Your Prep Sports
The opening game at the boys state basketball tournament is just two weeks away.
There is still a lot of basketball to be played before the 32 state tournament qualifiers are determined.
Postseason play opened for Class 1A and 2A teams last week but Substate action really heats up this week with the two largest classes getting into the act.
Four Your Prep Sports action teams are in action on Monday as postseason play hits full speed ahead.
Before the substate games get rolling here are a few things to keep an eye on with area teams.
The Bears Big Chance
West Branch is two wins away from turning what has already been its best season in more than a decade into a historic one.
With a 21-point win over Tipton in its postseason opener last Thursday Tenth-ranked West Branch (18-2) is two wins away from the first state tournament appearance in program history.
First up is a rematch with River Valley Conference rival Anamosa (14-6) on Tuesday in a Class 2A, Substate 4 semifinal at Northeast High School in Goose Lake.
West Branch won the regular season meeting over Anamosa 76-64 back on December 19 but the Blue Raiders have won five in a row and avenged 13-point regular season loss to Northeast with a 42-31 win in the substate quarterfinals
The other semifinal is another regular season rematch as Dyersville Beckman (14-7) and Waukon (15-5) meet for the second time in a month after Beckman won 70-65 on January 23 in Dyersville.
West Branch hasn’t won more than 18 games in a season since winning 19 in 2011 and hasn’t played in a substate final since falling to Camanche 86-80 in 2017.
Not Your Average Opening Round Opponent
Inevitably some team was going to be paired opposite West High in its postseason opener and despite an uncharacteristic 4-8 regular season for the Trojans this isn’t your average opening-round foe.
The Trojans haven’t lost a substate game in more than a decade, qualifying for the state tournament each of the past 10 seasons.
West High (4-8) will attempt to extend its substate winning streak on Monday when it travels to Ottumwa (15-5) for a Substate 3 quarterfinal with the winner travelling to second-seeded Cedar Rapids Kennedy (14-7) on Friday.
It has been an odd season for West High with a late start, a two-week pause in the middle and half of its eight losses coming by one or two points.
Even with eight losses (six coming by single digits) West High will be a tough postseason out. The Trojans have one of the top scorers in the state in 6-foot-8 junior forward Pete Moe who is averaging 23.6 points and 8.9 rebounds per game, a veteran point guard in junior Christian Barnes (9.7 points, 4 assists per game) and one of the best coaching staffs in the state led by veteran Steve Bergman.
The Next Step for Liberty High
Last season Liberty High got its first postseason win with a quarterfinal victory over Clinton before falling to Dubuque Hempstead by three points in the semifinals.
This year five consecutive wins to open the season helped Liberty High (6-5) earn an opening round bye in Class 4A, Substate 6 and has the Lightning starting its postseason back in the semifinals.
The next step for the Lightning is a spot in a substate final and everyone knows what comes after that.
Liberty High lost five in a row following its 5-0 start but got back on track with a 27-point win at Keokuk in its regular season finale.
The Lightning will host the winner of Monday’s opening-round contest between Davenport North (12-5) and Davenport Central (5-10) in the semifinals on Friday.
Davenport North won the regular season meeting over Central 59-58 and has won six in a row after a 6-5 start.
Top-seeded Pleasant Valley (17-3) has won 16 of its last 17 with its only loss coming in that stretch to Davenport North.
Top-seeded Solon Seeking State Return
An impressive regular season run netted fourth-ranked Solon (19-2) the top seed in Class 3A, Substate 4.
Yet it seems much of the talk surrounding the bracket is about the Spartans’ potential opponents.
Second-ranked Monticello (19-0) is unbeaten but yet to play a 3A opponent this season and faces a potential semifinal matchup with Central DeWitt (11-10) which has a win over Solon in the season opener and seven losses to Class 4A opponents.
In what could be a wild and entertaining bracket it was the steadiness of the Spartans during the regular season that stood out.
Solon won 16 in a row after a five-point loss to Central DeWitt in its opener and closed the regular season with three consecutive wins following a 13-point road loss at Mount Vernon.
With the top seed Solon has home court advantage to the substate final which is important for a team that is unbeaten at home this season and has won 13 in a row at home.
Solon hosts South Tama (1-16) on Monday and would get the winner of Maquoketa (7-13) and West Delaware (10-11) in a semifinal on Thursday.
The Spartans are 4-0 against Maquoketa and West Delaware this season.
Solon is seeking its first trip to the state tournament since 2016 when it qualified at 10-14 and lost to Chariton in the opening round.
Redemption Road for Clear Creek Amana
With five losses this season Clear Creek Amana doesn’t have all that many opportunities to avenge regular season setbacks.
In order to return to the state tournament for the second consecutive season the Clippers will likely need to reverse the outcome of a pair of regular season meetings with substate opponents.
Clear Creek Amana (17-5) hosts Grinnell (8-13) in a Class 3A, Substate 6 quarterfinal and will likely go on the road to face Washington (14-6) in a semifinal on Thursday.
Those two teams accounted for nearly half of the Clippers’ regular season losses with Grinnell winning in Tiffin 65-62 on December 10 and Washington earning a 64-58 win on February 6.
Clear Creek Amana closed the regular season with three consecutive wins and will attempt to carry that momentum into another postseason run after winning four consecutive postseason games a year ago on its way to the 3A state semifinals.
Grinnell is led by 6-foot-8 senior Owen Coffman at 12.7 points per game and he had a game-high 19 points in an overtime win at Clear Creek Amana in December.