#1 seed: Grand View Christian (24-0)About the Thunder: The Thunder have been absolutely dominant this season, winning games by an average of 33.1 points a game, and that’s while beefing up the schedule substantially. They played nine teams that were…
#1 seed: Grand View Christian (24-0)
About the Thunder: The Thunder have been absolutely dominant this season, winning games by an average of 33.1 points a game, and that’s while beefing up the schedule substantially. They played nine teams that were playing in substate finals, across all four classes, and won those games by an average score of 76-52. They overwhelm teams with their size, going 7-0, 6-9, 6-5 across the frontline, and their speed, with guards 920.7, 8.3 assists, 39.9 3P%) and (16.7, 40.3 3P%) leading the team in scoring. Both are good perimeter shooting threats who can create their own looks, and Sanderson has been one of the best passers in the state this season. The aforementioned frontcourt of (13.0, 13.1 rebounds, 4.2 blocks), (13.0, 10.2 rebounds), and (10.9, 9.0 rebounds) is dominant on the glass and defensively, making it nearly impossible for opposing teams to score in the paint. You’ll need to either attack Tobiloba and get him into foul trouble, or hope that you can knock down a bunch of 3s if you want to keep pace with this juggernaut.
Why they can win it all: They’ve been dominant all year against a schedule that was really beefed up. Their size overwhelms teams, and their speed and guard play has been really strong all year. This is the team to beat.
#2 seed: North Linn (24-0)
About the Lynx: The defending state champions have been the preeminent program in small-school basketball over the last decade, going 206-7 in their last 213 games. This is a program that just flat out wins games, and does so playing the right way. A team that flies all over the floor defensively, forcing a bevy of turnovers that turn into quick, easy offense, they’re allowing just 37.0 points a game, best in 1A. (16.9, 8.1 rebounds) is the team’s leading scorer and rebounder, a versatile 6-5 wing who can score inside, stretch the floor, and protect the rim as a shot blocker. (16.3, 5.6 assists) was the captain of the all-tournament team last year, another versatile weapon who impacts the game with his length and athleticism, and he has really improved as a playmaker. (14.8, 45.6 3P%), (14.8, 41.0 3P%), and (8.4, 43.4 3P%) are all capable ball-handlers and playmakers, and each are outstanding shooters. This is a group that doesn’t care who scores (22.9 assists a game), values possessions (3.2 assist-to-turnover ratio), forces a ton of turnovers (14.3 steals a game, plus a ton of dead-ball turnovers), and is experienced.
Why they can win it all: The only team in small-school basketball that has given Grand View Christian much resistance in the last few years is North Linn, as their pressure and attacking style can flumox the Thunder. This group just knows how to win, plays outstanding defense, is balanced, and has one of the best coaches in the state in Mike Hilmer.
#3 seed: Gladbrook-Reinbeck (23-2)
About the Rebels: (26.5, 8.0 rebounds, 8.1 assists) is a triple-double threat every time he steps on the floor for Gladbrook-Reinbeck. A 6-4 point guard with tremendous court vision, instincts, and a high IQ, he’s a versatile three-level scorer who can obviously score in bunches, but he’s also capable of dominating games when he isn’t scoring with his passing and ability to create chaos on the defensive end with his length. Last year, he was a player who could pretty much only beat you if he was getting to the rim, but he put in a ton of work on his jumper, and the results have been excellent, shooting nearly 37% from behind the arc and arming himself with a deadly mid-range game. The Rebels are able to put two really good shooters next to Kiburis in the backcourt in (13.7, 41.1 3P%) and (11.2, 39.2 3P%), helping space the floor for him, and Drew Eilers (7.5, 8.2 rebounds) has given them some needed physicality in the paint.
Why they can win it all: The Rebels have the single most dangerous offensive weapon in the field on their side in. His play style is different than that of former Rebel star Joe Smoldt, who carried them to a state title, but he’s capable of dominating games in a way that Smoldt did, and carrying this group to a title.
#4 seed: West Harrison (23-1)
About the Hawkeyes: This group got a taste of the state tournament last year and has been dominant in their efforts to get back to Des Moines, winning games by an average of 30.3 points a game behind a dominant defense that is giving up just 39.1 points a night. Their only loss this season came against 2A powerhouse Western Christian back in December, and they’ve won 19 straight games heading into their quarterfinal tilt. This is a senior-heavy team, with five seniors making up the top six scorers, led by their “Big Three” of (16.5, 9.3 rebounds, 3.1 blocks), (15.1, 16.2 rebounds, 5.1 assists), and (14.4, 47.2 3P%). is a matchup problem at 6-6 with his ability to stretch the floor (46.9 3P%), post up smaller defenders, and protect the rim. is a physical, undersized, forward with a non-stop motor who absolutely dominates on the offensive glass (7.1 a game), and King is an elite shooter off the catch who moves really well without the ball in his hands. The Hawkeyes are able to put a few other reliable shooters alongside that trio, shooting 38.3% from behind the arc as a team this season.
Why they can win it all:is the type of player who can create some major matchup problems at this level, and is the type of player who isn’t going to be denied. This team shoots it as well from deep as any team in the field and if they get hot for three games, they could make some history.
#5 seed: Dunkerton (24-1)
About the Raiders: Point guard (19.2, 9.6 assists) paces a potent offensive attack that is averaging 80.7 points a game. Gardner leads the state in assists per game, and would be the overall assist leader if he hadn’t missed a handful of games with a shoulder injury. A high IQ guard with outstanding handles and court vision, he’s constantly looking to push the pace and get his teammates involved, but he has also really improved as a halfcourt playmaker over the last few years. (25.8, 11.8 rebounds) is a physical, athletic combo forward who does a majority of his damage around the bucket, either by running the floor in transition or showing his improved handle to bully his way to the rim. (13.7, 34.1 3P%) has had an up-and-down sophomore season as a shooter, but when he gets it going, he can fill it up in a hurry. The Gardner-Gillespie tandem is one of the best in the class, and this is a team that plays good halfcourt defense when the game slows down.
Why they can win it all: Gardner is an outstanding lead guard who puts constant pressure on opposing defenses with his ability to beat them from deep or get others involved, and Gillespie is the type of slashing forward who could potentially get Tobiloba in foul trouble if they met up in the semifinals.
#6 seed: Remsen, St. Mary’s (22-2)
About the Hawks: This is the seventh straight trip to the state tournament for the Hawks, so the coaching staff and players all have plenty of experience playing at Wells Fargo. As has been the case with every St. Mary’s team during this run, this is a really good defensive team that is allowing just 42.1 points a game. They’ve lost just once, to 2A state-qualifier Western Christian, in their last 17 games, so they come in playing really good basketball on both ends of the floor. They’re led by senior wing (15.5, 5.3 assists), who leads the team in scoring and assists. He has been a four-year varsity contributor and has a ton of experience playing in Des Moines. (14.6, 7.8 rebounds) has given them some size and interior scoring, and this is a team that is rarely going to hurt themselves. They’re a disciplined group on both ends of the floor that limits turnovers, plays tough defense, and has good balance offensively.
Why they can win it all: This group is among the most experienced in the field, and they play outstanding defense. They’re not an explosive offensive team, but games tend to slow down the deeper into the postseason we get, and they’re comfortable playing at a more deliberate pace.
#7 seed: Madrid (22-2)
About the Tigers: The Tigers qualified for their first state tournament with an impressive run through postseason play, with just one game decided by single digits (an 8-point win over Mount Ayr in the district final). They enter the tournament riding a 19-game winning streak, with their last loss coming way back on December 13. Sophomore wing (20.8) paces the offensive attack, a high-scoring, high-IQ wing who can score from all three levels. He has good size at 6-4, handles it well, and doesn’t force anything. Older brother (13.4, 45.2 3P%), and sophomores Brody Buck (10.8, 37.4 3P%) and Fabian Ortiz-Alaniz (10.3, 32.6 3P%), are good perimeter shooting threats who help stretch the floor. This is a group that can score in bunches, and they share the ball well (18.0 assists a game). , a 6-7 rim protector, is the focal point of the defense, blocking over 6 shots a game, and his presence in the paint is a game-changer on that end of the floor. If he’s able to stay out of foul trouble, he can essentially eliminate the painted area for opposing teams.
Why they can win it all: In Newell, they have a game-changing defender, which has proven to be an extremely valuable commodity over the last several years at the state tournament. And in Severson, they have a dominant scorer who can take over games in the blink of an eye. This is a team deep with scoring threats, and that balance is something that few teams in the class have.
#8 seed: New London (19-6)
About the Tigers: New London comes into the tournament having won seven straight games, including a pair of one-point wins in the postseason against WACO and Marquette Catholic. The Tigers are led by two of the best players in the class – senior point guard (25.0, 8.4 rebounds, 4.6 assists) and forward (19.6, 8.7 rebounds, 3.7 blocks). Porter is a lightning-quick guard who can get to the rim seemingly at will, get others involved, and has a lethal mid-range game. He’s headed to play his college ball at Truman State. Benjamin is a fantastic athlete at 6-6 who is headed to high jump at Oklahoma State, and he has been one of the best rim protectors in the state over the last few years. A bouncy forward with great timing who stays out of foul trouble, he’s also a rim-runner who finishes above the rim with authority in transition, and he has good footwork and touch around the bucket. Brendan Richey (8.4, 36.3 3P%), Leo Gebauer (8.2), and Rylan Martin (6.2, 34.1 3P%) round out the starting five, and this is a group that rarely goes to their bench, so foul trouble would be a major issue for them. Their strength of schedule does rank fifth in the class, and second among state-qualifying teams (behind just Grand View Christian), according to BC Moore’s power rankings system, so they have been in battles all year and won’t be intimidated by anyone.
Why they can win it all: The Tigers have star power in Porter and Benjamin. Guard play wins at the state tournament, and in, they have one of the best in the state. He’s the type of player who can get hot and carry his team for long stretches as a scorer and playmaker.
Quarterfinals: Grand View Christian, Dunkerton, North Linn, Gladbrook-Reinbeck
Semifinals: Grand View Christian, North Linn
Champion: North Linn