Cedar Rapids Xavier had to work a little harder than usual to earn its latest berth in a state championship game.
Freshman Libby Fandel’s 3-pointer from the right wing in the third overtime put the Saints ahead to stay and they went on to upset top-seeded Dallas Center-Grimes 55-50 in the Class 4A semifinals.
Now it’s on to the state finals and good things usually happen for the Saints when they get there. In five previous title games, Xavier has come away with the championship four times, most recently in 2013. Fourth-seeded Xavier (19-6) will go for title No. 5 at 2:30 p.m. Saturday.
The three-overtime game was the first in state tournament play since Cascade beat North Union 62-53 in the Class 2A semifinals in 2018. The longest game in state tourney history went five overtimes, Ankeny beating Waterloo West 85-81 in the 4A semifinals in 1997.
Fandel, Xavier’s leading scorer in the season, finished with 18 points and added to that with 10 rebounds, seven assists and three steals. Kyla Mason added 16 points for the Saints, including two free throws with 4.1 seconds left in regulation to tie the score at 38 and produce the first overtime.
In her two state tournament games, Mason has made 14-of-20 shots and scored 30 points.
Dallas Center-Grimes (21-4) missed a shot after Mason’s two free throws and misfired twice at the end of the second overtime, which Mason had tied at 47 on a layup with 2:24 left.
Emma Miner led Dallas Center-Grimes with 16 points and six rebounds, while Vanessa Bickford scored 10 and also grabbed six rebounds. The Mustangs were trying to get to the championship game for the first time.
Dallas Center-Grimes rallied from a 34-27 deficit early in the fourth quarter to lead 38-36 when Avery Korsching sank one of two free throws with 22.6 seconds remaining. After Mason made her two foul shots, Korsching took a long inbounds pass and drove to the basket, but her layup bounced off the backboard at the buzzer.
Miner’s layup and Korsching’s steal and layup sent the game into the second overtime tied a 44. Fandel’s clutch 3 in the third overtime put Xavier ahead 50-47, and after Finley Fitzgerald scored for the Mustangs, Mason found Fandel with a bounce pass and she banked in a layup. That made it 52-49 and the Saints held on.