New venue, familiar foe.
That’s the situation facing top-ranked City High (23-0) today when the Little Hawks open Class 5A state tournament play against Mississippi Valley Conference rival Cedar Rapids Kennedy (16-7) at 5 p.m. at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.
Today’s state quarterfinal is a rematch of a MVC regular season tilt that City High won 67-44 on Jan. 24 in Cedar Rapids.
“It kind of goes both ways. It’s an advantage because we have played them before so we do know them, but it’s also a disadvantage, too, because they can always surprise you,” City High senior Haley Lorenzen said of playing a team twice. “It also gives us confidence to know that we have handled this team before and we can do it again, but they are a good team so we can’t come out and lay an egg.”
Cedar Rapids Kennedy opened the season 11-2 and climbed as high as seventh in the Class 5A ratings.
The Cougars have gone 5-5 since their hot start and dropped their final three games of the regular season before winning back-to-back postseason games to reach the state tournament for the first time since 2010.
“We know how dangerous Kennedy is,” City coach Bill McTaggart said. “They were picked to win our conference, and as far as talent goes, for five girls they are as good as anyone.”
Kennedy’s seven losses are the most of any team in the Class 5A field but that doesn’t mean much to McTaggart, who has seen the Cougars plenty during his time at City High.
Today’s game will be the fifth game between the two schools since the 2011-2012 season.
City has won the past two meetings, with Kennedy’s last win a 70-66 victory in 2012 in Cedar Rapids.
“We tell our girls the other games mean nothing now,” McTaggart said. “Watching them on tape, they look really, really good at times.”
Kennedy is as balanced as any team in the Class 5A field.
The Cougars have three players averaging between 11 and 11.6 points per game, and all five Kennedy starters score at least 7.2 points per game.
Senior Morgan Martin, at 6-foot-1, leads Kennedy with 11.6 points and 8.8 rebounds per game, while Paige Hendrickson averages 11.3 points per game and Stephanie Botkin adds 11 points per game.
“Talent-wise they don’t have any weaknesses. which makes it scary,” McTaggart said. “If they get it all together for three games, they could win it all.”
City is making its second state tournament appearance in the past three years and is seeking its first state title since 2008.
The Little Hawks first must get by a Kennedy team that McTaggart said beat his team several times at tournaments last summer.
“They did beat us in the summer and that is something that we keep in mind,” Lorenzen said. “We know they can upset us if they really want to, but the thing is, we aren’t going to let them.”