MUSCATINE — Masen Miller was not exactly scorching the nets the past three weeks for the Iowa City Regina boys’ basketball team. He was shooting around 27 percent from the 3-point line in February.
The junior guard picked an opportune time to bust out of a shooting slump for the Regals.
Miller buried seven 3-pointers, six in the first half, en route to a game-high 29 points and a 69-44 victory over Camanche on Saturday night in a Class 2A substate final at Muscatine High School.
“Tonight just felt really good,” said Miller, two points shy of his career high. “When you get a few to go, you start to build up the confidence.”
The Regals (20-2) were 12 of 23 from beyond the arc and shot 63.5 percent for the game. Conversely, the Indians (20-4) were 4 of 22.
“They couldn’t miss,” Camanche junior Cam Soenksen said. “They came into this game knowing they were going to hit every shot, and we’ve been off on our shooting the last couple of games. Tonight wasn’t a good night to be off.”
Miller leads the state in 3-point makes with 97, but was 1-for-6, 4-for-14 and 2-for-12 from beyond the arc in recent games.
The unanimous all-River Valley Conference performer knocked in three in the opening quarter to give the Regals a 19-13 advantage. He drained three more in a second quarter that saw Regina extend the margin to 17 points.
He made step-back 3s. He made open ones. He made contested tries.
“He made a lot of tough shots,” Regina coach Jared Galpin said. “When he makes shots, it takes a lot of pressure off our team.”
The game got away from the Indians in the second period. In addition to Miller’s shooting, Soenksen was out for a couple minutes with an ankle injury and Zach Erwin was saddled with foul trouble.
“We didn’t do a bad job defending (Miller), but he wasn’t missing,” Camanche coach Josh Davis said. “They really hadn’t been shooting that well the last four or five games, but, man, they blitzed us early.
“When you get behind, and your season is on the line, you try and do some things you do not want to do. We had some turnovers, just trying to press and make something happen.”
Camanche, which beat Regina 60-53 in early December, could not put a dent into the deficit in the second half. The game never got closer than 15 points.
Ashton Cook chipped in 21 points and Bryce Barnett had a dozen for the Regals, who have won 15 straight.
“I was just really pleased how our team executed in the half-court,” Galpin said.
Camanche was vying for its second state tournament trip in three seasons.
Soenksen led the Indians with 14 points while Caleb Delzell added 12 points and a team-high five rebounds.
“I’m proud of our group,” Davis said. “It just wasn’t our night. It sucks to be one step from the goal of getting out there, but tip your cap to them.”
The Indians lose three seniors in Carson Seeser, Jaxon White and Calvin Ottens, but a good nucleus returns for 2019-20. Jordan Lawrence, who missed all of this season with a knee injury, will return to the lineup along with Soenksen, Delzell, Erwin and Feller.
“Our program is in good shape,” Davis said. “Camanche basketball doesn’t end tonight. We’ll move on.”
Soenksen, a junior, already was peeking ahead.
“It is going to be a great season next year,” he said. “It will be different and we’ll be in a different spot. I truly believe that.”