Mt Pleasant News
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Wash Journal   Fairfield Ledger
Neighbors Growing Together | Dec 12, 2017

It’s on: MP, Xavier meet again Tuesday

Nov 27, 2017
MPN file photos Jordan Magnani runs the fast break against Cedar Rapids Xavier in the 2017 state quarterfinals.

By Andy Krutsinger, Mt. Pleasant News

 

There won’t be a higher profile game to start the 2017-18 boys’ basketball season than the one played at Mt. Pleasant High School on Tuesday night.

The Panther boys will take on two-time defending state champion Cedar Rapids Xavier in a matchup between two Class 3A favorites.

Mt. Pleasant and Xavier know each other all to well. The two teams have made it a tradition to open the season against each other, and despite being the only game scheduled between the two, most fans can expect the squads to face off one more time each season.

The Mt. Pleasant senior class has played Xavier five times. The Saints have won all five of those matchups, two of which ended the season for MPCHS.

The season openers in 2014-15 and 2015-16 were learning experiences for a young Mt. Pleasant team. Four current Panthers (Brady Sartorius, Jordan Magnani, Colin Mulford and Kieran Kohorst) made their high school debut against the heavily favored Saints, falling 66-24 in Cedar Rapids. The next year, a Xavier team that would eventually win the school’s first state championship opened the year in Mt. Pleasant, beating an almost exclusively-sophomore Panther team 61-28.

Three months later, the Saints and Panthers played again. This time it was for a spot in the state tournament. Xavier was heavily favored against the young Panthers, but they didn’t quite get the breeze through they had hoped.

Mt. Pleasant made the eventual state champions sweat. Sartorius had 25 points, a mark that would boost the resume for his first All-State first-team selection, and the Panthers had the game at single digits before eventually running out of steam. Xavier won the game 63-47 despite an 0-5 shooting day for sophomore point guard Matthew Mims, who would grow to be the star of the Saints back court just one year later.

The Panthers had a bad shooting night in the 2016-17 season opener, but still pestered the Saints back in Cedar Rapids. Still though, Xavier would pull out a 10-point victory, 55-45, behind a 20-point night for Mims.

It all set up for a great first-round matchup between the two squads at the 2017 state tournament. Mt. Pleasant, the five seed, was coming off a 30-point shellacking of a highly-touted Oskaloosa team in the substate, and Xavier, the four seed, had cruised past Dubuqe Wahlert to punch their ticket and get the chance to defend their title.

The floor was tilted early for Mt. Pleasant, who jumped out to a lead and had the defending champs trailing 18-13 after one quarter, and 23-22 at halftime.

But it wasn’t to be for the Panthers. Xavier outscored Mt. Pleasant 37-21 in the second half to knock the Panthers out for the second straight season, this time 59-44 behind 20 points from senior post Max Techau. Sartorius had 19 points in the loss, and senior transfer Tom O’Connor had 10 points and 10 rebounds, but the season was over for Panther nation.

It is now over eight months later. The seasons have changed and the preseason hype is at an all-time high. The Panthers, now without O’Connor, enter Tuesday night’s showdown with a hungry senior core. Xavier, now without Techau, as well as starting guard Nolan Butkowski, will look to their three returning starters; Mims, Jackson Joens and Quinn Schulte, to hold off Mt. Pleasant once more.

Mims and Sartorius might be the two best shots for Class 3A in the Mr. Basketball race. Mims was included in the Des Moines Register’s “Iowa Eight,” highlighting the eight best players in all of Iowa, and Sartorius is the leading scorer returning in the class this season.

The two teams will tip off at 7:30 p.m., on Tuesday, Nov. 28.

The winner will likely be the No. 1 ranked team in Class 3A when the first week’s rankings come out, and the loser will have an extra chip on the shoulder if the two squads do have one final showdown this spring.

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