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Tuesday, March 28, 2017
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Metro Sports Report

Lions have a fine all-around program

The Linn-Mar against Washington boys basketball game last Friday at Washington generated a nice gate for the Warriors, even though they were outplayed by quite a margin by the top-ranked Lions.

The gate was in the $7,000 range for the packed house and meant a nice increase for the Warriors' athletic program. They also got to see a sideshow for a bonus in the appearance of North Carolina Coach Roy Williams, who slipped into the Warriors' gym after a 1 hour, 40 minute jet ride from North Carolina to watch Marcus Paige.

He paid his own way at the gate, also bought his own popcorn and posed for every boy, girl, mother and father in the house. I had a nice visit with him, but he had to cut it a little short because the only person he could talk to after the game was Linn-Mar Coach Chris Robertson (NCAA rules prohibited him from talking to Paige, other than to say hello).

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Cougars venture into the Lions' den Friday

Bob Fontana has been the Kennedy boys basketball coach since the 1997-98 campaign, so he's had a good (and sometimes painful) look at the remarkable success the Linn-Mar Lions have enjoyed during the past eight years.

It began in 2004 when the Lions won the Class 4A state title, beginning a string of seven straight trips to the state tournament. They've won two state titles during that time (2004 and 2007), been the state runnerup twice (2005 and 2009), placed third on two occasions (2008 and 2010) and were fourth once (2006).

Linn-Mar (12-0) is undefeated and ranked No.1 in the state this year, so there's an excellent chance the Lions will make their eighth straight journey to Des Moines and contend for high honors again.

In Fontana's opinion, this could be the strongest Linn-Mar team in the entire bunch. That's saying a lot, and it could be psychological "coach speak" as No.4 Kennedy prepares for Friday's showdown at Linn-Mar, but he could be right.

Linn-Mar's starting lineup is loaded with three Division I players and two others who could play in college as well. They've got a superstar who's committed to North Carolina, they've got the third Bohannon brother, they've got good size up front, they can beat you outside, they can beat you inside, they're smart and they play good defense.

What's not to love? Unless you play for the other team, of course.

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Blaha win keys Prairie victory over Lions

Trey Blaha never beat Alijah Jeffery in AAU youth wrestling tournaments, but they're freshmen in high school now and Blaha has fired the first shot.

Blaha defeated Jeffery in a battle of ranked 103-pounders Thursday night to help Prairie trim Linn-Mar, 30-27, in a Mississippi Valley Conference dual meet at Linn-Mar.

Jeffery won both times they meet on the AAU circuit, but Blaha prevailed Thursday with a solid 9-4 victory.

"The team needed me. I had to pull through," he said.

Jeffery was ranked No. 5 in the state by The Predicament with a 26-2 record heading into Thursday's showdown, while Blaha was ranked No. 9 with a 26-4 mark.

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Boys substates: A promise somewhat delivered

Myself, like most coaches, players and fans of high school boys basketball, were delighted by the announcement last fall by the Iowa High School Athletic Association that they would wait to assign the substate groupings until the season was in progress.

This had been a long-time goal of the Iowa Basketball Coaches Association. The IBCA wanted to eliminate early tournament “marquee matchups" and to get the best teams to Des Moines and the state tournament.

While I was happy with this announcement, I also was leery. I heard from several reliable sources that “geography” still would be a big factor in determining the substate groups. At that moment, I knew there would be trouble.

The groups have been released -- 4A and 3A this week -- and the other two classes last week.

So, how did the IHSAA do?

In my opinion they got one class right, a passing grade in a second, and whiffed on the other two.

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Dawson sets record, Warriors roll

Tia Dawson sure knows how to fill out a stat line.  And the record books.

The 6-foot-2 Washington senior became the school’s all-time leader in blocked shots Tuesday night and dominated Prairie in a 67-51 win at the Hawks' gym.

Dawson passed Kayla Pirtle (1991-95), who had 231 blocks during her Washington career. Dawson now owns the single-season, single-game and career records. She needed just two rejections to break the record, but had four to give her 234.

“I didn’t know that,” Dawson said of the record. “That feels amazing.”

Fueled by a loss and poor performance against Linn-Mar’s Kiah Stokes last week, Dawson had her best all-around game of the year with 19 points, 13 rebounds and four rejections. She altered another 10 shots or so and was a dominating presence inside against the smaller Hawks.

“We knew that we had a height advantage,” Dawson said. “We wanted to come back after the Linn-Mar loss.”

The Warriors moved to 11-2 overall and 8-2 in the Mississippi Valley Conference. Prairie dropped to 3-10 and 2-8.

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