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Iowa high school boys basketabll state tournament: Cedar Rapids Kennedy avoids first-round upset this year in quarterfinals

Ankeny, Valley and Bettendorf also advance to the semifinals
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DES MOINES, IOWA – Top seed Cedar Rapids Kennedy wasn’t about to relive the nightmare when it was upset 57-45 in the opening round of last year’s boys state tournament. 

Joe Bean wasn’t part of that team, but he made sure that the Cougars would advance – and that they did with a resounding 66-45 victory over Dallas Center-Grimes in the Class 4A opener Wednesday at Wells Fargo Arena.

The Xavier Catholic transfer was held scoreless in the first 12-plus minutes, but he went wild in the second quarter, knocking down three 3-pointers to break open a close game that had four ties and two lead changes in the first 11 minutes, 18 seconds of the game.

Bean had nine points in the second quarter, sparking a flurry of 15 straight Kennedy points and added six more in the third when the Cougars went on a 13-2 run to go up 45-26. The Upper Iowa signee finished with 18 points, hitting 7 of 10 field goal attempts and 3 of 4 beyond the arc, had seven rebounds, dished out five assists and had two steals.

“We were kind of just feeling ourselves out, and the second quarter we started doing good things out there,” Bean said. “It just came to me, and I started shooting it.

“Joe was great,” said Kennedy coach Jon McKowen. “We found a little handoff action into a ball screen, and he was able to get into the paint. Joe did a great job in the second quarter taking open shots, and his teammates were finding him. Joe just had great stretches.”

At one point, the Cougars buried seven straight 3-pointers and held the Mustangs scoreless for 3:40 during the 15-0 run in the second quarter that erased a 17-15 deficit.

“We started playing with a lot of poise, excitement and energy starting in the second quarter,” McKowen said. “Shooting is contagious. We talked to the kids before the game to take team shots every possession. What I like is when somebody misses a shot, they don’t feel bad about it, look down or hang their head. They just play defense. That allows you to withstand some bad shooting.”

Micah Schlaak, a 6-foot-7 senior, had 14 points on 6-of-9 shooting, and six rebounds. He admitted the Cougars might have been a little nervous to start the game after being upset 57-45 by Pleasant Valley as the top seed and No. 1-ranked team last year.

“I felt like we were a little bit tight, but we came out in the second quarter and put it together,” he said. “Last year was weighing on me a little bit. We really wanted to get past this first game. Our mindset is just one game at a time.”

The Cougars played outstanding defense as well, holding the Mustangs to 37.8 percent (14 of 37) shooting. They also won the battle on the boards 32-19.

“Defense keeps you in the game until the offense can get you going,” McKowen said. “I thought our defense, rebounding and shot selection was really good. They just weren’t going in early. When we started making shots, everything started clicking.”

Kennedy, ranked No. 1 in both SB Live’s all-class top 25 and by the IHSAA in Class 4A, also got 15 points and seven rebounds from Cyrus Courtney. They shot 50 percent from the field on 27-of-54 shooting. The Cougars’ leading scorer Trey McKowen was held to five points.

The eight-seeded Mustangs, who are ranked No. 5 by SB Live, were led by Calix Cahil with a game-high 20 points and six rebounds. Jackson Green added 12. They finished the season 20-4.

The first quarter was a defensive struggle with three ties, and neither team converting more than one-third of their shots. DC-G led 10-9 at the quarter break.

After a tie and two lead changes, the Cougars went on their 15-point barrage, connecting on seven 3-pointers, including three by Bean and two by sixth-man Griffin Gerdes, who was key off the bench. That gave them a 13-point lead before Jackson Green hit a 3-pointer from the right wing to make it a 30-20 game at halftime.

“We had some opportunities to get a bigger lead in the first quarter, and then kind of lost some of their shooters, and then it was boom, boom, boom,” said DC-G coach Joel Rankin of Kennedy’s barrage of triples. “They’re very spurtable. They made a bunch of threes in a row, and they’re such a good defensive team, I knew it wasn’t going to be easy scoring. It can get away from you quick. They’re a really tough team with their physicality.”

Kennedy faces Ankeny at 5:30 p.m. Thursday in the semifinals.

“It’s one at a time,” McKowen said. “Our only focus now is going to be Ankeny. We didn’t go very deep tonight, but depth is going to be important.”

Ankeny derails Dubuque Senior

Carson Johnson poured in 26 points to lead five-seed Ankeny to a mild 60-47 upset over four-seed Dubuque Senior in the second quarterfinal game.

The hot-shooting Hawks made at least 50 percent of their shots in each quarter and converted 51.2 percent (22 of 43) for the game. They also made 41.2 percent (7 of 17) from beyond the arc.

All six players who played scored for Ankeny, which is ranked sixth in SB Live’s all-class top 25 and No. 8 by the IHSAA. Cash Schoolen contributed 10, Luke Anderson finished with nine, and Cade Pederson made all four of his shots and finished with eight points and a team-high eight rebounds. Rio Aguirre handed out five assists.

The Hawks led the entire first half, holding a 15-10 advantage after one quarter, and then took their biggest lead of the half going up 10 on a step-back 3 by Johnson. They took a 29-20 cushion into the locker room.

The Hawks opened up a 45-32 lead on a trifecta by Luke Anderson late in the third quarter and took a 47-35 lead into the fourth quarter.

The Rams – ranked fourth by SB Live and sixth by the IHSAA, could only manage to get within seven the rest of the game when Cooper Porter sank a 3-pointer to close within 50-43 at the 5:18 mark.

Senior got a double-double from Jacob Williams with 14 points and 11 rebounds. Tevin Schultz chipped in with 12 points.

The Hawks (18-6) advance to the semifinals where they’ll face top-ranked Kennedy at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, while the Rams’ season ends with a 21-3 record.

Tigers roar past Dragons

Defending 4A champion Valley cruised past Johnston 64-57 in the first game in the bottom half of the bracket.

Curtis Stinson led the second-seeded Tigers with 22 points and seven rebounds. Kiki Deng and Trevin Jirak, who was 6 of 7 from the field, each had 15 points, and Jayden McGregory added nine points.

Zay Robinson, the captain of the all-tournament team at last year’s state tournament, was held to just three points, but he pulled down a team-high eight rebounds.

Dalen Huston made 7 of 11 shots and posted a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Dragons, who are ranked 12th by SB Live. Prestige Taylor added 12 points and Trovary Cavil chipped in 10.

Valley, ranked second by SB Live, made eight more free throws, converting 16 of 23 and Johnston was 8 of 11.

The Tigers shot 46.8 percent (22 of 47) from the field, and the Dragons made 43.1 percent (22 of 51) of their shots.

Valley scored the first seven points and led 13-3 before Johnston closed to within 15-12 on a Cavil layup with 16 seconds left in the first quarter.

The Dragons later tied it at 17-all on a 3-pointer by Jalen Richardson, but Valley quickly pulled back ahead 31-23 at halftime.

The defending champs stretched the lead to 15 on a 3-pointer by Stinson, in the building where his father Curtis won an NBA D-League championship with the Iowa Energy. The Dragons closed to within seven before Valley took a 46-36 lead into the fourth.

The Tigers again matched their biggest lead of 15 on a Stinson trifecta with 6:09 left in the game, and Johnston never seriously challenged down the stretch.

Valley (19-5) moves on to face Bettendorf in the semifinals 7:15 Thursday night, while Johnston ends the season 14-10.

Bettendorf upends Cedar Falls

Red-hot Bettendorf upset three-seed Cedar Falls 65-56 in the last 4A quarterfinal game.

Winners of 11 straight, the sixth-seeded Bulldogs dominated the boards 43-22 and shot a blistering 56.5 percent (26 of 46) from the field.

The Tigers shot a cool 33.3 percent (21 of 63) from the field and a frigid 17.9 percent (7 of 39) from 3-point land.

Caden Wilkins had a double-double with 20 points and 13 rebounds and also handed out a team-high four assists for Bettendorf. Ben Kerkhoff and Cole Odefey each had 12 points.

Nine players scored for Cedar Falls, led by Anthony Galvin with 13 and Aiden Heth with 12.

The Bulldogs, ranked seventh by SB Live, jumped out to an 11-2 lead and held a 16-9 advantage after one quarter and used an 8-0 second quarter run to lead 32-18 at halftime.

Bettendorf’s biggest lead of the game was 48-29 on a Ben Kerkhoff jumper with 1:27 left in the third before Cedar Falls made a small run to make it 51-38 after three quarters.

Cedar Falls, ranked third by SB Live, closed to within 11 on a fastbreak layup by Logan Wroe with 3:54 left, but Cole Odefey drove baseline and made a double-clutch dunk and was fouled to complete a three-point play to slow the Tigers’ momentum and squash any thought of a serious comeback.

The Tigers’ season ends at 20-4, and Bettendorf moves on to the semifinals to face West Des Moines Valley at 7:15 Thursday night.

--Chris Short | @SBLiveIA