By Pat Harty
Your Prep Sports
IOWA CITY – Cedar Rapids Prairie coach Jeremy Rickertsen figured his team would get West High’s best shot on Friday.
He was right.
The Trojans excelled on both ends of the court, while pounding Prairie 74-50 at the West gymnasium.
West High made 12 3-point baskets and shot over 50 percent from field, but that’s not what impressed Rickertsen the most.
“I would say that’s not even the difference today,” Rickertsen said. “The difference was their defensive intensity.
“Now, they shot lights out, which is huge, too.”
Friday’s rout was in contrast to the first game on Dec. 20 when Prairie defeated West 80-71 at home. Prairie was on fire from 3-point range in the first game, whereas on Friday it had few open looks as West picked up the defensive intensity.
“We knew they’d be motivated to try and get back,” Rickertsen said. “Their defense had a lot to do with our lack of offensive output. We weren’t even able to get very many 3-point shots off. We took 26 threes in the first game.
“So they were definitely cranked up on defense. We have to learn from it and move on.”
West also was cranked up on offense from the start of the game, thanks largely to all-state senior guard Connor McCaffery, who made four 3-point baskets in the first quarter and six overall while finishing with a game-high 24 points.
The 6-foot-5 McCaffery only missed two of his 10 field-goal attempts.
Fellow senior Devontae Lane also torched Prairie from the perimeter by making four 3-point shots.
“We were definitely a lot more focused because losing before break is an extremely hard thing because you’re sitting on a loss,” said Lane, who finished with 23 points on 9-of-13 shooting from the field. “So definitely coming into practice the next week you start to prepare better.
“I think losing before break helped us a lot to come together as a team and find out the things we needed to focus on more.”
At the top of that list was defense.
McCaffery said the Trojans weren’t locked in on defense in the first game against Prairie and paid the price.
“We weren’t following our game plan the first time up there,” McCaffery said. “And that’s pretty much the only change we made. We were focused.
“Obviously, we made changes and got better over break. But for the most part, it was based on our focus and us following our game plan and knowing personnel.”
Prairie’s strength is perimeter shooting, although, it was hard to tell on Friday as the West defenders contested almost every shot.
“We know that they’re a good shooting team, but they really don’t do much else, minus one or two players,” McCaffery said of Prairie. “So we just needed to keep them from getting too many easy, open looks from three because that’s what happened the last time we played them.”
Prairie only made four 3-point baskets in Friday’s game and finished 19-of-46 overall from the field.
“The deal is if we defend we’re going to be awfully hard to beat,” said West coach Steve Bergman. “But we did everybody a favor earlier in the year and didn’t defend very well and had some tough games.
“But we’ve worked hard at it. I think they know they have to get better because you’re not going to shoot like that first half every time. We’re good shooters and we take good shots. But we’re not going to shoot like that every night. And they know that.”
West made 17-of-27 field-goal attempts in the first half, including nine 3-pointers, and led 46-24 at halftime.
McCaffery made his first shot from 3-point range and that seemed to ignite him. His four 3-pointers in the first quarter came on consecutive possessions.
“If I make that first one, I’m going to take that second on when I’m open,” McCaffery said. “If I make that second one, I’m on. I’m feeling good and I’m going to keep shooting.
“They left me open a couple times after I had already made two (3-pointers) and that was just like practice.”
West is difficult to defeat under any circumstance. But if McCaffery and his cohorts keep shooting like they did on Friday and stay locked in on defense, defeating the Trojans will be even more difficult.
“We see zones every game because we’re so hard to match up with,” McCaffery said. “We just have not seen man very much.
“And when we’re shooting like that against a zone, I don’t know who’s going to come out and beat us as long as we’re locked in defensively.”
CR Prairie 13 11 13 13 – 50
West High 21 25 19 9 – 74
CR Prairie (50) – Griff Clark 1-6 2-2 4, Max Smith Drahos 8-14 3-3 19, Jake Eilers 2-4 0-0 6, Keegan Murray 1-2 0-0 3, Logan Serbousek 3-4 0-0 6, Matt Lorenz 2-5 0-0 4, Levi Usher 1-5 0-0 2, Kris Murray 1-3 2-2 5, Darren Kilpatrick 0-1 0-0 0, Blake Krapfl 0-1 0-0 0, Zach Johnson 0-0 1-2 1. Totals 19-46 8-10 50.
West (74) – Connor McCaffery 8-10 2-2 24, Patrick McCaffery 4-8 2-3 11, Devontae Lane 9-13 1-1 23, Nate Disterhoft 0-1 0-0 0, Izaya Ono-Fullard 1-3 1-1 3, Hakeem Odunsi 2-5 0-0 4, Evan Flitz 1-5 0-0 3, Seybian Sims 2-3 1-2 5, Josh Van Roekel 0-1 1-2 1, Jacob Anderson 0-1 0-0 0, Hirsche Henstrom 0-1 0-0 0, Mulhim Nasr 0-0 0-0 0, Ahmed Idris 0-0 0-0 0, Dante Eldridge 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 27-52 8-11 74.
3-point goals – CR Prairie 4 (Eilers 2, Keegan Murray, Kris Murray); West High 9 (Connor McCaffery 6, Devonate Lane 4, Patrick McCaffery, Evan Flitz). Fouls – Prairie 11, West 14.