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Jim Ecker, President & Editor

Confident Saints knock off Prairie

It took the Xavier Saints about two months to develop a new identity  this season and get on a roll.

Now they hope it will carry them all the way to the Class 3A state  tournament again.

The resurgent Saints marched to the foul line and topped Cedar Rapids  Prairie, 60-56, in an intense Mississippi Valley Conference game at  Ron Thillen Gymnasium.

The Saints have a modest 7-9 overall record at this point in the  season, but they've won three straight games and have looked good in  back-to-back wins over Cedar Falls and Prairie.

"We weren't playing well at the start of the year. To get a couple of  wins here is great for us," said Jackson Joens, a veteran of last  year's state champions. "We're just hoping to make another run down to  Des Moines."

Xavier won the spirited game at the foul line, outscoring the visitors  22-3 at the charity stripe. The Saints shot 19 free throws in the  second half and Prairie did not shoot any, a stat that did not escape  the attention of the Hawks.

Overall for the game, the Saints hit 22 of 25 free throws and the  Hawks were 3 of 4. The Saints went 9 for 10 at the foul line in the  final 82 seconds to secure the victory.

Prairie defeated Xavier by four points at Prairie last month, so  Friday's outcome left them tied at 126-126 for the campaign.

"Great effort by both teams," said Xavier Coach Ryan Luehrsmann. "It  was a well-played game, I thought.

"They're awfully hard to cover. They have so many guys that shoot it  and have high basketball IQs and make good decisions."

Joens popped in four 3-pointers and led Xavier with 19 points, despite  missing a chunk of time with minor foul problems. Matt Mims collected  15 points, five rebounds and five assists for the Saints.

Nolan Butkowski scored nine clutch points in the second half, Max  Techau contributed eight points despite battling the flu, and  sophomore Quinn Schulte scored seven points, all on vital free throws.

The Saints have found an identity in recent games with Quinn Schulte  in the starting lineup and his older brother Reggie coming off the  bench, instead of the other way around.

"He does all the intangibles," Luehrsmann said about the younger  Schulte. "He's a heck of a defensive player. He gives you another  ballhandler, a good decision-maker that doesn't turn it over.

"He doesn't play like a sophomore," said Luehrsmann. "He makes free  throws when it counts. He likes being in those situations. He wants to  make plays when the game is on the line."

The Saints gained a lot of confidence in their victory over Cedar  Falls Tuesday night and it carried over to Friday's triumph.

We just have to stay together and keep playing the way we have," said  Mims. "Hopefully we can keep getting better and make a run."

The Saints visit Waterloo East for a makeup game Saturday night.

Butkowski gave Xavier an eight-point lead at 45-37 with a 3-pointer to  start the fourth quarter, but Prairie pulled within 51-48 on a driving  basket by Griff Clark with about 90 seconds left.

That's when the parade to the foul line began.

Butkowski hit two free throws to make it 53-48, Quinn Schulte hit a  pair to make it 55-48 and Joens made two more to make it 57-50 with  34.8 seconds left.

Keegan Murray pulled Prairie within 57-53 with a 3-pointer, but the  Saints got one free throw from Quinn Schulte and two more from Mims to  ice the game at 60-53 with 6.4 seconds left.

The Saints began the season with a 4-and-9 record, but they look like  a different club now with a new identity. They've finally been able to  put last year's success in the rear-view mirror and play good  basketball again with new spirit.

"There was a lot of pressure," said Joens. "People tried to do too  much. We realize if we want to win, we have to share the ball. That's  what we've done in these last couple of games."

The Saints have defeated two quality Class 4A opponents this week in  Cedar Falls and Prairie (11-6).

"Great week," said Luehrsmann. "We just want to build on the positive  momentum. Our goals stay the same. We just want to improve week by  week and get as good as we can by the end of the year."

Max Smith Drahos led Prairie with 15 points. Jake Eilers hit four  3-pointers and scored 12. Clark finished with 11 points.

PRAIRIE (56): Ke.Murray 2 0-0 6, Lorenz 0 0-0 0, Clark 5 0-1 11,  Kr.Murray 2 2-2 7, Smith Drahos 7 0-0 15, Eilers 4 0-0 12, Usher 1 1-2  3, Kilpatrick 0 0-0 0, Serbousek 1 0-0 2. Totals 22 3-4 56.

XAVIER (60): Lux 0 0-0 0, Mims 6 2-4 15, Butkowski 2 4-4 9, Joens 4  7-7 19, Q.Schulte 0 7-8 7, Techau 3 2-2 8, B.Schulte 1 0-0 2. Totals  16 22-25 60.

Halftime - Prairie 27, Xavier 26. 3-point goals - Prairie 9 (Eilers 4,  Ke.Murray 2, Clark 1, Kr.Murray 1, Smith Drahos 1), Xavier 6 (Joens 4,  Mims 1, Butkowski 1).

Last Updated ( Saturday, 04 February 2017 06:28 )  

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