won the first meeting between these MAC rivals, 53-44, in the last game before the holiday break. The Knights, however, are in a bit of a tailspin right now, entering this game on a four-game losing streak. They’ve been playing without star guardfor nearly a month now, going 3-4 in those seven games. That said, they still are within striking distance in the league standings, and if they can sneak out a win tonight, they’ll be in fine shape. With Ellis sidelined, they’re led by the three-headed guard group of (13.3, 44.4 3P%), (11.1, 36.4%) and JJ Stratman (9.1). That trio is solid and can score from anywhere, but they’re missing the difference-making athleticism that Ellis provides on both ends.
North Scott has won five of their last six games, and the secret to their success is no different than any other year in Eldridge – defense. The Lancers are allowing just 40.2 points a game, good for 5th in 4A. They’re led by senior wing(14.4, 46.9 3P%), a Truman State signee who is thriving in his new role as the go-to scorer. Junior guard Oliver Hughes (13.0, 43.2 3P%) has emerged as a solid secondary scoring option as well. But make no mistake, this group is going to win by grinding games down into the 40s.
3A #1 Pella (15-1) at 3A #4 Dallas Center-Grimes (12-2)
Pella holds a commanding 2.5 game lead in the Little Hawkeye, thanks in large part to their 61-58 win over the Mustangs back on January 8. The Dutch have a trio of double-figure scorers in(18.0, 46.9 3P%), (15.4, 40.9 3P%) and (12.4, 40.8 3P%). That trio paces one of the state’s best shooting teams, as the Dutch are shooting 38.7% from behind the arc as a team. In addition to their shooting prowess, this group is deep, they fly around on both ends of the floor, and they crash the offensive glass hard to clean up misses. Pella is athletic and will throw a ton of different looks at teams throughout the course of a game.
Dallas Center-Grimes actually played pretty well in the first meeting, turning the ball over just four times, but they shot just 6 free throws, a number that has to improve given the caliber of penetrating guards they have. They’ve got a great trio of guards in(17.1), a Division I junior who is a threat to score 25-30 on a given night. Senior (12.9, 8.8 assists) is one of the best true point guards in the state, a gifted passer who dished out 12 assists in the first meeting. And junior Bo Huston (12.3, 50.9 3P%) has given them excellent perimeter shooting. They do a great job protecting the basketball, and if they can be a bit more efficient offensively this time around, they could make the LHC race a little more interesting.
4A #6 Hempstead (11-2) at 3A #9 Western Dubuque (12-2)
After getting off to a 2-2 start, Hempstead has run off nine straight wins by an average of 19.8 points a game. They’re led by super talented senior wing(21.5), an athletic, big wing who has signed to play at Northern Iowa. Duax has the ability to impact the game on both ends of the floor, and he’s hyper-efficient on the offensive end, using his size and talent to shoot just under 60% from the floor. Senior wing (14.8) is another big-time scoring threat on the perimeter for the ’Stangs, and he hasn’t shot nearly as well as he’s capable of yet this year, so he’s a threat to get red hot here soon. Junior big man (9.6, 68.1 FG%), a 6-10, mobile big, has been a very nice piece for this group as well.
Western Dubuque has won seven of their last eight on the strength of their senior tandem of guard(14.4, 5.3 assists) and forward (14.4, 7.3 rebounds). Both are good 3-point shooters, as is junior (11.7, 44.6 3P%), and the Bobcats are 38.4% from behind the arc as a team. Johnson is a difficult matchup, a stretch-4 who the offense can run through and who can score inside and out.
4A #7 Valley (10-3) at 4A #8 Southeast Polk (9-3)
Valley rolled in the first meeting, beating the Rams 70-51 back on January 8. The Tigers’ junior big man tandem of Ruot Bijiek (12.9) and(16.5) were huge in that game, combining for 37 points and 18 rebounds. Expect much of the same in this rematch, as the Rams don’t really have the size to compete with that big, athletic, and skilled duo in the paint. (19.5) was also fantastic in that game, scoring 24 points and shooting 6-11 from 3. He’s been great all year, stepping into the primary scoring role for this group.
Southeast Polk had a five-game winning streak snapped on Tuesday with an overtime loss to Hoover. The Rams are led by a trio of senior guards in(14.2), (12.3) and (11.5). They’re all great perimeter shooters, although Glenn has struggled to find his shot so far this year. This team is a threat to make 15 3s on any given night, which makes them extremely dangerous.