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Thursday, December 08, 2016
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Metro Sports Report

Xavier girls push No. 9 Johnston

The people who vote in the girls basketball rankings think Johnston has the No. 9 team in Class 5A as the new season begins.

If those rankings are legitimate, it could be good news for the Xavier Saints once the Class 4A postseason tournament rolls around in February.

The Saints made a couple of serious runs at the ninth-ranked Dragons Saturday before falling short, 47-38, in an early non-conference game at Ron Thillen Gymnasium.

The Saints trailed 27-15 at halftime, but they scored the first nine points of the second half to pull within 27-24 on a basket by Amelia Ivester.

Johnston spurted to another 12-point margin at 39-27 early in the fourth period, but the Saints scored seven straight markers to climb within 39-34 on a basket by Lexi Noonan and later crept within 42-38 on two free throws by Emily Jasper with just 2:17 left to play.

Xavier did not get over the hump, but Coach Tom Lilly liked the way his club kept battling against one of the top Class 5A programs in the state.

"It shows we're not willing to step back and accept the fact that we're getting beat and now we'll get beat by 20," he said. "So you have to be pretty encouraged with that."

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Hawkeyes had the right character for success

IOWA CITY - Character counts in college football, perhaps more than sheer talent.

For a prime example, look no further than the 2016 Iowa Hawkeyes.

Given up for dead three weeks ago after a 41-14 shellacking at Penn State, the Hawkeyes rebounded by shocking No. 2 Michigan, shutting out Illinois and whipping No. 15 Nebraska.

The Hawkeyes looked like a broken football team after that debacle in Happy Valley, perhaps headed for a late-season meltdown and a losing record. Instead, they buckled down and made it a November to Remember.

Iowa put an exclamation point on the regular season Friday by stomping Nebraska, 40-10, in the Heroes Game at Kinnick Stadium to finish the campaign with an 8-4 overall record and 6-3 mark in the Big Ten West.

The Hawkeyes will finish in a four-way tie for the Big Ten West Division title if Minnesota upsets Wisconsin Saturday. Nobody thought that was remotely possible three weeks ago, and even if Wisconsin beats the Gophers the Hawkeyes will finish in a second-place tie in the West Division with Nebraska.

Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz said it was a long, unhappy ride home from Penn State three weeks ago, with a lot of soul-searching by coaches and players alike. He knew he had good people in the program, and the way they responded the past three games made him proud.

"You learn a lot about yourselves in November," he said. "I don't know if we could have gone any lower than we did three weeks ago. 

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No. 1 Eagles push Indian Hills to limit

Kirkwood guard Byron Harp bent over and put his hands on his knees with two minutes left in Tuesday night's game against Indian Hills at Johnson Hall to grab a quick 10-second breather after a whistle had stopped the frenetic action.

It was just about the only breather the slender point guard got all night.

Harp played all 40 minutes against one of the most talented junior college teams in the Midwest, but his efforts were not quite good enough as the Eagles lost to Indian Hills 67-63 in an entertaining game.

"I feel fine. I can play that much," Harp said after collecting 17 points and seven assists. "I don't actually want to, necessarily, but I had to.

"Coach trusted me, so I appreciate that, but I feel fine," he said. "We've got a nice three-day break coming, so I'll be fine."

Chris King normally shares the load with Harp at point guard, but Coach Bryan Petersen elected not to use King in the ballgame so Harp played from the opening tip to the final horn.

"Asking him to play 40 minutes against Indian Hills, that's a lot," said Petersen. "We were trying to find different times to get him out of the game, but he's playing well and he's the guy we trust out there as our point guard.

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Bevans joins MSR college softball league

Monika Bevans, a freshman at Kirkwood and a former star at Solon High  School, has joined the new Iowa Women's Softball League that will begin play this May.

Bevans, a catcher and third baseman, is the 17th collegiate player to join the league, which is being formed by the Metro Sports Report. She hit .507 with 12 home runs and 76 RBIs for Solon last season and helped the Spartans take third at the Class 3A state tournament.

Bevans was a first team all-state selection in 2016 and a second team all-state pick in 2015.

The Iowa Women's Softball League is geared for all college players in Iowa and for all Iowans who are competing at out-of-state schools.

(CLICK HERE TO REGISTER)

The season will consist of 10 doubleheaders on Sunday afternoons next summer, beginning on Sunday, May 28 and running through Sunday, July 30. All of the games will be played at Kirkwood Community College and Coe College in Cedar Rapids, beginning at 2 p.m. each day.

The goal is to have four teams with 16 players per team.

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Ferentz walking with Big Ten legends

Woody, Bo, Amos Alonzo Stagg, Hayden and JoePa.

Those are the only coaches in Big Ten history who have won more conference games than Kirk Ferentz.

And if Ferentz sticks around for the length of his new contract through the 2025 campaign, he could rise to No. 3 on the all-time list behind only Woody Hayes and Bo Schembechler, two of the true legends in Big Ten annals.

Ferentz collected his 81st victory in conference games Saturday when the Hawkeyes blanked Illinois, 28-0, on a cold, blustery day in Champaign for their first shutout in six years and their first shutout of the Illini since 1985.

Ferentz climbed into a tie for sixth place in Big Ten history with former Michigan coach Lloyd Carr with those 81 victories in conference games only. Ferentz has 134 victories overall in 18 years at Iowa, which puts him seventh in league history.

You don't think of Ferentz as a Big Ten legend, but someday people might look back on his career and his track record and proclaim him one of the most successful coaches in Big Ten history. A couple of more Big Ten titles and trips to the Rose Bowl would help, but there could be no disputing his overall record in the league.

Hayes won 153 conference games and Schembechler claimed 143, putting them 1-2 on the list. Then comes Stagg, the famous coach at the University of Chicago who won 115 league games in the early stages of the 20th Century.

Hayden Fry, the man Ferentz succeeded at Iowa, retired due to health reasons after the 1998 season with 96 league wins. Paterno garnered 95 victories in Big Ten conference games after Penn State joined the league in the 1990's.

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