Girls State Basketball: Xavier Topples No. 1 Heelan

By Jeff Linder and Scott Saville, Reporters

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By Grant Burkhardt

This game was televised live on KCRG 9.2, as every game of the girls and boys state basketball tournaments will be.

DES MOINES, Iowa -- A late-night ride home awaited the Xavier Saints.

It was bound to be a happy one.

"It's going to be stupid," senior guard Sarah Dickes said.

That's a good thing.

Kayla Armstrong played the game of her life Thursday night, posting 22 points, seven assists and five steals as fifth-rated Cedar Rapids Xavier knocked off No. 1 Sioux City Heelan, 68-57, in a Class 4A semifinal at the girls state basketball tournament at Wells Fargo Arena.

"Any game can be your last game, and we're not ready to be done just yet," Armstrong said.

Xavier (16-9) will play No. 8 Harlan for the championship at 6 p.m. Saturday. The Cyclones (23-2) tripped No. 2 Waverly-Shell Rock, 41-36, Thursday.

Tom Lilly guided Xavier to state championships in 2003, 2005 and 2007. He has the Saints on the brink of another crown.

"This team has a lot to resemble the 2007 team," he said.

That team took its lumps in the Mississippi Valley Conference, losing nine regular-season games. Ditto this team.

Xavier didn't trail Thursday, running to a 10-2 lead and weathering every surge Heelan (21-4) could muster.

A team that generally thrives in grind-it-out defensive battles, Xavier wasn't afraid to run and gun with the Crusaders. The Saints essentially beat Heelan at its own game.

"Our goal was to push the ball and run the floor and hope that 10 minutes at halftime wasn't enough to let them catch their breath," Armstrong said.

Armstrong, who made 9 of 11 field goal attempts, scored the Saints' first seven points of the second half as Xavier built its largest lead, 39-26. Then, after the Crusaders cut the margin to 53-47 with 3:54 left, Armstrong got a steal and Hayley Deutmeyer scored on an offensive rebound to get the Saints out of trouble.

Deutmeyer added 13 points and nine rebounds. Dickes tallied 11 points, Maddie Bertsch nine.

Xavier brutalized the Crusaders on the boards, amassing a 46-22 rebounding advantage.

Megan McCarthy led Heelan with 16 points. MaKayla Augustine scored 15, Taylor Koolstra 10.

After the postgame interviews, the Saints took their time leaving Wells Fargo as a large contingent of navy- and silver-clad celebrated with them.

A long ride home beckoned.

A fun, "stupid" ride.

"Pitch Perfect, we'll have that on," Armstrong said.

Lilly doesn't sing with the girls. But he has been known to dance on occasion. And now, the Saints are dancing to the finals.

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