By Ryan Murken
Your Prep Sports
The state basketball tournament is more than two weeks away and Class 3A and 4A teams still have regular season games remaining.
That doesn’t mean the postseason isn’t already in full swing.
District play began earlier this week for Class 1A and 2A teams and area teams get into the act on Thursday in 2A district semifinals.
Here are five things to watch between now and the opening day of the state tournament on March 6.
For the past several seasons the number one question entering the 4A postseason has been the same. Can anyone keep up with West High?
Over the past month, the simple answer to that question has been no.
West High (17-2) has looked every bit like the top-ranked team in Class 4A in 2017, winning 11 straight following the holiday break and 12 of its last 13 games.
The lone loss during that stretch came last Saturday to Webster Groves, (Mo.) and the average margin of victory for West High over its last 13 games has been more than 23 points.
During that impressive string was a 15-point road win at then second-ranked Dubuque Senior.
West High closes out the regular season on Saturday in St. Paul, Minnesota against Cretin-Derham Hall before opening postseason play at home on February 24.
Standing between West High and a seventh consecutive state tournament appearance could be a matchup with Joe Wieskamp-led Muscatine in the Substate 5 final.
An Iowa commit, Wieskamp leads the state in scoring at 31.2 points per game.
Spartans’ Difficult Road Back to Des Moines
Last season Solon pulled the upset of the postseason in 3A, stunning Mount Vernon in the substate final to secure a state berth.
If the Spartans are to return to state this season they will have to go through the toughest district in Class 3A.
Solon (12-8) opens postseason play February 20 against defending 3A runner-up Dubuque Wahlert in the 3A, District 7 semifinals.
Don’t be misled by the 5-14 record for Wahlert, the Golden Eagles have cut their teeth in the rugged Mississippi Valley Conference.
Waiting in the District 7 finals is a likely meeting with No. 8 Davenport Assumption while No. 7 Mount Vernon and defending champion Xavier are potential substate final opponents.
Keep it Going Kabela
A variety of different players have stepped up for West Branch (16-5) during its current 10-game winning streak.
Even with the new found offensive balance the Bears will go as far in the playoffs as Cooper Kabela can take them. The way Kabela has been playing of late that may be a long way.
Kabela averages 23.4 points and 7.6 rebounds per game this season but has upped his production of late.
The 6-foot-4 senior forward has scored at least 25 points in seven straight games and is averaging 26.4 points per game during that stretch.
West Branch hosts Wapello in its postseason opener Thursday and has a potential meeting with top-seed West Burlington (18-3) waiting in the in the 2A, District 8 title game.
Growing Up Quick
By the time the playoffs roll around coaches like to say there are no more freshmen.
The Regina duo of Masen Miller and Even Brauns didn’t need an entire regular season to stop playing like freshmen.
Miller and Brauns enter the postseason playing some of their best basketball to date as Regina (13-8) seeks another late postseason push.
The 6-foot-6 Brauns has recorded double-doubles in three of his last seven games after posting one double-double in the first 14 games.
Brauns is averaging 11.4 points and 9.1 rebounds per game during that stretch.
Miller has been equally impressive of late.
After scoring in double figures three times in the first 16 games of his career, Miller has reached double figures in four of his last five games and is averaging 12.6 points and 4.2 assists in those games.
Regina faces Central Lee (10-12) in the 2A, District 9 semifinals on Thursday and could face top-seeded Highland (17-4) in the district final.
Follow the Leader
No team has looked better over the last month and a half than West High.
Perhaps no player in the state has been better during that stretch than the Trojans’ senior point guard Connor McCaffery.
The 6-foot-5 McCaffery leads West High in scoring at 18.6 points per game but has taken his game to another level since the holiday break.
McCaffery is shooting 56 percent from the field and 47 percent from 3-point range while averaging 20 points per game in his last 12 contests.
During that stretch McCaffery has scored 20 or more points eight times and is also averaging 4.3 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game.