The Ottumwa Courier

December 27, 2012

Unbeatens abound in area girls basketball

SCOTT JACKSON
Ottumwa Courier

OTTUMWA — It’s hard to go through an entire girls basketball season undefeated.

North Mahaska should know. They were the only team in the entire state to accomplish it last year.

But so far this season, the Warhawks have some nearby company among the ranks of the undefeated at the holiday break. While they’ve added 10 more games to the state’s longest winning streak of 38, ninth-ranked (2A) North Mahaska is joined by 19 other schools statewide to avoid losing in the first half of the regular season.

Two of those teams can be found in the nearby Bluegrass Conference. No. 12 (1A) Twin Cedars (8-0) and Moravia (6-0) have also yet to taste defeat so far on the 2012 portion of the 2012-13 girls basketball campaign.

Of the two Bluegrass unbeatens, Twin Cedars is the least surprising. The Sabers are coming off a 17-6 season in which Justin Nolte’s squad contended for the conference title and returned all but one player this season including leading scorer and rebounder Alee Hugen (17.3 points and 9.3 rebounds).

This season, Hugen is averaging 19.1 points and 9.5 rebounds while junior Brittney Roby is adding 10.1 points and a team-best 4.9 assists. The Sabers narrowly avoided suffering their first loss of the season in their last game before the break, holding off Albia 75-72 in overtime after the Lady Dees outscored Twin Cedars 30-12 in the fourth quarter.

While the Sabers are off to a better-then-expected start, Moravia have had a surprisingly successful opening to their girls basketball season. The Mohawks, coming off a 10-10 season, dominated their first three opponents before winning one-point decision over Murray, a 42-30 win over Moulton-Udell and an impressive 59-55 victory at Centerville on Dec. 18.

Super senior Katelynn Tracy is once again leading the charge for the Mohawks, averaging a double-double with 17.7 points and 11.3 rebounds. Defense has helped pave the way to Moravia’s perfect start as the Mohawks are averaging almost 14 steals a game.

Both Seymour and Moulton-Udell will be looking to get their seasons kick-started in the second half after struggling to just one win apiece prior to the holidays. Senior Natalie Potter leads the 1-6 Eagles with 17.6 points, 10.6 rebounds and 4.1 steals while junior Shayla Russell is averaging 15 points and five steals a game for the Warriorettes (1-5).

While there are a variety of unbeaten girls basketball teams to be found around the state, North Mahaska is certainly the least surprising of any. Through their first 10 games, the Warhawks have won in a variety of ways including the state’s top single-game defensive performance in a 45-4 rout of Tri-County on Nov. 27.

The defending Class 1A state champions have a couple of close calls, edging BGM 48-43 on Dec. 4 and a 30-26 win at Iowa Valley on Dec. 18. Despite the loss of six seniors from last year’s 28-0 squad, the Warhawks have been led by first-team all-state selection Mallory Boyle who is averaging a team-best 14.5 points, 6.8 rebounds, three assists and 3.7 steals per game.

Winning basketball is becoming common place in Mahaska County with Oskaloosa posting a 6-2 record in the first half of the season. Thanks to 19.6 points, 4.5 assists and 6.5 steals from senior Kena Veldhuizen, the Indians are off to successful start of their own just south of the defending state champions.

The Warhawks road to a second-straight unbeaten season will be put to a tough test with a tough slate of teams in the South Iowa Cedar League. Seven of the 11 teams in the league will enter 2013 with winning record, which will also make things tough on area squads Sigourney (3-6) and Tri-County (0-10).

The Savages got a boost heading into the holidays, scoring a 47-43 win over HLV — just the second game this season Sigourney has scored more then 40 points in a game. Senior Val McGill leads Sigourney, who average just 28.7 points a game as a team, with 6.9 points and 6.9 rebounds a game.

Tri-County, meanwhile, will need to break through offensively after going winless in 10 games while averaging just 22.3 points a game. Junior Kristen Lundy leads the Trojans, averaging 7.1 points and 8.6 rebounds.

Battles on the boards will certainly help tell the tale on who will win the Southeast Iowa Superconference’s south division. Van Buren, the defending champs, are in a battle with Burlington-Notre Dame in the win-loss column and in among the best rebounding teams as both are among the top five in the entire state.

The Warriors enter the holiday break in the midst of another successful season, having won 29 of their last 33 games dating back to last year. At 8-2 so far this year, Van Buren is fifth in the state 377 total rebounds — 19 behind Burlington-Notre Dame’s third-place total —with senior Hannah Haynes leading the charge with a double-double average of 18.9 points and 11.5 rebounds a game.

Cardinal, meanwhile, has overcome a slow start to even their first half record at 5-5 with several close wins. The Comets have played in and won four games decided by five points or less, highlighted by a clutch second from senior Lindsay Moore who is averaging 16.8 points and 3.7 steals per game.

Delaney Ridgway had also broken out for the Comets. The freshman has scored 11.4 points and grabbing 7.8 rebounds in her first 10 varsity games.

On the northern side of the SEISC, the Pekin Panthers have battled their way to a 5-6 record while battling the injury bug. Both leading scorer Cheyann Lankford and leading rebounder Leslie Stone have missed games this season with Lankford missing seven games while averaging 13 points in four games before suffering an ankle injury.

Area squads in the South Central Conference are seeing turns of fortune so far this year. Davis County, who went 6-16 one year ago, joins defending SCC champ Clarke as one of only two teams in the conference to  take a winning record into the holidays.

Rylee Eakins has led the Mustangs to a 5-4 mark on the inside, averaging a double-double with a team-best 17.2 points, 11.7 rebounds and 4.3 blocks a game. Fellow junior Shelby Graves is also having a winning impact on Dave Mason’s squad, averaging 11.9 points while collecting six assists and three steals a contest.

Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont head coach Tony Fenton is hopeful his team will bounce back at the start of 2013 after finishing 2012 with tough losses to Oskaloosa and Centerville. Junior Tasha Alexander is expected to be back at full strength when EBF returns to action on Jan. 4 against Albia after suffering a concussion late in first half of the season.

Alexander is one of three players to average double figures for the 3-4 Rockets, leading EBF with 16.3 points and almost six steals a game. Seniors Shunyl Busch (10.8 ppg) and Jarrah Jensen (10.3 ppg) also give Fenton’s squad two other go-to scorers on any given night.

The Chariton Chargers sandwiched two-game losing streaks around their only two wins of the season for a 2-4 record through their first six games. Senior Miranda Davis leads the Chargers with 11.5 points and 10 total steals for head coach Lee Sandy.

Besides the Chargers, Albia (2-6) and Centerville (2-8) gave the SCC three two-win teams at the break. The Lady Dees and head coach Larry Achenbach are led by junior Brooke Bettis, who is averaging 14 points a game, while Centerville and head coach Nic Belloma are led by senior McKenna Pershy’s 11.1 points and 2.6 steals a game.

Fairfield have bounced back and forth around the .500 mark all season, finishing the first portion of the season at 3-4 after a 45-41 loss to Van Buren. Juniors Marisa Repp and Sidney Baumann are leading the Trojans with Repp averaging 12.3 points and 2.9 steals while Baumann is close behind with a 12-point scoring average and 2.9 assists through seven games.