Upsets lead to lower seeds RSM, Alburnett meeting in semifinals

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Remsen St. Mary’s (20-6) vs. Alburnett (19-5)

Wednesday, March 6, 3:45 p.m.

DES MOINES — It will be a 6-vs-7 matchup in the semifinals on Wednesday, March 6, as Remsen St. Mary’s will take on Alburnett in the second Class 1A game of the day.

RSM junior Skyler Waldschmitt said the team will look to lock down their focus as they prepare for their opponent.

“We’re going to watch the game here, see who we’re going to play,” Waldschmitt said after the team’s win and before the final 1A quarterfinal. “Then we’re going to break them down in practice and go in with a good game plan.”

The two teams are similar in many respects including how they made it to the semifinals. The Pirates led for much of the game against second-seeded Sioux Central, including starting the game up 9-0, but gave up the lead with 54 seconds remaining. With 14 seconds left, Hunter Caves, who averages around 14 points per contest, knocked down the game-winning shot as he finished with a game-high 19 points.

Just like RSM, Alburnett needed overtime to get to state with the Pirates also needing overtime in their district final game.

“Next game is going to be a challenge for sure,” sophomore Blaine Harpenau said. “We just got to keep focused and keep doing what we’ve been doing and I like our chances.”

For the Linn County school just north of Cedar Rapids, it is the first state tournament trip meaning that the winner of the semifinal game will be making their first championship game appearance.

Alburnett comes from the same conference, but a different division as Prince of Peace who was RSM’s first round opponent. The Tri-Rivers West team went 10-3 in league play including a loss to Class 2A top-ranked North Linn. The Pirates also lost their season opener by a 48-33 score to Prince of Peace.

6-foot-5 senior forward Izic Mackey missed the first half of the season, but is averaging a team-best 17 points per game since joining the lineup in January. He mans the post with all but two shots taken from inside the arc where he is a 64 percent shooter.

Caves is the team’s playmaker with 101 assists and 45 steals leading the team. He also averages seven rebounds per game and isn’t afraid to attack the defense as he has gotten to the free-throw line over 100 times this year and is making shots from the line at a 76 percent clip.

The Hawks will have to be aware of 3-point threat Austin Huber after not needing to worry about defending the perimeter much against Prince of Peace. Huber takes the vast majority of his shots from distance and is 74-of-166 from 3-point range this year. He went 5-of-7 in the win over Sioux Central as he ended with 17 points which is slightly above his 11 points per game average.

Shane Neighbor and Jared Graubard are the squad’s other two main players on another team which sticks with their starting five as much as possible. The pair average another eight points apiece, respectively.

While the Pirates look to make the championship in their first shot at state, the Hawks are looking to get over the hump after losing in the semifinals each of the past two seasons. The Hawks got stuck playing Grand View Christian the past two seasons as the Thunder went on to win the championship both years. RSM could get another shot at Grand View Christian as they play in the other semifinal.

“Hopefully we can take away what they do best and see what we can do. Win or lose, we’re going to play hard,” RSM Head Coach Scott Ruden said of the team’s game plan entering the semifinals. “The good news is that Grand View Christian’s on the other side because the last two years they’ve beaten us in that game.”

With the way Alburnett and RSM have both managed to squeak by in their games as of late either with overtime or one-possession wins, it wouldn’t be surprising to see another game go down to the wire in the semifinals. Junior Spencer Schorg hopes his team’s ability to pull out close wins helps the Hawks get to the championship.

“I think we’re just a group of fighters,” Schorg said. “We know how to win so that will play a huge role in how we do in the semifinal game.”