By Ryan Murken
Your Prep Sports
IOWA CITY – West High had two weeks between its final game in 2016 and its first contest in 2017.
That doesn’t mean the Trojans got a break. Far from it.
West High spent the 13 days between an 80-71 loss to Cedar Rapids Prairie on Dec. 20 and its return to action January 3rd against Cedar Rapids Washington working. Specifically working on defense.
Class 4A top-ranked West High is reaping the rewards of its holiday break turned to holiday work session this month.
West (12-1) High has won seven in a row in January and the Trojans say improved defense is the reason why.
“Winter break helped us a lot with our defense, having a long time to work on it,” West High senior Devontae Lane said. “I think defensively we have played well since then.”
West High is holding opponents to 48.9 points per game during its current seven-game win streak, less than half a point less than it was allowing before the holiday break.
The defensive improvement is still plenty evident.
West High allowed more than 50 points in half of its six December games.
The Trojans have given up more than 50 points just twice in its last seven games and hasn’t allowed more than 59 points in any game in January.”
“I think the defense since we have come back from break has been really good,” West High coach Steve Bergman said. “There are still breakdowns but there aren’t 40 breakdowns, it’s one here or there.”
In its first six games West High allowed two opponents (Dubuque Hempstead and Cedar Rapids Prairie) to shoot better than 50 percent from the field. No team has shot better than 48 percent against West High in January as the Trojans have held teams to a combined 41 percent field goal shooting.
“I think that is something that we definitely worked on and in these games after break we have definitely put more pressure on teams,” West High junior Evan Flitz said. “It’s worked well for us.”
The best evidence of the defensive improvement came in a 74-50 win over Cedar Rapids Prairie in a January 20 rematch.
West High held the Hawks to 42 percent shooting and 50 points after allowing 80 points on 56 percent shooting in the first matchup.
The 50 points for Prairie was a season low and more than 16 points below its season average.
In seven January games only two teams have matched their season scoring average against West High as the Trojans are holding teams an average of 7.5 points below their season average.
“I think we are adjusting well to the teams that we are playing well,” West High senior Connor McCaffery said. “Against a team like Cedar Falls we might play them completely differently defensively than we do a team like Dubuque Senior or Cedar Rapids Kennedy. I think it just kind of depends on the game plan we have coming in and we have been able to execute those different game plans.”
Solon’s Busy Week: The final stats from a crazy stretch for Solon that ended last Thursday read like this – four wins in five games over seven days.
Solon (10-15) opened the busy seven-day stretch with four wins in five days before falling to Dyersville Beckman 52-49 on a late 3-pointer on Thursday.
“These guys are two or three or four sport athletes so they know who to handle it,” Solon coach Jason Pershing said. “They are young, they are able to do that, it’s just a mental thing.”
The Road to State: Substate pairings were released for Class 3A and 4A teams last Friday.
Solon is in Class 3A, Substate 4 along with No.6 Davenport Assumption, No. 7 Mount Vernon, Cedar Rapids Xavier, Dubuque Wahlert, West Liberty, Maquoketa, and Central DeWitt.
Clear Creek Amana is in Class 3A, Substate 3 made up of eight teams from the WAMAC. The Clippers join third-ranked West Delaware, Benton Community, Center Point-Urbana, Marion, South Tama, Vinton-Shellsburg and Williamsburg.
In Class 4A, City High and West High are paired together again, both landing in Substate 5.
Clinton, Linn-Mar, Muscatine and Pleasant Valley make up the rest of Substate 5.
Ratings Update: West High remained No. 1 in Class 4A in the latest Associated Press poll released on Monday.
West High is followed by Dubuque Senior, Sioux City East, Waukee and Council Bluffs Abraham Lincoln in the 4A top-five.
Other top-ranked teams include Waverly-Shell Rock (3A), Western Christian (2A) and North Linn (1A).
Top performances: Solon senior Jake Coons had 24 points, 11 rebounds and four assists in a 71-60 win over Maquoketa.
West Branch senior Cooper Kabela had 26 points and four rebounds in a 54-45 win over Fairfield.
Regina freshman Even Brauns had 13 points and 13 rebounds in a 64-42 win over West Liberty.
City High senior Chuck Johnson had 14 points and eight rebounds in an 82-38 loss to West High.
West High senior Connor McCaffery had 25 points, five assists and four steals in an 82-38 win over City H