The second round of the postseason has been a nemesis for Davenport Assumption's boys basketball program the past several seasons.
Dubuque Wahlert, Solon and Mount Vernon have knocked the Knights out of the playoffs each of the past three years in that round.
Assumption wasn't going to allow that to happen again.
Powered by four players in double figures, a stifling defensive performance and an overwhelming 36-14 rebounding advantage, Assumption rolled past Mount Vernon 57-36 in a Class 3A substate semifinal Thursday night in its gymnasium.
"I've been dreaming about this since I was 4 years old," senior Trent Fitzpatrick said. "I grew up an Assumption (basketball) fan my whole life. My uncle won a state championship here, and it has been a dream to reach the state tournament.
"We're 32 minutes from hopefully accomplishing our goal."
Assumption (13-10) faces Marion, a 51-41 winner over top-seeded West Delaware, in a substate final at 6:30 p.m. Monday inside the U.S. Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids.
The Knights finished the regular season with a thud — a 14-point loss to Muscatine and a 20-point setback to Davenport North.
"We knew we underachieved a little bit in the MAC," senior Ray Thrapp admitted. "We kind of knew to finish off our senior season, we had to make a couple of changes."
So far in the postseason, Assumption has been energized on both ends of the floor. Thrapp said it has started with spirited workouts.
After limiting Central DeWitt to 39 points in the tournament opener, they stymied Mount Vernon (9-14) to 24 points through three quarters.
The Mustangs made 11 shots from beyond the arc in their tournament win over Dubuque Wahlert. They didn't convert one until the third quarter Thursday.
"Everyone was engaged, and defensively we wanted to take away their shooters," coach Matt Fitzpatrick said. "Our defense was so good to start the game.
"You can tell our seniors are playing like seniors. We've struggled in games not being consistent with some little things, but I thought Monday and tonight everyone was so dialed in."
An undersized Mount Vernon squad had no answer for Assumption's height and physicality in the paint.
Junior Anthony Valainis had 17 points and a game-high 12 rebounds. Thrapp chipped in 11 points and pulled down nine rebounds while Dylan Peeters and Trent Fitzpatrick each had 10 points.
"We wanted to get the ball inside and play inside-out," coach Fitzpatrick said. "Anthony is just a competitor more than anything. He played like a man tonight."
The Knights built a 12-point lead in the opening half, but the Mustangs trimmed it to eight by halftime.
Assumption answered with a 17-7 surge to start the second half. Mount Vernon whittled it to 11 points, but Assumption retaliated with 12 in a row to put the game out of reach.
"The last two district championships we lost, we didn't bring it defensively like we did tonight," Trent Fitzpatrick said. "We set the tone early and said, 'This is our home court, and we're going to play as hard as we can.'"
Assumption has endured its share of rough times in recent years. It won only five games two years ago and has battled an assortment of injuries this season to some of its top players.
The Knights should be fully equipped Monday.
Sophomore Sean Peeters, who has missed the last month with a foot injury, has been cleared by doctors. Coach Fitzpatrick wants him to get several practices under him before returning to the game floor.
"A few years ago, our program wasn't doing well," Valainis said. "We didn't have a lot of wins, not a lot of leadership. I give a bunch of credit to Trent and Ray. They've really brought this program up and brought everyone on board.
"We're almost there — one more game."