By Ryan Murken
Your Prep Sports
The postseason is here.
Regional play opened for girls basketball teams last week and this week brings the first full slate of postseason action for all five classes.
After three months of regular season the action heats up quickly with 40 state tournament berths up for grabs in five classes over the next nine days.
Here are five things to keep an eye on as teams via for a spot in the state tournament that opens Feb. 27 at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.
Is the West the Best?
It is more East vs. Central than East vs. West but any way you look at it the CIML conference has put a stranglehold on Class 5A over the past few years.
The CIML has won four consecutive 5A titles and has produced all eight title game participants during that stretch.
Is this the year that string is broken?
West High (18-3), City High (20-1) and Cedar Falls (19-2) give the Mississippi Valley Conference three top-five teams entering postseason play.
For the second straight season City High and West High will likely have to go through CIML competition to reach the state tournament.
If seeds hold, fourth-ranked City High would host No. 8 and defending champion Ankeny Centennial in the Region 5 final while third-ranked West High would host No. 13 Southeast Polk in the Region 4 title game.
Over the past five seasons MVC teams are 3-10 against CIML opponents in regional finals including a 1-6 mark over the past two seasons.
City High has lost to CIML opponents in regional finals the last two seasons after a 59-56 loss to Southeast Polk last year.
West High lost at Waukee in its regional final last season.
Ready for the Rematches
Nothing says postseason like rematches and there are plenty coming for area teams.
West Branch and Regina both open postseason play with familiar foes, facing River Valley Conference rematches in the quarterfinals of Class 2A, Region 7.
Top-ranked Regina (22-0) faces Tipton (7-15) for the third time this season and second straight game after defeating the Tigers 76-44 in its final regular season game.
West Branch opens postseason play with a rematch with North Cedar (9-13) after winning the first matchup 50-38 on Jan. 27.
The Bears could be looking at three consecutive regular season rematches in Region 7 play.
With a win Tuesday, the Bears could get a rematch with second-seeded Bellevue in the semifinals and would likely face a third meeting with Regina in the title game.
West Branch won at Bellevue 57-39 in the regular season.
Clear Creek Amana (12-9) hosts Benton Community (5-16) in a WAMAC West rematch in a 4A, Region 4 quarterfinal.
The Clippers won both regular season meetings by 11 and 13 points.
In Class 5A, City High could get a rematch with Davenport West in the Region 5 semifinals.
City High defeated the Falcons 63-12 on January 28.
Wire to Wire
Regina opened the season top-ranked in Class 2A and through 22 regular season games has looked deserving of the No. 1 ranking.
The Regals completed their second consecutive unbeaten regular season, winning 22 straight games by an average of better than 32 points.
Regina (22-0) now turns its attention to the postseason where the Regals want more than just a third straight state tournament trip.
The Regals face a potential regional semifinal matchup with No. 14 Maquoketa Valley (18-4) and a title game rematch with Bellevue or West Branch.
West Branch (13-8) heads into the postseason with some momentum after closing the regular season with back-to-back wins.
It was what the Bears did in their regular season finale that has head coach Jarod Tylee most excited.
After being outrebounded by a combined total of 66-44 in games with Regina and West Liberty the Bears held a 40-28 rebounding edge over Clear Creek Amana in their regular season finale.
With a front court consisting of first-year players Abbey Fryauf, Mackenzie Heise and Abby Knoop, rebounding has been a focal point all season for West Branch
That focus ramped up following a 68-39 loss to top-ranked Regina in which West Branch was outrebounded 34-14.
“Our next few days in practice after (Regina) there were a lot of rebounding drills and we need to continue to emphasis that,” Tylee said. “Rebounding wise that was by far our best outing of the year.”
It showed as West Branch grabbed 14 offensive rebounds alone in its 49-31 win over Clear Creek Amana.
Fryauf, a 5-foot-11 sophomore, Knoop a 5-foot-10 senior and Heise a 5-foot-8 combined to average better than 14 rebounds per game this season but had 18 combined rebounds in the regular season finale.
A first-round first
Clear Creek Amana has been close to postseason wins in each of the first two seasons under head coach PJ Sweeney.
The Clippers have been close but haven’t moved past the opening round.
Clear Creek Amana (12-9) has another good chance to change that this season.
The Clippers host Benton Community (5-13) in the opening round of the Class 4A, Region 4 tournament.
A win would set up a matchup with 4A sixth-ranked Cedar Rapids Xavier in the semifinals.
Clear Creek Amana fell at Mount Pleasant 52-39 in its postseason opener two seasons ago and lost 44-35 at home to Clinton last season.