Thursday, March 23, 2017
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Jim Ecker, President & Editor

Metro Sports Report

Wentzien nets 28 as Eagles top NIACC

Kirkwood sophomore Miles Wentzien is a grown man with muscles upon muscles, but nobody makes it through a college basketball season without a few bumps and bruises.

Wentzien missed two games last month after injuring his collarbone and sternum in a game against Ellsworth, but he's relatively healthy now and ready for the stretch run.

Wentzien tossed in 28 points and grabbed six rebounds Wednesday night  as the 12th-ranked Eagles pulled away from NIACC, 81-63, in a conference game at Johnson Hall.

Wentzien was hit in the jaw by an errant elbow Wednesday and needed a few moments to shake it off, but otherwise said he feels good as the season has moved into March.

"I felt pretty close to 100 percent out there tonight," he said. "I'd  say 95 to 100 percent."

That's good news for Kirkwood, which will need all of its players in good health as they try to win a second national title in a row.

Kaliph Fagan, a key member of the bench brigade, did not play against  NIACC after turning his ankle in practice Tuesday, but he plans to play Saturday in the final game of the regular season at Iowa Lakes.


Stanek sparks Saints by No. 3 Grinnell

DES MOINES - Kiana Stanek turned in a Kayla Armstrong performance at the Class 4A girls state basketball tournament Tuesday night.

It left all the Saints jumping for joy.

Stanek popped in a career-best 22 points and also excelled at the defensive end as the sixth-ranked Saints knocked off No. 3 Grinnell, 60-55, in the opening round at Wells Fargo Arena.

Xavier (18-6) will meet North Scott (19-5) in the Class 4A semifinals Friday at 10 a.m.

In case you don't remember, Armstrong was the girl who turned into Super Woman at the 2013 state tournament and led the Saints to the championship with the two best performances of her career.

Stanek still has work to do to match Armstrong, but she got off to a great start Tuesday with five 3-pointers and skin-tight defense against Grinnell star Madeline Wilkins, holding the 3-point artist to  just five points.

Stanek's eyes got bright when a reporter wondered if she knows who Armstrong is and what she did.

"We definitely know who she is," Stanek replied. "She's kind of our inspiration when it comes to state tournaments for Xavier."

Armstrong, known primarly as a mega-soccer star, averaged a modest eight points for the 2012-13 campaign, but she scored a career-best 22 points against Heelan in the semifinals and topped it with 23 points against Harlan in the finals.


Saints march back to state tourney

Ryan "Louie" Luehrsmann had an audacious goal when he became the Xavier boys basketball coach five years ago.

He announced in 2012 that he wanted to see the Saints become a powerhouse in Class 3A basketball and make regular trips to the state tournament in Des Moines.

Mission accomplished.

The Saints earned a spot in the state tournament for the third straight year Monday night with a convincing 58-39 victory over Dubuque Wahlert in the Class 3A substate finals at the U.S. Cellular  Center.

Xavier finished third at the state tournament in 2015 and claimed the 3A state title last year by beating Wahlert in the championship game. Now they're headed  back to Des Moines next week for more.

"To do this three years in a row, it's a great accomplishment for our program," said Luehrsman. "We want to be the Cedar Rapids team that's a constant fixture that's down there regularly, and right now we're turning in the right direction.

"I'm really happy for this group," he said. "We fought through some challenges early in the year, but we stuck together and continued to  believe."

The Saints were a dismal 4-9 in late January, but they caught fire and have won 9 of their last 11 games.


Rima excited about Kirkwood baseball team

Kirkwood baseball coach Todd Rima plans to have three catchers and  three shortstops in his starting line Saturday when the Eagles begin  the season against Johnson County, but don't be alarmed.

It's a sign of strength, not insanity.

Kirkwood is blessed with an abundance of talented catchers and  shortstops who are capable of playing other positions, so this is a  way to strength the overall lineup.

"It allows us to put our nine best offensive guys on the field," Rima  said this week, "and we can do that and still be good on defense.

"We had to move some guys just to make sure we could get all their  bats in the lineup."

Toran Shadidi, who missed last season with an injury after hitting  .342 in 2015, has earned the starting job behind the plate.

Spencer Wiskus, who was a star catcher at Iowa City West, has moved to  first base. And Tyler Bordner, a part-time catcher for Kirkwood last  year and a .354 hitter, has moved to right field.

"I think Shahidi is as good as any catcher in our league," said Rima.  "And Wiskus and Bordner are really good.


Healthy Joens helps Saints top Mount Vernon

MOUNT VERNON - Welcome back, Jackson Joens.

The Xavier Saints were mighty glad to have you on their side again Thursday night when it really counted.

Joens returned to the lineup after missing two games with a concussion and played a key role as Xavier topped seventh-ranked Mount Vernon, 63-55, in the Class 3A district finals at Mount Vernon.

Joens popped in 19 points as the Saints (12-11) earned a spot against Dubuque Wahlert (7-15) in the substate finals Monday night at 6:30 at  the U.S. Cellular Center, with the winner advancing to the Class 3A  state tournament in Des Moines.

Joens suffered a concussion Feb. 14 when the Saints beat Wahlert, 71-52, and was idle for more than a week, but he finally got the green light to play again Wednesday.

"I got cleared yesterday," he said. "I went to our trainer to see if I could play and I was pretty happy, pretty excited.

"They had me do a concussion test. They asked me a bunch of words and a bunch of numbers and stuff."

He got all the answers right, but does not want to go through all of that again. "Not fun," he said.


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