Monday, April 23, 2018
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Jim Ecker, President & Editor

Noonan sparks No. 6 Saints in regional

Xavier senior Lexi Noonan has not decided if she'll play basketball or  volleyball in college, so there was a chance Saturday night that her  athletic career was going to coming to an untimely finish after the  Saints mustered only 15 points in the first half in the Class 4A  regional semifinals against Clear Creek Amana.

"It could have been the end of my basketball career," she realized,  "but we picked it up."

Noonan poured in 19 of her game-high 21 points in the second half and  Xavier rallied for a 55-33 victory over Clear Creek Amana at Ron  Thillen Gymnasium for their ninth straight win.

The Saints (16-6) will host 13th-ranked Waverly-Shell Rock (16-6) in  the regional finals Tuesday night, with the winner advancing to the  Class 4A state tournament.

Xavier trailed 18-15 at halftime after a sluggish 16 minutes of  basketball against the visitors from the Wamac Conference, but they  notched 40 points in the second half.

"We had a shaky first half, but once we settled down in the second  half we played a lot better," said Noonan. "Coach always says our  offense feeds off our defense, so once we picked up our defense in the  second half it led to our offense and we got more scoring  opportunities."

Clear Creek Amana (13-10) took a series of five-point leads in the  third quarter at 20-15, 22-17, 24-19 and 26-21 before the Saints  finally got untracked midway through the stanza.

Lauren Helle, a 6-foot-1 center for CCA, picked up her fourth foul  with 4:41 left in the third quarter and Clear Creek Amana leading  26-21. Helle sat down and the game immediately shifted in favor of the  Saints.

Noonan made three baskets during a 10-0 spurt to help the Saints grab  a 31-26 advantage and turn the game around.

Clear Creek Amana Coach PJ Sweeney put Helle back in the game in the  final minute of the third period to try and stem the tide, but Helle  picked up her fifth foul with 7:46 left in the fourth quarter on  another basket by Noonan and was done for the night. Noonan completed  the three-point play to give Xavier a 36-28 advantage at that point.

Helle had been a major factor on defense and her absence was critical.

"We were looking over our shoulder at her a lot," said Xavier Coach  Tom Lilly. "I thought that was a big play."

The Saints kept pulling away from there. Noonan hit a left-handed  layup to make it 38-28, she scored again to make it 41-30 and found  Kylie Brown for a basket to make it 43-30.

Amelia Ivester scored for Xavier to make it 45-30 and the Saints were  home free.

Lilly thought the Saints were apprehensive in the first half and  wanted his club to relax.

"The main thing we talked about at halftime was their body language,"  he said. "Their body language was not up to par."

Lilly asked the seniors, like Noonan, to set a positive tone in the  second half.

"We rely on our senior class to dictate and take over," he noted. "I  thought Lexi did that and played with a different mindset in the  second half. And I thought Caitlynn Daniels energized us and had some  nice looks."

Daniels, a freshman point guard, finished with 11 points, six steals,  five assists and three rebounds.

Maria Steffen gave the Saints an extra boost off the bench in the  second half  when they made their surge with two baskets on assists  from Daniels, along with an assist of her own to Noonan.

Ivester finished with eight points and four blocked shots.

Karsyn Stratton, a talented freshman for Clear Creek Amana, led her  club with 18 points. Helle finished with eight points.

Waverly-Shell Rock rolled by Decorah, 65-23, in the regional  semifinals Saturday night and could be a formidable opponent for  Xavier in the regional finals Tuesday.

"Hopefully the home-court advantage will help us, but we know Waverly  is a pretty salty bunch," said Lilly. "They've got some size and some  shooters and they're very well-coached.

"We will have to take our play to another level, I think."

Noonan is not ready for her high school career to end. She helped  Xavier reach the semifinals of the state volleyball tournament in  November and she'd like to make it a double date.

"It's a dream to qualify for state in basketball and volleyball my  senior year," she said. "I think we have a really good chance of  making it this year."

CLEAR CREEK AMANA (33): DeShaw 1 0-0 2, Neely 0 0-0 0, Harvey 0 0-0 0,  Cronbaugh 0 0-0 0, El.Navara 0 0-0 0, Sweeney 0 0-0 0, Stratton 8 1-2 18, Kinnaird 1 0-0 2, Er.Navara 1 0-0 3, Banwart 0 0-0 0, Helle 4 0-0  8, Schrock 0 0-0 0. Totals 15 1-2 33.

XAVIER (55): Stanek 1 1-2 4, Hoffman 0 0-0 0, Daniels 5 1-2 11,  Diebold 0 0-0 0, Cooling 0 0-0 0, Brown 3 1-2 7, Noonan 8 5-7 21,  Steffen 2 0-0 4, Stovie 0 0-0 0, Ivester 4 0-0 8, Jasper 0 0-2 0.  Totals 23 8-13 55.

Halftime - Clear Creek Amana 18, Xavier 15. 3-point goals - Clear  Creek Amana 2 (Stratton 1, Er.Navara 1), Xavier 1 (Daniels 1).


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