Your Prep Sports
Liberty High is coming off arguably the biggest win in the four-year history of its program.
The Lightning locked up its first winning season and earned its first ever trip to a substate championship with a 58-50 win over Davenport North in the Class 4A, Substate 6 semifinal on Friday.
If Liberty High (7-5) can knock off fifth-ranked Pleasant Valley (18-3) in its next game there will no longer be any debate about the biggest win in program history.
Liberty High will be seeking its first ever trip to the state tournament on Tuesday when it faces the Spartans in the Substate 6 title game on Tuesday at 7 p.m. at Bettendorf High School.
Here is a quick look at what to expect when Liberty High and Pleasant Valley tip things up on Tuesday.
Class 4A, Substate 6
Liberty High (7-5) vs. No. 5 Pleasant Valley (18-3)
When: Tuesday, 7 p.m.
Where: Bettendorf High School
Top Players: Liberty High – Kelby Telander, 6-5, Sr., 14.8 points, 7.1 rebounds; Ethan O’Donnell, 6-5, Sr., 10.2 points, 5.3 rebounds, 3.4 assists. Pleasant Valley – Jacob Townsend, 6-4, Sr., 12.3 points, 5.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists; Ryan Dolpin, 5-8, Jr., 10.7 points, 3.3 assists, 1.3 steals.
About the Spartans: Pleasant Valley is back in a substate final for the second consecutive season and is seeking its first state tournament trip since the second of back-to-back appearances in 2016.
The Spartans snapped a string of three consecutive substate semifinal losses last season but couldn’t get past West High in the substate final.
It is again an Iowa City area school that stands in the way of a trip to Wells Fargo Arena as the Spartans face Liberty High for the first time.
Pleasant Valley enters the substate final riding an eight-game winning streak and one of the hottest teams in Class 4A.
The Spartans started the season 1-2 after back-to-back losses at North Scott and Assumption but have won 17 of 18 since with the lone loss coming by three points to Davenport North on January 29.
Pleasant Valley edged rival Bettendorf 21-19 in a substate semifinal on Friday outscoring 7-3 in the fourth quarter to erase a two-point deficit.
Senior Jacob Townsend leads the Spartans in scoring at 12.3 points per game while junior guard Ryan Dolphin averages 10.7.
Senior Joey Borbeck averages 6.3 points and 4.5 rebounds and 6-foot-4 senior CJ Ragins adds 5.1 points and a team-high 5.4 rebounds per game.
About the Lightning: Liberty High is wading into uncharted waters on Tuesday thanks to arguably the biggest win in program history last Friday.
The Lightning will make their first ever substate final appearance after a come-from-behind 58-50 win over Davenport North in the Substate 6 semifinal.
Liberty High won its first ever postseason game last season, an opening-round win over Clinton, before a three-point loss at Dubuque Hempstead in the substate semifinals.
This season the Lightning took it a step farther, exploding for 26 fourth-quarter points in the win over Davenport North (13-6) to move one win away from the first state tournament berth in just the fourth year of the program.
It has been a roller coaster of a season for Liberty High which has been paused twice over Covid-19 concerns.
Liberty High opened the season 5-0 before dropping its next five games with losses to top-10 teams Cedar Falls and Dubuque Hempstead in that stretch.
The Lightning closed the regular season with a 63-36 win at Keokuk before its eight-point win over Davenport North in the substate semifinals.
Liberty High a veteran group with five senior starters that all average at least 7.1 points per game.
Senior forward Kelby Telander leads the way with 14.8 points and 7.1 rebounds per game while Ethan O’Donnell averages 10.8 points and 5.3 rebounds and Ira Hazeltine is averaging 10.8 points while shooting 41 percent from 3-point range.
Basil Aldoss averages 8.5 points and Grayson Tyler adds 7.1 points per game for the Lightning.
What to Watch: Two teams that play distinctively different styles will meet in a chess match of a substate final where establishing tempo will be almost as big as the battle on the scoreboard.
Pleasant Valley has long been considered among the top defensive teams in the state and this season has been no exception as the Spartans are holding opponents to a state-low 33.5 points per game.
The Spartans have allowed more than 40 points in a game just four times this season and have allowed an opponent to reach the 40-point mark just one time in the past 16 games.
Pleasant Valley hasn’t allowed more than 25 points in any of previous three games and is holding opponents to 31.5 points per game during its current eight-game winning streak.
Liberty High on the other hand wants to get out and run.
The Lightning rank 10th in Class 4A in scoring at 61.4 points per game and are 6-2 when they score more than 55 points in a game.
Liberty High was effective in its half-court offense against Davenport North shooting 51 percent from the field.
The Lightning will likely need to be similarly efficient against a Pleasant Valley team that doesn’t allow many easy baskets.