With three of its starters standing 6-4 or taller, you can understand why the Central DeWitt boys basketball team does the bulk of its damage on offense inside.
The Sabers, in fact, rank 59th out of 64 3A teams in three-point attempts.
But when the Sabers needed key points during Thursday’s 3A Substate 4 semifinal with Cedar Rapids Xavier, they found them outside.
All told, the Sabers buried eight threes — one off their season-high — and outscored the Saints, 38-25, in the second half to pull away for a 69-52 victory.
Now, the only thing standing between the Sabers and their first trip to Des Moines since 2014 is divisional rival Mount Vernon. The Mustangs, ranked second in 3A, survived their semifinal with Dubuque Wahlert, winning on a buzzer-beating put-back. The two WaMaC East squads will meet for a third time Monday at the U.S. Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids. That substate final will be the nightcap of a doubleheader — Marion meets Center Point-Urbana in the opener — with tip-off slated for 8 p.m.
The Sabers’ three-point barrage got started at just the right time as the visiting Saints jumped out to a 10-3 lead.
Senior Alex McAleer, however, knocked down back-to-back threes in short succession to cut the deficit to one, while Henry Bloom made his own to put Central DeWitt in front, 12-10, after a quarter.
The Sabers scored the first four points of the second quarter as well on hoops inside by Zach Hinkle and Tucker Kinney to push the margin to six.
Xavier fired right back, rattling off the game’s next seven points to reclaim the lead.
The Saints’ momentum was slowed, though, by a three-pointer from Hinkle. The visitors did get back within a point at 23-22, but gave too much room to McAleer, who knocked down his third trey of the half to push the lead back to four.
That ended up being the same margin at the half with Central DeWitt holding a 31-27 advantage at intermission.
Xavier struck first in the second half, knocking down a three, but the Sabers had an even better answer in the form of back-to-back three-pointers from McAleer and Bloom.
And after hitting the Saints from deep, the Sabers turned their attention inside. Kinney notched Central DeWitt’s next six points, while a great feed inside from Hinkle to John McConohy made it 45-34, forcing a Xavier timeout.
The visitors closed the gap, getting within seven points by the end of the third quarter and pulling within 54-48 at one point in the fourth quarter.
The Sabers, though, dropped in one more three — from Bloom — to stop any potential comeback and the margin never fell below eight the rest of the way.
Instead, it grew as Central DeWitt made 14 free throws in the final quarter and scored 10 of its final 12 points on foul shots.
McAleer and Kinney both finished with a team-high 21 points. The former scored 14 of his total in the first half, while the latter had 13 in the second half.
Bloom hit six straight free throws to end the game and scored nine of his 17 points in the fourth quarter, while Hinkle added five points.