Cedar Rapids Xavier emerged from a clash of two programs with extensive championship credentials with another state title.
The Saints got contributions up and down the lineup and used a big second half to beat Bishop Heelan of Sioux City 54-40 for the Class 4A state championship. It’s the fifth title for Xavier (20-6), which has lost only once when reaching the state finals.
Bishop Heelan (23-3) had been seeking a fourth championship and frustrated the Saints early with a zone defense in taking a 24-17 halftime lead and then going up 29-20 early in the second half. But Xavier began doing a better job moving the ball to get open shots and outscored the Crusaders 34-11 the rest of the way.
Riley Jonker led Xavier with 13 points, including three straight baskets for the Saints when they broke the game open midway through the fourth quarter. She had scored only seven points in Xavier’s first two games at state, but came up big when her team needed her the most.
Mary Kate Moeder went 3-for-4 from 3-point range in adding 11 points for Xavier, while Lexi Beier knocked down three 3s in scoring 10 points. Freshman Libby Fandel, chosen the all-tournament captain, finished with nine points, seven rebounds and two assists and Kyla Mason scored eight points.
Fandel was outstanding throughout the tournament and ended up with 39 points, 21 rebounds, 14 assists and eight steals in the three games.
With only one senior, Bishop Heelan is likely to remain strong. Junior Jada Newberg led the Crusaders with 13 points on 5-for-7 shooting and Kenley Meis, also a junior, added 10 points and eight rebounds. The team’s lone senior, Joslyn Verzal, hit two 3-pointers and scored eight points in her final high school game.
Moeder hit a 3-pointer after stealing an inbounds pass and Mason sank a free throw to produce a tie at 33 heading into the fourth quarter. After Newberg converted a three-point play to put the Crusaders up 36-33, Xavier responded with a 10-0 run that included back-to-back 3s from Beier to take the lead for good.
Xavier won its other state championships in 2003, 2005 and 2007 and finished second in 2002. The Saints now have an impressive 20-9 record in 14 state tournament appearances.
Bishop Heelan won titles in 2008, 2010 and 2020 and was the runner-up in 2008.
Mason, Newberg and Bishop Heelan’s Brooklyn Stanley also were named all-tournament, along with Glenwood’s Abby Hughes and Emma Miner of Dallas Center-Grimes.