The path to the 2014 boys state basketball tournament has been anything but a straight road for the Albia Blue Demons. They opened the season by winning ten of their first eleven games, but a five-game losing streak doomed them to a third-place finish in the South Central Conference. Albia responded with four-straight wins, but a season-ending loss to Centerville sapped them of any momentum heading into district play.
The Blue Demons still didn’t look like a state-contending team in their first district game, as they barely beat Davis County 62-60, but a follow-up win over Pella Christian put Albia into the substate finals against Burlington Notre Dame. That’s when junior Matt Baker went off, scoring an eye-popping 36 points to lead the Blue Demons to a win and a state tournament berth.
Even then, the path was a bit unclear. Albia clinched its trip to state on a Saturday night when several other 2A teams had their substate games postponed by snow, forcing the Blue Demons to wait until Monday night to learn who they would play in the state quarterfinals. At 17-7, Albia knew they were likely to receive a low seed, and those fears were confirmed when they were slotted as the #8 seed and given a matchup against top-ranked and undefeated Western Christian.
The Blue Demons will be a heavy underdog in next week’s quarterfinal round, but Albia has beaten high-caliber opposition already this season–namely Chariton, who won the South Central Conference and made the state tournament in Class 3A. The Blue Demons were the only conference team to beat the Chargers this season.
Albia and Western Christian face off at 6:35 next Monday night, March 10, at the Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.