MAQUOKETA — A goal of returning to the state tournament kept North Cedar focused, so there was no letdown when it played Northeast for the third time this season.
The Knights stayed on course for a fourth consecutive trip to Des Moines with a 54-38 win against Northeast in the Class 2A District 9 boys basketball championship game Tuesday night at Maquoketa High School. North Cedar (20-4) will face Mount Vernon (18-5) in Saturday’s substate final in Cedar Rapids, with the winner earning a trip to the state tournament.
“We’re trying to make a run. We’ve all been here before, and we have a lot of confidence,” said junior Jayden Johnson, one of four returning starters for North Cedar.
“I think we’re focused,” said coach Scott Jackson, whose team has lost in the first round at state each of the past three years. “We’ve been here before.”
Northeast (15-9) found itself in an all-too-familiar position, too. The Rebels lost in the district final for the fourth time in five years and second year in a row to North Cedar. Three times in the past six years their final game was against North Cedar.
Despite suffering 63-50 and 63-51 losses to the Knights earlier this year, the Rebels came in confident, too.
“The old adage is it’s hard to beat a team three times, and we really believed we could give them a run,” Northeast coach Travis Eversmeyer said. We thought the two games before that we were two-three minutes away.”
That wasn’t the case this time. North Cedar trailed just once — on a Will Hasken 3-pointer from the right wing that put the Rebels up 3-2 with 6 minutes, 54 seconds left in the first quarter. The Knights responded with three consecutive baskets, part of a 15-3 run that pushed the lead to double digits in the opening six minutes.