By Ryan Murken
Your Prep Sports
IOWA CITY – City High and Cedar Falls finished in a tie atop the Mississippi Valley Conference’s Valley Division this winter.
Wednesday’s rematch between the MVC rivals comes with much higher stakes than a divisional title.
Fourth-ranked City High (22-1) and No. 5 Cedar Falls (21-2) meet in a winner-take-all rematch in the quarterfinals of the Class 5A state tournament at 3:15 p.m. at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.
City High won the only regular season meeting between the two teams 62-40 all the way back on December 9.
That win doesn’t mean anything on Wednesday.
“I expect them to be playing better than they did early December,” City High coach Bill McTaggart said. “We know they present a lot of problems, they have size, they have shooters and we are going to have to bring our ‘A’ game to beat them and since we defeated them the first time we know they are going to be out for revenge.”
Cedar Falls led 29-28 at halftime of the regular season meeting before City High outscored the Tigers 19-6 in the third quarter on its way to a 34-11 second-half edge.
In that contest Cedar Falls’ leading scorer, 6-foot-1 junior Kiana Barney was held to five points while battling foul trouble that kept her on the bench much of the second and third quarters.
Keeping starters on the court will be a key for both teams on Wednesday.
“We need to stay out of foul trouble with them because they present a lot of problems for us with size,” McTaggart said. “We have got to stay out of foul trouble.”
Cedar Falls rattled off 16 straight wins following the December loss to City High in Iowa City before a 57-47 to top-ranked and unbeaten Indianola in the regular season finale.
The Tigers come to Wells Fargo Arena a different team than the one that lost to City High in December.
McTaggart believes his team is different too.
For one the Little Hawks’ two freshman starters, Aubrey Joens (12.1 ppg) and Rose Nkumu (8.4 ppg) now have a full season under their belts.
Nkumu had 12 points and five assists and Aubrey Joens had nine points and seven rebounds in a regional final win over Ankeny Centennial.
“She is no longer a freshman we consider her a sophomore now,” McTaggart said of Nkumu. “She’s playing well.”
Perhaps the biggest improvement for City High has come on the glass.
Since being outrebounded 39-21 in a loss to third-ranked West High, McTaggart has seen a difference from his team’s rebounding intensity.
City High outrebounded two regional opponents 53-41.
“Has rebounding has improved tremendously the last three or four weeks and that’s why we have won so many games,” McTaggart said. “We are better at this time of year than we were at the beginning of the year for that reason.”
Cedar Falls held a slim 32-31 rebounding edge in the first meeting led by Cythina Wolf’s nine rebounds.
The 6-foot-3 Wolf averages 11.7 points and 6.9 rebounds per game while Barney averages 13.1 points and five rebounds per game.
“They have some kids with size that are versatile and good athletes,” McTaggart said. “That’s a concern for us.”