On the one hand, Creston avoids undefeated and No. 2-ranked Dallas Center-Grimes in the Class 3A substate assignments announced Monday afternoon.
But, the ninth-ranked Panthers will still have to run a gauntlet of teams ranked in the top 20 with winning records to snare that coveted trip to Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines for the state tournament.
The substate groupings announced by the Iowa High School Athletic Association show Creston (9-2) in Substate 8.
That substate also includes Atlantic, ranked fourth this week by the Associated Press after knocking off the Panthers last week. The Trojans (11-1) and Creston meet again in Atlantic on Feb. 8.
The substate also includes Harlan, which lost to the Panthers on Dec. 14. The Cyclones are 9-2 and ranked 12th in the state. Also in Substate 8 are 8-2 Carroll, ranked 17th in the state, and a 6-4 Winterset team that set a school record Friday by making 16 3-pointers in a 91-70 victory over Boone.
Rounding out the substate are ADM (2-9), Greene County of Jefferson (4-9) and Glenwood (5-5), which hosts the Panthers tonight.
The other Hawkeye 10 team in Class 3A, Denison-Schleswig (5-6), is in Substate 1 with No. 5-ranked Sioux City Bishop Heelan (9-3) and No. 6-ranked MOC-Floyd Valley (11-2).
Lewis Central (3-8) is in Class 4A, while four conference schools are in Class 2A — Carroll Kuemper Catholic (8-5), Red Oak (6-6), Clarinda (3-8) and Shenandoah (1-13).
Games 5-15 are used for seeding purposes for pairings to be announced early next month, so Creston’s games this week all fall within the seeding period. First-round district games begin Feb. 18.
Class 3A Substate 8 — ADM, Adel (2-9); Atlantic (11-1, ranked fourth); Carroll (8-2, ranked 17th); Creston (9-2, ranked ninth); Glenwood (5-5); Greene County, Jefferson (4-9); Harlan (9-2, ranked 12th); Winterset (6-4).