In just two weeks, we’ll be in the throes of district competition around Iowa. Two weeks after that, the 32 boys’ basketball teams left standing will be at the Well for the state tournament.
A lot of basketball will be played in the three weeks prior to state. It will be fun. It will be intense. Stories will emerge, and they will be great.
We’ll do our best to keep an eye on everything. Here, we offer our final 10 midweek thoughts that recap the early-week action and look ahead to the weekend.
1. Oskaloosa’s Foster transitioning well
Superstar Xavier Foster — you know, the one who garnered offers from Iowa and Iowa State before even playing a minute of high school basketball — is nearing the end of his first varsity regular season. So far, he’s done well.
The scoring hasn’t exactly popped off the page, as the 6-foot-10 freshman is averaging just seven points per game heading into Friday’s home matchup against Indianola. His highest scoring output of the season is just 12 points (which he’s done twice).
But that doesn’t mean he hasn’t been effective. Foster, who has come off the bench all season, is a proven defensive force. He has blocked 72 shots — 72! — which ranks fourth in the state. That’s more than all but five teams in Class 3A.
“He’s been good for us,” Oskaloosa coach Ryan Parker said. “People will see he’s only averaging this or this, but he does so much for us that doesn’t show up in the box score. He’s a freshman. He’s 14 years old.”
Foster’s addition has helped Oskaloosa to a 10-8 record this season. One more win in the final three games would secure the Indians’ first winning record in the regular season since the 2010-11 season, when they went 13-9.
2. Boone wins first conference title in 60 years
The Boone boys’ basketball team beat Perry on Tuesday night, 50-49. In doing so, the Toreadors clinched the outright Raccoon River Conference title, their first conference championship in 60 years.
Back in 1956-57, Boone was a member of the Central Iowa Conference, and split that season’s crown with Marshalltown and Grinnell. This season, the Toreadors, at 13-5 overall, hold a three-game lead in the RRC with just one more conference game to play.
This season was a welcomed change of pace for Boone, a team that’s struggled in recent years. It’s last winning season came during the 1995-96 season, when the Toreadors went 13-7. They’ve averaged nearly 16 losses per year in the seasons that followed.
This year looked to be the same after Boone started 1-3. But it followed with wins in 12 of its next 14 games, paving the way for a league title. Three players are averaging double figures for the Toreadors, who received votes in the latest Class 3A AP Poll.
Boone was paired into Substate 2, along with Ballard, Gilbert, Dallas Center-Grimes, Greene County, Humboldt, Perry and Webster City. The Toreadors haven’t reached the state tournament since 1963.
3. CIML teams dominate latest 4A rankings
Four teams from the CIML were among those ranked in the latest Class 4A AP Poll, which led all leagues. The Mississippi Valley Conference added three more while the Missouri River (2) and Mississippi Athletic Conferences (1) made up the rest.
At No. 2, Waukee was tabbed as the highest-ranked team. Valley checked in at No. 5, while Hoover and Dowling followed at No. 7 and No. 10, respectively.
Out of the Mississippi Valley Conference came top-ranked Iowa City West, No. 3 Dubuque Senior and No. 6 Dubuque, Hempstead.
Full 4A Poll: 1. Iowa City West, 2. Waukee, 3. Dubuque Senior, 4. Sioux City East, 5. Valley, West Des Moines, 6. Dubuque, Hempstead, 7. Des Moines Hoover, 8. Council Bluffs Lincoln, 9. Bettendorf, 10. Dowling Catholic.
We appreciate good offenses here, so let’s take a moment to recognize some stellar 3-point shooting performances from earlier this week.
— Lone Tree’s Trey Pierson went 4-of-5 from deep for all 12 of his points in Tuesday’s 71-31 win over Winfield-Mt. Union.
— Dowling’s Sam Olson went 5-of-6 from three and 7-of-8 overall in a 21-point outing on Tuesday, helping the Maroons beat Southeast Polk, 64-47.
— Rhett Darland of Clarion-Goldfield-Dows scored 26 points on 6-of-12 from deep in a 65-55 win over Humboldt last Friday night.
— Mason City’s Kyle Lang went off last Saturday against Ankeny. The senior dropped 41 points on 15-of-17 shooting — he went 8-for-8 from deep! — in an 86-74 road victory.
5. Let’s talk about Grinnell’s Cade McKnight
Cade McKnight has been balling this season. The 6-foot-9 senior is putting up 21.2 points per game on 64.4 percent shooting, the driving force behind an offense that ranks among the top 10 in Class 3A.
He does more than just score, too. Prior to Thursday night’s game against Knoxville, McKnight was the only player in 3A to average at least 20 points (on at least 60 percent shooting) and 8 rebounds per game while also blocking 25 total shots.
To put it simply: The guy is effective, and a big reason why Grinnell, even at 9-9 prior to Thursday’s tip, is one of the most fun teams to watch in Iowa this season. The Tigers host Norwalk on Friday night.
6. Six good stat lines
— Trenton Hillbrands dropped 32 points on 14-of-21 shooting while also grabbed seven rebounds and three steals in LeMars’ 68-59 win over Sioux Center last Saturday.
— Spencer Lamb went nuclear last Friday against Southeast Warren. The Nodaway Valley sophomore scored 35 points on 12-of-20 shooting and also grabbed 17 rebounds in a 75-47 win.
— Bedford’s Joel King scored 26 and hauled in 15 rebounds in a 76-64 win over Nodaway Valley on Tuesday night.
— Dylan Hundley of Camanche went for 15 points and 16 rebounds in a 71-53 win over North Cedar of Stanwood on Tuesday night.
— Austin Roetman of Pocahontas Area put up 31 points, nine boards, two assists and four blocks in an 87-70 win over Manson Northwest Webster on Tuesday.
— Ankeny’s Drew Maschoff scored 28 points on 10-of-16 shooting while dishing out six assists and grabbing seven steals in the Hawks’ 68-55 win over Roosevelt on Tuesday.
7. Freshman scoring leaders
The vast majority of the state’s top-30 scorers are, predictably, juniors and seniors — the two outliers being sophomores Tyreke Locure of Des Moines North and Jake Hilmer of North Linn. It takes a while before a freshman pops up on the list, but there are plenty up and coming.
Bedford’s Brennan Sefrit leads all freshmen at 18.8 points per game. Newell-Fonda’s Bryce Coppock is next, at 16.1. Zack Lasek of Highland (Riverside) follows at 14.9, then comes Camanche’s Cameron Soenksen and West Sioux’s Hunter Dekkers, both at 14.1.
A slew of other freshmen average double-digit points per game — Bishop Garrigan’s Cade Winkel (13.7), Norwalk’s Bown Born (13.6), West Marshall’s Peyton Pope (13.3), Madrid’s Braden Gibbons (13), and Winterset’s Easton Darling and Calvin Harris of Western Dubuque, Epworth (both at 12.8).
As this season winds down, these will be some names (though not the definitive list, of course) to watch in the coming years. This is the future, and if they’re already putting up at least 12.8 points per game as freshmen, they could be even better over the next three seasons.
8. Three CIML games to watch on Friday
Fort Dodge (11-6) at Johnston (13-5), 7:45 p.m. The Dragons need a win to keep pace with Dowling in the Iowa Conference.
Valley, W.D.M. (14-4) at Ankeny (8-9), 7:45 p.m. The Hawks have played well at home this season. Could they bump off Valley on Friday?
Ankeny Centennial (10-8) at Waukee (16-3), 7:45 p.m. The first Centennial-Waukee matchup came down to the wire. Could happen again Friday.
9. Three other matchups to watch
Pella (18-2) at Dallas Center-Grimes (12-6), 7:30 p.m. The Dutch won a close one back in January.
Dubuque Hempstead (15-3) at Dubuque Senior (15-3), 7:45 p.m. Senior won the first matchup handily. Can Hempstead get revenge?
Bettendorf (14-4) at Muscatine (11-6), 7:30 p.m. The state’s third-best defense takes on a Muscatine team that’s scoring 67 points per game.
10. Parting shot
Valley’s Quinton Curry returned this week. He played a small role in the Tigers’ 67-57 win over Urbandale on Tuesday, scoring just five points. But his play will be interesting to watch as we enter the final stretch of the regular season.
Curry, of course, scored 14 points a game last season, helping Valley to a 23-3 record and the Class 4A state title. He put up 16 in the championship game against Iowa City West, shooting 6-of-7 while also grabbing nine boards. He’s a good player.
But the senior hadn’t played at all this year prior to Tuesday because of an injury from last summer. Coach B.J. Windhorst said at the beginning of the season that he expected Curry back around this time. The Tigers play at Ankeny on Friday.
What will be interesting to see is what Curry adds to an already competent Valley team. The Tigers went 14-4 without him, losing only to Hoover, North and Waukee (twice), and were paired with the Huskies in Class 4A’s Substate 8.
Can Curry help Valley get back to state? Will his added presence be enough for the Tigers to make a late postseason run? It’s just too early to know. There’s no question that the late-season acquisition of an all-conference player is huge, but just how huge? We’ll have to watch and find out.
Cody Goodwin covers high school sports, college basketball recruiting and Drake athletics for the Des Moines Register. Reach him at (816) 582-0633, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or send him a tweet at @codygoodwin.