Cedar Rapids, Iowa News, Sports, and Weather
CEDAR RAPIDS – It may not have been the toughest test all year, but Class 4A No. 1 Dubuque Senior got all they could handle from No. 10 Cedar Rapids Kennedy in a 70-62 road victory.
Consistent full-court pressure from the Cougars (8-2, 0-1 Mississippi Valley Conference, Mississippi Division) forced 18 Rams (10-0, 4-0) turnovers and made Senior play to Kennedy's style for much of the second half.
"They got us to speed up, and it was just a matter of our guys making good decisions," said Senior Coach Wendell Eimers. "We made some poor decisions. The first half we played Senior basketball, but the second half it was more like Kennedy controlling the pace.
"It was a good game for our guys to go through."
Senior's size – the shortest starter is 6-foot-3 guard Sam Noel – was evident, as it's been all year, and helped the Rams to a 45-19 rebounding margin, including 17 offensive boards.
Kennedy Coach Jon McKowen said there's no real way to game plan against that – though he did say his players were out of position and didn't hold boxouts on several occasions on the defensive glass. He felt the best way to combat the disadvantage on the glass was to force Senior to play faster than it would like.
The strategy very nearly paid off.
"We've forced teams into 15 or 20 turnovers all year because of the speed we have on defense and the way we fly around," McKowen said. "We want to give good ball pressure against everybody, and we wanted to against (Senior), too.
"As we continued to progress through the game and we continued to take advantage of their size and playing down to our level, it worked. That equalizes size pretty fast when you can make them play 30 and 40 feet away from the basket."
Kennedy trailed, 37-21 at halftime, and clawed its way back to within six, at 66-60, with 1:29 left in the game on a clutch 3-pointer from Cole Murdock (10 points, 3 of 9 from 3-point range).
And though Senior was held to just five made field goals in the second half, they sealed the game from the free throw line. The pressure defense from Kennedy swung the free throw margin (Senior took 51 free throws to Kennedy's 18) heavily in Senior's favor.
The Rams were led by senior 6-foot-7 guard Kyle Haber, who had 19 points, 13 of which at the free throw line. The lack of offensive rhythm and scrappy Cougar defense gave Senior a reason to sweat.
"It turned into us shooting free throws; it seemed like we were shooting free throws the whole second half," Eimers said. "And they were dropping in 3's. We throw in some turnovers, and all of a sudden we've got a ball game. But like I said, it was good for our team to through this, and we've got to get better and keep improving."
Ultimately for Kennedy, McKowen said it came down to the Cougars not having its wits about it for the full game. In an emotional matchup of two ranked teams, he said it takes a full game's focus to overcome any disadvantages.
And though there's no consolation for giving the top-ranked team in Class 4A a tough test, McKowen knows if the Cougars can put it all together they'll have something special.
"We didn't control ourselves for 32 minutes. We let ourselves wander a little bit, and that's what we're going to learn from this game," McKowen said. "Our lulls were too long. You can't be a roller coaster (team) to win big games, and we were a roller coaster tonight.
"The way we react to negative things that happen in the game, we just have to keep working on and continue to build on. ... When we fix that, the lulls are going to be gone. That's when you don't become a roller coaster team. That's when you become a team that can go on runs and sustain it."
Read more: http://iowaprepsports.com/2014/01/17/no-10-kennedy-gives-stiff-test-to-no-1-dubuque-senior-in-loss/#ixzz2qiuKn67d