No. 1 Mustangs play unranked HLV
The record or seeding of a team means very little, especially at the state tournament.
Nobody knows that better than Paul Loos right now. The Newell-Fonda coach is preparing his unbeaten and No. 1 ranked team as if they were playing a team of equal caliber.
Newell-Fonda, seeded second in the Class 1A state tournament field, takes on seventh-seeded HLV of Victor (19-6) in the first round on Monday at 2 p.m. at Veterans Auditorium.
HLV, which hasn't been to the state tournament in 30 years, has won 13 games in a row. The Warriors went 6-6 in their first 12 games, including two losses to No. 2-ranked North Mahaska, a conference rival who is the top seed in the state tournament field.
"They played North Mahaska pretty tough the first game," Loos said. "They're in a strong conference, which bodes well. They've lost to top-quality competition. Both teams step into the tournament with a 0-0 record and all the teams are trying to go 3-0."
Loos gave his thoughts and impressions of the Warriors, who beat 10th-ranked Montezuma 64-60, ninth-ranked Lone Tree 59-55 and eighth-ranked WACO 61-41 to get to state.
"They do some nice things both offensively and defensively," he said. "They have some size inside. Ben Beran is 6-7 and he plays the power forward position. He can score from inside or outside, so we have to watch him. The point guard is the coach's son, Brandon Phelps. He does a nice job and gets the ball to where it needs to go. Ryan McWilliams does a nice job as far as shooting the ball, so we have to keep an eye on him. They have another post kid in Nick Blomme. He does a nice job on the boards and gets a lot of garbage points. Off the bench they bring in a 6-4 kid and he does a nice job. They have depth in the post position. They go about 7 or 8 deep."
Beran averages 18.8 points and 15.3 rebounds a game to lead the Warriors. Phelps averages 10.7 points and Aaron Timm 10.3 points.
"The Phelps kid is the one we have to keep an eye on," Loos said. "He goes right or left. He's more in tune to penetration than shooting the 3. We definitely want to keep the ball out of his hands as much as possible. He will have his hands on the ball quite a bit in their offense in order for it to be functional. We just have to identify who is hot and make game adjustments."
"We're going to have to keep them off the block as much as possible and make them have to put the ball on the floor inside," Loos added. "We can't give them the backside block. They like to look for the weakside block and the dump down. They do a nice job in the postup position."
HLV plays solid defense, holding its opponents to just 45.5 points a game and 36.3 percent shooting.
The critical factors for Newell-Fonda to win are the same for this game as any other.
"You look at the three statistics," Loos said. "We've got to be able to outrebound them. We've got to try to get them in foul trouble and get to the free-throw line, and we're going to have to reduce our turnovers. If we win two of those three statistics I think I like our shot."
The mental aspect is about 50 percent of the game of basketball, and Loos said it will come into play.
"Mental toughness will play a huge part," he said. "We had a pretty tough tournament trail. We've been tourney tested. It's just a matter of going down there and playing our game and letting the chips fall where they may."
Despite the records, Monday's game should be better than what it looks on paper.
"I think both are evenly-matched teams," Loos said. "Both teams have some size and quickness. I think it's going to come down to executing the little things. Little things make a big difference."