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Thursday, March 23, 2017
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Metro Sports Report

KCC men fall short in regional final

CRESTON — Falling into a 7-0 hole in the opening two minutes left 15th-ranked Kirkwood playing from behind the entire afternoon Saturday at top-ranked Southwestern for the Region XI men's basketball championship.

The Eagles battled back twice within two points in the first half and closed it to a single point (70-69) with 8:25 to play, but the Spartans hung on for a 98-90 victory.

The defending national champion Eagles ended their season at 25-7. Southwestern (32-1) advances to the NJCAA Division II national tournament March 21-25 in Danville, Ill. The Spartans' only loss of the season was a 78-75 setback at Kirkwood on Jan. 11.

Southwestern stretched its early lead to 20-8 before the Eagles went on an 8-0 run to close it to 20-16. Kirkwood coach Bryan Petersen said the slow start made it too much of an uphill battle.

"Our kids battled back to get within striking distance several times, but we just didn't have enough to get over the top," Petersen said.

A highlight for the Eagles offensively was sophomore Byron Harp of Ankeny. He was 9-of-10 at the free throw line in the first half and finished 19-of-20 at the line while scoring a career-best 35 points.

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Saints slay No. 1 Waverly in OT

DES MOINES - The Xavier Saints never stopped believing in themselves even when they had a disappointing 4-9 record in late January.

Now the Saints firmly believe they can win their second state championship in a row.

The remarkable Saints bumped off top-ranked Waverly-Shell Rock, 47-41, in overtime Thursday night in the semifinals of the Class 3A state tournament at Wells Fargo Arena.

Xavier (15-11) will face Sergeant Bluff-Luton (17-9) in the championship game Saturday at 6:05 p.m.

Xavier and Waverly-Shell Rock slugged it out on defense all night in a low-scoring affair that featured 12 ties and nine lead changes in the 36-minute contest.

The Go-Hawks took a 41-38 lead on their first possession in overtime on a three-point play by All-American Austin Phyfe, but the Saints shut them out the rest of the way and finished the game with a 9-0 run for the gritty victory in Des Moines.

Xavier all-star Matt Mims gave the Saints the lead for good, 42-41, with a huge 3-pointer and the Saints came up with a series of big  defensive stops from there.

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No. 1 KCC women make regional final

You don't win six national championships by settling.

Kim Muhl has coached the Kirkwood women to the pinnacle six times in his 28 years as head coach and his current Eagles' team has the potential to be his best yet.

Kirkwood won for the 32nd time without a loss Thursday night, steamrolling Southwestern, 79-52, in the Region XI tournament semifinal at Johnson Hall.

The win allows the top-ranked Eagles to host Saturday's 1 p.m. tournament final. The opponent will be NIACC (19-12), a 90-80 upset winner over No. 11 DMACC in Thursday's other semifinal.

One would think Muhl would be happy with Thursday's outcome.

Guess again.

The veteran Eagles' coach was disappointed in the play of his bench, which logged more minutes than usual when sophomore center Simone Goods injured her ankle less than two minutes into the game and had to head to the training room for treatment.

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Kirkwood men sink Iowa Lakes

Mental toughness was a key ingredient in Kirkwood's national championship run last March.

That same vibe was evident Thursday night for the Kirkwood men in the Region XI semifinal against Iowa Lakes.

The teams went back and forth for the first 32 minutes as neither led by more than seven points during that span.

However, the final eight minutes belonged to Kirkwood. Paced by a monster night from sophomore Miles Wentzien, the Eagles gradually pulled away for a 97-84 victory at Johnson Hall.

No. 15 Kirkwood (25-6) now faces a monumental challenge in Saturday's 3 p.m. regional final. The Eagles hit the road to meet No. 1 Southwestern (31-1) in Creston.

The Spartans' only loss was a 78-75 setback against Kirkwood on Jan. 11 in Cedar Rapids. They advanced with an easy 94-62 win on Thursday over Ellsworth.

The Eagles had a little payback on their mind Thursday after dropping a 101-73 decision to Iowa Lakes last Saturday in Mason City.

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Saints earn date with No. 1 Waverly

DES MOINES - The Xavier Saints like being the underdog.

They relish it, embrace, thrive on it.

That's good, because the Saints will be big underdogs Thursday night when they face top-ranked Waverly-Shell Rock in the semifinals of the Class 3A state basketball tournament.

The Saints reached the semifinals Tuesday afternoon when they whipped fourth-ranked Mount Pleasant, 59-44, in the opening round at Wells  Fargo Arena in Des Moines.

Xavier (14-11) and Waverly-Shell Rock (23-1) will tangle Thursday at 6:35 p.m.

Waverly-Shell Rock dumped the Saints by 22 points, 76-54, when they met in Waverly in the second game of the season Dec. 3.

"We learned that they're really freaking good," Xavier Coach Ryan  Luehrsmann said when asked about the Go-Hawks. "They've got a big-time player in (Austin) Phyfe and a bunch of tough, competitive kids.

"We're just hoping that we can give them a good game on Thursday night. I think they're playing at a very high level right now."

Phyfe, a 6-foot-10 senior who has signed with Northern Iowa, is averaging 19 points and 13 rebounds for Waverly-Shell Rock and could be a load for Xavier. But the Saints faced an impressive big man last year when they defeated Cordell Pemsl and Dubuque Wahlert in the Class 3A state championship game, so they've been in this spot before.

"We have to send a lot of guys at him and not let him get comfortable and take away what he likes to do most," said Max Techau, a 6-foot-7 senior who will have the primary job of guarding Phyfe.

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