DES MOINES | A few fans from East’s student section chanted, ‘Who’s A.J. Green’, in the opening minute of Wednesday’s first-round Class 4A state boys basketball tournament game.
Eventually, they found out as the Cedar Falls shooting star discovered his rhythm. One of the state’s best pure shooters bounced back from missing his first two attempts beyond the 3-point arc to drain four of them in the final 5 ½ minutes of the first quarter, helping fourth-ranked Cedar Falls race to a 20-8 lead en route to a 75-47 rout at Wells Fargo Arena.
Green had game-high totals of 28 points, seven rebounds and five 3-point field goals. Logan Wolf added 17 points and six rebounds in the triumph over No. 6 East, which finished the season with a 19-4 record.
A University of Northern Iowa basketball recruit whose father Kyle Green is an associate head coach for Coach Ben Jacobson’s Panthers, Green has converted a whopping 48.8 percent of his trey attempts (110 of 225). Two of his trifectas came off East turnovers.
Overall, Cedar Falls (19-5) scored 10 points off takeaways in the opening frame and 16 overall.
“I know I have to have confidence in my shot, so if I miss a few, I just forget about it, have a short term memory and just keep shooting it,” said Green, who heads into Thursday night’s semifinal game against West Des Moines Valley (17-7) with 1,743 career points.
“I was able to make a couple. I found a rhythm and it helped. I kind of hear it (the crowd) in the back of my mind, but I don’t really pay attention to any of it. I just try to tone it out and focus on the game.”
First-year starter Jack Peterson led East (19-4) with 11 points and grabbed six rebounds. Rees finished his three-year career with 1,283 points and 762 rebounds (both totals second on the school’s career charts) after a 9-point, 6-rebound effort. Aidan Vanderloo also tallied nine points.
Thirteen turnovers wasn’t a bad number for East. However, Cedar Falls’ ability to capitalize was one of its keys.
“Give Cedar Falls a ton of credit, that’s a state championship type of team,” said Coach Vanderloo. “From the start, we made some mistakes we don’t normally make. Part of it is the opponent, part of it may be the big lights, but we weren’t in sync. Then you get behind and you start doing things you don’t normally do and it just gets worse. And, they have a star player and a bunch of athletes to go with him.”
The closest East came after Cedar Falls’ first-quarter blitz was 22-13 as Rees converted a pair of free throw attempts about a minute and a half into the second frame. The 6-foot-6 senior had gone into his fourth career state tournament game with averages of 17.6 points and 8.4 rebounds.
Rees found himself double-teamed from the start. Cedar Falls (19-5) also handcuffed Aidan Vanderloo, a 52.5 percent 3-point shooter (52 of 99), who didn’t make his first trey until the first minute of the fourth quarter, answering Green’s three with one of his own.
“They were a really physical team,” said Rees. “They had a good scheme going. They had a guy on me at all times. It was tough to get the ball. They are a really good team. I wish them the best of luck the rest of the tournament.”