They are like the door-to-door salesman who rings your doorbell just as you're ready to sit down to a piping-hot, home-cooked meal.
For the past two years, the unwanted guests have been the Sioux City Heelan boys basketball team. And the people sitting down to the meal have been the Class 3-A programs in the southwest quadrant of Iowa.
In 2011 and 2012, the Iowa High School Athletic Association sent Heelan south. In 2011, the Crusaders won their third straight 3-A state title, and in 2012 they qualified for state for a sixth straight season.
Not coincidentally, a Hawkeye Ten Conference team in 3-A hasn't reached Wells Fargo Arena since 2009, when Harlan appeared. Carroll High joined Heelan in Des Moines in 2010.
With that backdrop came the release Monday of the Class 3-A and 4-A postseason assignments by the IHSAA. (The actual pairings won't be announced until the week of Feb. 4.) And for the first time in three years, western Iowa No. 3 Heelan (8-4; all records are through Sunday) will remain in the northwest quadrant of the state. It will compete in power-packed Substate 1 with, among others, MOC-Floyd Valley (11-2), Le Mars (8-3), Spencer (8-4) and Sergeant Bluff-Luton (5-6), who from this seat all appear capable of advancing to state.
The likelihood of a Hawk-10 team getting back to state in 3-A improved substantially on Monday. In Substate 8, the three teams you'd have to consider favorites are from the Hawkeye Ten: WI No. 4 Atlantic (11-1), No. 5 Creston (9-2) and Harlan (9-2).
One follower on Twitter Monday brought up his desire for a wild-card system in Iowa like the one Nebraska uses. I generally am against using wild cards. I still think the qualifiers should be determined on the floor, provided one very important factor is in place. It's important the IHSAA and the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union do everything possible to balance the substates and regions. The IGHSAU does a particularly good job of this, and the IHSAA has certainly made strides in that area, especially this year, at least from a western Iowa perspective.
In Class 4-A, although some suspected the IHSAA would pull a Central Iowa Metropolitan League school or two out west, nothing has changed. The three Sioux City schools (East, North and West) and three Council Bluffs schools (Lewis Central, Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson) will again battle for the state berth.
And a Sioux City school will be heavily favored to grab that ticket for the 13th straight year. East (11-0) handed North (11-1) its first loss on Friday, 58-56, to unseat the Stars for the top spot in The World-Herald's latest Class 4-A/3-A ratings.
It would be a shock not to see those same two in the substate final. The other four schools in Substate 1 have a combined 8-36 record, and none are higher than 42nd among the 48 4-A teams in Brent Moore's latest computer-based power rankings.
NOTES: With his 31-point effort Saturday in a loss to Council Bluffs St. Albert, Tri-Center senior Britton Barrier passed the 1,000-point mark for his career. He has 1,023 points entering Tuesday's game with Missouri Valley and is averaging 22.3 points this season to rank fourth in Class 2-A. ... Also in the Western Iowa Conference, Riverside senior Ricky Williams is close to becoming the 17th player in Iowa history to record at least 1,500 points and 1,000 rebounds in a career. Heading into Tuesday's game with Griswold, Williams has 1,611 points and 979 rebounds. Of the other 16 athletes who have achieved that feat, 12 are in the IHSAA Hall of Fame and two of the remaining four (Brennan Cougill of Heelan and Jordan Eglseder of Bellevue Marquette) are not yet eligible. Williams ranks second in 1-A in scoring this year (25.9) and fifth in rebounding (12.8).
WI Postseason Assignments
Class 3-A, Substate 1: Denison-Schleswig, Estherville-Lincoln Central, Le Mars, MOC-Floyd Valley, Sergeant Bluff-Luton, Sioux City Heelan, Spencer, Storm Lake.
Class 3-A, Substate 8: ADM, Atlantic, Carroll, Creston, Glenwood, Greene County, Harlan, Winterset.
Class 4-A, Substate 1: CB Abraham Lincoln, CB Lewis Central, CB Thomas Jefferson, Sioux City East, Sioux City North, Sioux City West.
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