The Regina boys basketball team is slowly earning a solid reputation as a collective escape artist.
Regina’s latest Houdini act against Benton Community on Saturday completed the Regals’ second two-victory sequence in a 24-hour span this season.
After downing West Branch on Friday night, Regina squandered a double-digit first half lead, overcame a late six-point deficit and remained unbeaten on the season with Nathan Stenger’s buzzer-beating 3-pointer.
In December, Regina won at Durant on a Friday and outlasted Northeast 48-43 less than 24 hours later.
This weekend, Regina faces its toughest quick turnaround of the season.
Class 2A second-ranked Regina (8-0) completes a week that features three consecutive River Valley Conference road games with back-to-back games at Tipton on Friday and at No. 7 Monticello (12-1) on Saturday.
“I guess we will find out next week,” Regina coach Stu Ordman said when asked if his team had learned from playing back-to-back games. “We haven’t had a lot of practice time altogether, so we are going to have to learn fast and be very focused in practice.”
With the RVC schedule, back-to-back Friday and Saturday games are common.
Regina has four this season, with the final set coming Jan. 30-31 against North Cedar and Mid-Prairie.
What makes this weekend different is that for the only time this season, Regina faces back-to-back road contests on a weekend.
“It’s a challenge, for sure,” senior Drew Cook said. “We’ve been in that situation before.”
Another situation Regina has seen plenty this season is finding itself in close games in the final minutes.
The 65-62 win over Benton Community was Regina’s fifth game decided by six points or less.
Regina trailed by six points with less than three minutes to play before Stenger’s game-winner finished a late rally.
“We’ve been in a lot of close games this year, and so we feel comfortable in those situations,” Stenger said. “Nobody panicked. Nobody thought we were going to lose.”
• POSTSEASON ASSINGMENTS: Postseason assignments for Class 1A and 2A were released on Monday by the Iowa High School Athletic Association.
Regina will compete in Class 2A’s District 9, along with West Branch, West Liberty, Wilton, Louisa-Muscatine and Durant.
The District 9 will face the winner of District 10, which includes Highland, Central Lee, Columbus, Mediapolis, Burlington Notre Dame and Wapello.
Also in Class 2A, Mid-Prairie will compete in District 11.
In Class 1A, Lone Tree will compete in District 7, while Iowa Mennonite landed in Class 1A District 8.
• MARQUEE MATCHUP: Defending state champions square off Tuesday, as 4A top-ranked West High hosts 3A No. 5 Dubuque Wahlert.
Led by 6-foot-7 Iowa commitment Cordell Pemsl, defending 3A state champion Dubuque Wahlert is 5-4 and has won four of its last five.
Pemsl is averaging 20.6 points and 9.2 rebounds per game this season.
In a 67-64 win over West High in Dubuque last season, Pemsl had 24 points and 11 rebounds.
• RATINGS UPDATE:West High held onto the top spot in Class 4A, while Regina climbed a spot to No. 2 in the latest Class 2A Press boys basketball poll released Monday by the Associated Press.
Regina received three first-place votes in 2A and is behind top-ranked IKM-Manning.
Other top-ranked teams are Waverly-Shell Rock in Class 3A and LeMars Gehlen in Class 1A.
• A LOOK AHEAD: Following its showdown with Wahlert on Tuesday, West High will cap its challenging week with a road test at No. 8 Linn-Mar (7-1) on Friday.
Tuesday features a pair of key WaMaC matchups as Clear Creek Amana (7-3) puts its four-game winning streak on the line at Williamsburg (8-1) and Solon (4-5) hosts long-time rival Mount Vernon (7-3).
• PERFORMANCES OF THE WEEK: Solon junior Streeter McIlravy had 28 points and 10 rebounds in a 93-91 win over Western Dubuque.
West Liberty junior Brady Smith had 18 points and eight rebounds in a 52-43 loss to Durant.
Iowa Mennonite senior Payton Miller had 14 points and 12 rebounds in a 67-61 win over Lone Tree.
Reach Ryan Murken at 319-339-7369 or rmurken@press-citizen and follow him on Twitter at @rmmurken.