Regals hold off Mid-Prairie
IOWA CITY — Trailing Iowa City Regina — a team that his squad had lost two regular-season games to by a total of five points — by 22 at halftime of Tuesday’s Class 2A District 10 quarterfinal, Mid-Prairie head coach Chris Kern tried to light a fire under his players.
“In the first half we were flat, and Coach Kern got on us to play our tails off and play like there’s no tomorrow,” Mid-Prairie senior David Aldeman said.
The Golden Hawks mounted a furious rally in the third quarter, out-scoring the hosts 18-4 in the period. Mid-Prairie trimmed the lead to seven early in the fourth quarter, but the Regals pulled away late for a 62-44 win.
“I just think we didn’t have enough gas,” Kern said. “We had dug too big of a hole.”
Mid-Prairie forced 11 Regina turnovers in the third quarter, turning steals into easy layups at the other end.
“They picked up their defense,” Regina head coach Randy Larson said. “They reached around from behind and got some steals. Our guys were a little slow to realize that they were going to be more aggressive like that, both in shooting the ball and their defensive aggressiveness.”
After Mid-Prairie cut the Regals’ lead to eight going into the fourth quarter, Larson put Nathan Stenger, his freshman point guard who had dislocated a finger in the first half, back into the game.
“We just needed him,” Larson said. “Not just because he’s our best ball handler and our leader, but because psychologically you start doubting and guessing yourself a little bit. He wanted to start the second half, but I just thought, ‘We’ll see. It’s a 22-point game. We’ll see what happens.’ But then it looked like we needed him, and we did.”
Aldeman got a steal and made one of two free throws to start the fourth quarter and trim the lead to seven.
“I thought we had them in the third quarter,” Aldeman said. “We could feel them slipping.”
But after Mid-Prairie got within seven, Regina senior Michael Donovan answered with a 3-pointer. Sophomore Drew Cook added a layup, and then Stenger — bad finger and all — hit a 15-foot jumper to push the Regals’ lead back to 14.
“When we stopped making tunovers, good things happened,” Cook said.
Mid-Prairie junior Nathan Faselt scored a layup and then Aldeman came up with a steal and fed it ahead to junior Dayton Hall for a layup that pulled the Golden Hawks within 10. But Cook answered with a layup, and then Regina senior John Ries made three straight 3-pointers to put the Regals up 58-40 with just a minute and a half remaining in the game.
“That really put the nail in the coffin when he hit those,” Kern said of Ries. “He was unconscious there for a while.”
Hall scored 16 points — 14 in the second half — to lead the Golden Hawks. Aldeman added seven points, all of which came after halftime.
Mid-Prairie finishes its season with a record of 9-13, four more wins than the Golden Hawks totaled last season. And the squad will lose just three seniors to graduation.
“I appreciate all three of these seniors — David Aldeman, Ryan Hoffman and Elliot Runciman — and all they’ve done for the program,” Kern said. “I thought we took a step this year from where we were last year. We were in most games. We’ve got a nice nucleus coming back this year. The potential’s there. Now we’ve got to go to that next step. A lot of that starts, as far as I’m concerned, tomorrow. I think these guys can be as good as they want to be, but they can’t put the ball away until November. It’s going to take a lot of work.”
Mid-Prairie had an up-and-down season this year, and the first half of Tuesday’s game reflected that. The Golden Hawks missed their first six shots as the Regals jumped out to a 14-3 lead, and Mid-Prairie went just 5-for-25 from the field in the game’s first 16 minutes.
“Again, [we missed] layups and nice little shots inside, shots that you would think would go,” Kern said.
Regina led 20-5 after one quarter of play.
“We had a great week of preparation getting ready for Mid-Prairie’s offense,” Cook said. “We came out ready to go and we played extremely well. Everything was clicking offensively.”
Especially for Cook, who had a double-double in the first half. He totaled 21 points and 11 rebounds before the break to single-handedly out-score and out-rebound the Golden Hawks in the game’s first 16 minutes.
“They couldn’t guard him inside or out,” Larson said. “And he just seemed like he was in the flow from the beginning.”
The Golden Hawks did a better job of defending Cook in the second half, and the 6-foot-5 sophomore finished with 27 points, 16 rebounds, three blocks and two assists. But the damage had been done, as the Regals led by 22 at the break.
“We really challenged them at halftime,” Kern said. “I said, ‘We can either pack it up now and go home, or we can come out and play.’ I think you saw the toughness in our kids. We came out and got it down to eight. I thought that they started to come on a little bit in that second quarter, but the third quarter was huge.”
Regina, which started the season 2-6, has now won 10 of its last 14 games and advances to Thursday’s district semifinal at West Branch.
“I told them, ‘This season has been all about new things. No returning starters. Nobody who had played very many minutes. Nobody who had played more than two quarters in a game. Here’s a new one for you. You had a great team down 22 at half, you paid the price for never being there before, and then you rallied and got the job done.’ It was a good learning experience, and we’re looking forward to Thursday,” Larson said.