Posted On: 03/12/21 8:41 AM
Class 1A Championship: #1 North Linn (27-0) vs. #7 Montezuma (24-2), 12:00 pm
How they got here: Top-ranked North Linn had no issues in their quarterfinal win over South Winneshiek, 77-52, and were incredibly efficient in their 63-50 win over Martensdale-St. Marys in the semifinals. Seventh-seed Montezuma outlasted Lake Mills, 64-61, in overtime in the quarters, and took it right to third-seeded Grand View Christian in the semis, beating the Thunder 49-35.
Analysis: Expect this one to be fun, as both of these teams like to run and shouldn’t be looking to slow it down. North Linn thrives on forcing turnovers, which is easier said than done against the Montezuma guards, led by Trey Shearer Trey Shearer 5'10" | PG Montezuma | 2021 State IA . The Truman State signee has been the best player in the 1A field this week with his ability to shoot it from deep or break down a defense. Running mate Cole Watts Cole Watts 5'10" | SG Montezuma | 2021 State IA is a knockdown shooter, and big man Eddie Burgess Eddie Burgess 6'4" | PF Montezuma | 2022 State IA controls the paint on both ends of the floor. The Braves have taken off since Burgess re-joined the lineup, winning all 17 with him in the lineup, by an average of 26 points a game.
North Linn has a balanced attack, led by junior lead guard Austin Hilmer Austin Hilmer 5'11" | PG North Linn | 2022 State IA . Hilmer is the team’s leader on both ends of the floor, a quick guard who gets others involved and creates chaos on the defensive end. Sophomore forward Tate Haughenbury has been strong this week in the paint, and junior wing Dylan Kurt Dylan Kurt 6'3" | SF North Linn | 2022 State IA can fill it up from all three levels. The Lynx average 14.3 steals a game and limit turnovers on their end.
There will be two keys to this game – can North Linn force enough turnovers against Montezuma’s guards? And will Burgess control the paint and the glass? If Montezuma can limit turnovers (they’ve only committed 7 in each game this week) and Burgess can have another dominant day on the glass, holding North Linn to one-and-done offensively, the Braves could take home their first state title since 1990. We had North Linn ranked #1 to start the season, but Montezuma has been very impressive this week and we’re rolling with the Braves. They’ll have the best player on the floor in Shearer.
Players to watch
North Linn: Austin Hilmer Austin Hilmer 5'11" | PG North Linn | 2022 State IA (17.6 points, 7.9 assists), Tate Haughenbury (15.7 points, 6.3 rebounds), Dylan Kurt Dylan Kurt 6'3" | SF North Linn | 2022 State IA (14.5 points), Ben Wheatley (10.2 points)
Montezuma: Trey Shearer Trey Shearer 5'10" | PG Montezuma | 2021 State IA (25.1 points, 4.7 assists, 46.6 3P%), Cole Watts Cole Watts 5'10" | SG Montezuma | 2021 State IA (18.8 points, 49.3 3P%), Eddie Burgess Eddie Burgess 6'4" | PF Montezuma | 2022 State IA (13.5 points, 12.8 rebounds, 70.1 FG%)
Our pick: Montezuma 72, North Linn 70
Class 2A Championship: #1 Boyden-Hull (26-0) vs. #2 Western Christian (21-5), 2:30 pm
How they got here: Both of these teams have posted convincing wins, with top-ranked Boyden-Hull beating South Central Calhoun 74-49 and Aplington-Parkersburg 77-66. Second-seed Western Christian brushed by Camanche 71-55 and were in control of their 56-47 win over Des Moines Christian.
Analysis: It’s an all-Hull championship game in 2A. These two schools are separated by half-a-mile, but haven’t played each other since 2005, and they’ve never met in the state tournament. These schools have combined to play in 21 championship games before this one, which is more than the other six programs playing for titles in 1A, 3A and 4A combined, and they’ve combined to win 13 championships (Western Christian 9, Boyden-Hull 4). The two most dominant programs in 2A both come from the same tiny northwest Iowa town, and this one should be a lot of fun. Top-ranked Boyden-Hull has dominated teams on both ends of the floor this year, and that has continued this week, with their dominant tandem of Marcus Kelderman Marcus Kelderman 6'1" | SG Boyden-Hull | 2021 State IA and Tanner Te Slaa Tanner Te Slaa 6'5" | SF Boyden-Hull | 2022 State IA combining to score 46 points in each of their games. Kelderman is an athletic, slashing wing while Te Slaa is a versatile all-around player who controls the game on both ends. The Comets have good depth and get production up-and-down their roster.
Western Christian plays a beautiful game, much like Boyden-Hull does, and they’ve gotten strong production out of Ty Van Essen Ty Van Essen 6'4" | PF Western Christian | 2022 State IA , Wyatt Gulker and Ashtin Van’t Hul this week. Van Essen could be a matchup problem for Boyden-Hull with his activity and skill around the bucket, but the Wolfpack are going to need Gulker to knock down some 3s if they’re going to keep pace with the efficient Comets attack. The Kelderman-Te Slaa tandem has been the best in 2A all year, and there is no reason to expect that to change on the season’s final day. Boyden-Hull is looking to repeat as the 2A champion, and we think they’ll do so against their down-the-block rival.
Players to watch
Boyden-Hull: Tanner Te Slaa Tanner Te Slaa 6'5" | SF Boyden-Hull | 2022 State IA (21.5 points, 7.3 rebounds), Marcus Kelderman Marcus Kelderman 6'1" | SG Boyden-Hull | 2021 State IA (17.6 points, 6.4 rebounds), Dayton Brunsting (9.1 points, 4.8 rebounds)
Western Christian: Ty Van Essen Ty Van Essen 6'4" | PF Western Christian | 2022 State IA (16.3 points, 8.0 rebounds), Wyatt Gulker (12.3 points), Eli Van Essen (10.0 points)
Our pick: Boyden-Hull 75, Western Christian 67
Class 3A Championship: #1 Ballard (25-1) vs. #2 Pella (24-2), 5:00 pm
How they got here: Top-ranked Ballard dominated their quarterfinal win over Clear Lake, 68-45, and withstood a furious comeback effort by Assumption in a 74-65 win. Pella has outlasted a pair of teams that want to slow it down, beating Monticello 59-46, and Sergeant Bluff-Luton 46-32.
Analysis: The two highest scoring teams in 3A meet in the championship game, and Pella has to be breathing a sigh of relief as they can actually play in a game that is more the style that they like. The Dutch have played a pair of teams so far that really like to slow it down and grind out games defensively, so they’ll love to play in a more up-tempo game. No team in 3A likes to chuck up 3s at the rate Pella does, and they have three great shooters on the roster in Noah Allen Noah Allen 5'10" | PG Pella | 2022 State IA (43%), Karl Miller Karl Miller 6'4" | SF Pella | 2022 State IA (41.8%) and Grant Nelson Grant Nelson 6'1" | SF Pella | 2021 State IA (45.4%). They also do a great job crashing the offensive glass, something that the Bombers will need to make a point of stopping.
Ballard opened the season ranked #1 in our poll, and they’ve done nothing this year to dissuade that. They’ve been excellent this week on both ends of the floor, and their quickness and length should do a good job contesting Pella’s shooters. This group is potent offensively, dynamic in transition and they can score in the halfcourt with a lineup that shares the ball well. Ashton Hermann Ashton Hermann 6'4" | SG Ballard | 2022 State IA , a junior guard who is starting to garner mid-major interest, has been outstanding on both sides of the ball this year, and combo forward Connor Drew Connor Drew 6'6" | PF Ballard | 2021 State IA is a player that Pella will struggle to match up with as well. If Kale Krogh Kale Krogh 6'6" | C Ballard | 2022 State IA is able to stay out of foul trouble and wall off the lane like he did against Assumption, Ballard should win the school’s first state championship.
Players to watch
Ballard: Ashton Hermann Ashton Hermann 6'4" | SG Ballard | 2022 State IA (16.2 points, 3.4 steals), Connor Drew Connor Drew 6'6" | PF Ballard | 2021 State IA (15.7 points, 9.0 rebounds), Mason Murphy Mason Murphy 5'9" | PG Ballard | 2021 State IA (11.8 points, 5.1 assists)
Pella: Grant Nelson Grant Nelson 6'1" | SF Pella | 2021 State IA (17.5 points, 45.4 3P%), Karl Miller Karl Miller 6'4" | SF Pella | 2022 State IA (15.8 points, 41.8 3P%), Noah Allen Noah Allen 5'10" | PG Pella | 2022 State IA (11.9 points, 43.0 3P%)
Our pick: Ballard 73, Pella 62
Class 4A Championship: #4 Johnston (12-4) vs. #2 Waukee (15-2), 7:30 pm
How they got here: Second-seeded Waukee has used a pair of huge starts to blow by Pleasant Valley, 65-43, and Ames, 71-36. Third-seeded Johnston has used their guard-heavy approach and quickness to blast Dowling Catholic 49-33, and Cedar Falls 64-51.
Analysis: These two teams split their regular-season meetings. Johnston won 49-48 on January 8, a game in which they came back from a 33-22 halftime deficit. It should be noted, however, that Waukee was playing without star Tucker DeVries Tucker DeVries 6'7" | SF Waukee | 2021 State #123 Nation IA in that one, who missed the game due to COVID contact tracing protocols. North transfer Malik Allen Malik Allen 5'11" | PG Des Moines North | 2021 State IA also missed that game as he wasn’t eligible yet, which thrust a few role players into major roles that they may not have been quite ready for. Waukee dominated the second meeting, jumping out to a 22-4 first quarter lead and rolling to a 58-40 win. They’ve gotten off to those fast starts in both games so far this week, and will be looking to do so again.
When Waukee is locked in, it’s hard to see anyone beating them. With a starting lineup that goes 6-7, 6-7, 6-5, 6-8 and 6-7, they have remarkable length that they use to shut down driving and passing lanes, and they’re all great shooters. Tucker DeVries Tucker DeVries 6'7" | SF Waukee | 2021 State #123 Nation IA and Payton Sandfort Payton Sandfort 6'7" | SF Waukee | 2021 State #138 Nation IA are the headliners, headed to Drake and Iowa, respectively, but they’ve gotten solid production from top-to-bottom this week, and having Omaha Biliew Omaha Biliew 6'8" | SF Waukee | 2023 State #6 Nation IA at the back of their defense is like having a human eraser in the paint.
Johnston’s guard-heavy lineup has been great this week, spreading teams out and using their speed to control games on both ends of the floor. They’re really quick, but they’ll need Trey Lewis Trey Lewis 5'10" | PG Johnston | 2022 State IA and Reid Grant Reid Grant 6'1" | PG Johnston | 2021 State IA to knock down some 3s if they want to keep pace. Junior wing Steven Kramer Steven Kramer 6'5" | SG Johnston | 2022 State IA has helped his stock as much as anyone in the state this week, and they’ll need him to be excellent on both ends of the floor. Waukee just has too many weapons, too much size and length. The Warriors, in their last year as the lone high school in Waukee, take home the school’s first state title.
Players to watch
Johnston: Reid Grant Reid Grant 6'1" | PG Johnston | 2021 State IA (14.0 points, 3.9 assists, 50.8 3P%), Trey Lewis Trey Lewis 5'10" | PG Johnston | 2022 State IA (12.9 points, 38.9 3P%), Steven Kramer Steven Kramer 6'5" | SG Johnston | 2022 State IA (11.9 points, 4.5 rebounds)
Waukee: Tucker DeVries Tucker DeVries 6'7" | SF Waukee | 2021 State #123 Nation IA (18.5 points, 6.7 rebounds, 5.7 assists, 3.0 assists, 45.6 3P%), Payton Sandfort Payton Sandfort 6'7" | SF Waukee | 2021 State #138 Nation IA (16.8 points, 7.6 rebounds, 45.6 3P%), Omaha Biliew Omaha Biliew 6'8" | SF Waukee | 2023 State #6 Nation IA (10.6 points, 7.9 rebounds, 3.1 blocks), Pryce Sandfort Pryce Sandfort 6'4" | SF Waukee | 2023 State #140 Nation IA (8.0 points, 52.9 3P%)
Our pick: Waukee 66, Johnston 56
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