By Ryan Murken
Your Prep Sports
No. 1 West High (20-3) vs. Newton (19-5)
It’s the state tournament veteran against the rookie in the Class 4A opener.
West High is making its seventh straight trip to state and has reached the semifinals in each of the previous six, winning titles half of those years.
Newton returns to the state tournament for the first time since 1992 and is seeking its first win at state since 1964.
Two of the three losses for top-ranked West High have come to out-of-state foes and the Trojans won a pair of postseason games by an average of 33 points.
West High has won its games by an average of 20.9 points, highest in 4A, and has had just one game against an in-state foe decided by single digits since December.
Newton won back-to-back four-point games over West Des Moines Dowling and Johnston to reach the state tournament.
Four of the five losses for the Cardinals have come to stat tournament teams in Classes 2A and 3A.
Dubuque Hempstead (18-5) vs. No. 8 Cedar Rapids Kennedy (18-5)
Two familiar conference foes with identical records followed similar paths to the state tournament.
Both teams knocked off Mississippi Valley Conference teams that they had lost to twice during the regular season in substate finals to punch tickets to state.
Hempstead avenged a pair of regular season losses to cross-town rival Dubuque Senior with a 53-50 substate final win.
Kennedy defeated Cedar Falls 48-41 in the substate final after a pair of regular season losses to the Tigers.
Both teams enter the state tournament playing their best basketball of the season.
Hempstead has won 14-of-16 after a 4-3 start on its way to the first state tournament appearance in program history.
Kennedy has won eight straight following an 83-53 loss to top-ranked West High on January 31 and is appearing at state for the third time in four seasons but hasn’t won a game at stat since 2008.
No. 9 West Des Moines Valley (19-4) vs. Des Moines North (18-5)
Another regular season rematch of conference opponents offers a stark contrast in style of play and state tournament success.
Des Moines North ranks fifth in the state and leads Class 4A in scoring averaging 75 points per game while West Des Moines Valley enters the state tournament allowing just 50 points per game, second best among 4A state tournament qualifiers.
Both teams enter the state tournament red hot.
Des Moines North closed the season with 12 straight wins, including an 88-68 win over Ankeny in the substate final that avenged a regular season loss to the Hawks.
The Polar Bears scored over 80 points nine times during their current 12-game winning streak to return to the state tournament for the first time since 1991.
Defending 4A champ West Des Moines Valley has won 10 in a row entering Wednesday’s quarterfinal and avenged its own regular season loss with a 45-43 win over Des Moines Hoover in the substate final.
The Tigers are appearing in their fourth state tournament in the past six years with a runner-up finish in 2014.
Des Moines North won the regular season meeting 85-78 on January 17.
No. 7 Bettendorf (18-5) vs. No. 2 Sioux City East (21-2)
A couple of teams from opposite sides of the state that have become state tournament regulars over the past decade meet in Des Moines.
Both teams have won titles in the past 15 years and both have returned to the title game in the past five years.
The quarterfinal matchup should be a good one and could come down to who controls the tempo.
Bettendorf enters allowing a 45.5 points per game, best in the 4A field while Sioux City East averages 71.4 points per game and hasn’t scored less than 57 points against an in-state opponent this season.
The only losses this season for Sioux City East have come to Sioux City Heelan and Minnesota powerhouse Minneapolis DeLaSalle.
Bettendorf lost twice during the regular season to North Scott but upended the Lancers 46-44 win the substate final to return to the state tournament for the first time since reaching the 2014 semifinals.
WEST HIGH: Connor McCaffery, 6-6, Sr. Four-year starter has had this best season as a prep, leading West High in scoring (19.8), rebounding (4.7) and is second with 4.0 assists.
NEWTON: Garrett Sturtz, 6-3, Jr. Ranks second on the team with 19.8 points per game and leads the Cardinals in rebounds (6.4), assists (2.8) steals (1.9) and blocks (1).
BETTENDORF: D.J. Carton, 6-1, Soph. Top playmaker on a balance Bettendorf roster leads the Bulldogs in scoring (10.2) and assists (3.2) despite missing six games.
DES MOINES NORTH: Tyreke Locure, 5-11, Soph. Electric point guard ranked second in Class 4A in both scoring (25.9) and assists (7.5).
WEST DES MOINES VALLEY: Charley Crowley, 6-8, Sr., A reserve on last season’s state title team, Crowley has been the Tigers’ most consistent performer this year averaging 9.6 points, 6 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game.
SIOUX CITY EAST: Van Rees, 6-6, Jr. One of only four players in Class 4A to average a double-double, Rees ranked sixth in 4A in scoring (20.7) and second in 4A with 12.4 rebounds per game.
DUBUQUE HEMPSTEAD: Connor Duax, 6-5, Sr. and Lucas Duax, 6-3, Jr. Backcourt duo combines to average 26.3 points, 6.5 rebounds and 5.6 assists per game.
CEDAR RAPIDS KENNEDY: Drake Brewster, 6-6, Sr., Versatile scorer leads the Cougars with 14 points and has shot a team-best 129 free throws.
Everything points towards West High making its fifth state title game appearance in the past six seasons and getting a chance to make up for last year’s title game loss to West Des Moines Valley.
A quarterfinal win over Newton would give West High a Mississippi Valley Conference rematch with either Dubuque Hempstead or Kennedy.
West High defeated Hempstead 61-55 in December and rolled past Kennedy 83-53 on January 31 in Cedar Rapids.
The question remains, if West High does return to the final who awaits the Trojans in the title game.
Sioux City East and Des Moines North both have the offensive firepower to make a title game run while Bettendorf has a size advantage on nearly every team in the field and defending champion West Des Moines Valley can’t be counted out.
West High hasn’t budged from the top spot in the Class 4A rankings this season and with good reason.
Since a nine-point loss to Cedar Rapids Prairie in December the Trojans have been impressive, dropping only a pair of games to elite level out-of-state competition.
West High is making its seventh straight state tournament appearance and seeking its four title during that span and has won its games this season by a Class 4A-best 20.9 points.
Five different conferences are represented in the Class 4A field, led by the Mississippi Valley Conference with three teams (West High, Dubuque Hempstead, Cedar Rapids Kennedy).
The Central Iowa Metro League has two teams (West Des Moines Valley, Des Moines North) and the Mississippi Athlete Conference (Bettendorf), Little Hawkeye Conference (Newton) and Missouri River Conference (Sioux City East) each have one team.
The last three state titles have come from different conferences with the CIML, MAC and MVC all winning titles the last three years.
Six of the past 10 champions have hailed from the MVC which has won 10 of the last 20 4A titles.
Five Fast Facts
* – Newton is the only team in the state tournament in any class with two players averaging more than 19 points per game. Senior Connor Gholson leads the Cardinals with 20.4 points per game while junior Garrett Sturtz averages 19.8 per game.
* – Des Moines North senior Jal Bijiek leads Class 4A and ranks fourth in the state with 81 blocks blocked shots this season. The 81 blocks for the 6-foot-7 Bijiek is more than the team total for six of the eight state tournament qualifiers in 4A.
* – Sioux City East junior Van Rees joins Muscatine junior and Iowa commit Joe Wieskamp as the only 4A players to average at least 20 points and 10 rebounds per game. Rees averaged 20.7 points and 12.4 rebounds while Wieskamp led 4A with 30.4 points and added 10.2 rebounds per game.
* – West High ranks third in the state and leads Class 4A in field goal percentage, shooting 53.2 percent from the floor. Four different West High players are shooting better than 50 percent this season and Patrick McCaffery (60.4) and Seybian Sims (67.1) both shoot at a better than 60 percent clip.
* – Sioux City East has made 414 free throws this season. That is 53 more than any other team in 4A has made this season and is more free throws than five teams in the 4A state tournament field have attempted this season.
West High (20-3) vs. Newton (19-5), 1:05 p.m.
Dubuque Hempstead (18-5) vs. Cedar Rapids Kennedy (18-5), 2:45 p.m.
West Des Moines Valley (19-4) vs. Des Moines North (18-5), 8:15 p.m.
Bettendorf (18-5) vs. Sioux City East (21-2), 6:35 p.m.
West High/Newton winner vs. Dubuque Hempstead/Cedar Rapids Kennedy winner, 1:30 p.m.
West Des Moines Valley/Des Moines North winner vs. Bettendorf/Sioux City East winner, 3:15 p.m.
Semifinal winners, 8:05 p.m.