Over three months of regular season action has come down to postseason play and four local teams are set to begin regional action this week.
In the Class 1A-Region 4 bracket set to tip off Thursday at 7 p.m., Lone Tree (11-9 regular season record) will play host to Hillcrest Academy (2-18) and Highland (6-16) will play at Winfield-Mount Union (11-10). The winner of the Lone Tree-Hillcrest Academy tilt will play in the regional quarterfinals Tuesday against the winner of Holy Trinity Catholic-New London. The Highland-Winfield-Mount Union winner will play Tuesday against the Burlington Notre Dame-WACO victor.
In the Class 3A-Region 6 bracket set to begin Saturday at 5 p.m., Mid-Prairie (7-13) will be at West Liberty (16-4) for a regional quarterfinal matchup with the winner advancing to the semifinals Wednesday against the winner of Williamsburg-Benton.
Lone Tree and Hillcrest Academy will be squaring off for the third time this season. The previous two meetings resulted in Lions victories, 62-31 in Lone Tree in December and 46-16 in Kalona in January.
Despite those lopsided regular season victories, there is still cause for concern for Lone Tree.
“It’s always very difficult to beat a conference foe three times in one season, especially since Hillcrest is very tough and has two players (Yani Gutierrez and Esther Hughes) who can score on any possession from anywhere on the floor,” said Lone Tree head coach Ryan Shelman.
Shelman feels his squad is beginning to click at the right time of the season going into postseason action. Holley Johnson leads the team in scoring at 13.6 points per game and has done a nice job with Madeline Jacque of sharing point-guard responsibilities.
Highland and Winfield-Mount Union will meet for the third time this season as well. Winfield took both meetings each by double-digit margins, 43-25 at Winfield in December and 45-30 in Riverside in January.
Highland head coach Jody Fink feels that can compete with Winfield as long as the Huskies play their game.
“Their size plays a factor and how we are able to deal with that is by controlling the rebounding and second-chance opportunities,” he said. “The game will be decided within the paint.”
Mid-Prairie fell twice to West Liberty during the regular season by close margins of 63-61 in Wellman in early December and 39-33 at West Liberty in mid-January.
Mid-Prairie head coach Danny Hershberger feels his team is ready for the postseason challenge.
“Both us and West Liberty are very familiar with each other,” he said. “We are excited for the challenge to start postseason play.”