Atlantic has plenty of talent that returns this winter, as can be seen by an article published in the Nov. 24 News-Telegraph. CAM and Griswold have also made their cases as the accompanying articles bear out.
But there’s a wealth of talent on other area teams, and here’s what fans can expect this winter:
Brad Baudler, who becomes the first coach in the Chargers’ five-year history to remain for more than one season, will have several key returning players back from last year’s 11-11 team, the best in school history after the 2018-2019 team flirted with a .500 record.
That included the first post-season win in school history, a 57-43 win over West Central Valley. The Chargers were close to getting that second post-season win but a late run helped Panorama to pull away for the 58-53 victory.
The top two scorers are back from last year – junior Alaina Bunde (9.9 ppg) and EmmaKay McClain (9.6 ppg). Senior Kylie Young also is back and adds a 9.0-ppg average.
Bunde will likely be the one to do the bulk of the rebounding with a team high 138 a year ago, while McClain had a pair of 75s in her stat column for steals and assists.
Also expected to contribute heavily are junior Jorja Hoover and sophomore Saige O’Brien, those two coming off the bench but playing in every game.
The Lady Vikes was just one step ... actually, make that one play short of the state tournament a year ago. An inbound pass to now-graduate Kinsey Scheffler with 0.2 seconds left was off just a split second after the buzzer, and it was off the mark anyway. That was ultimate heartbreak in a 36-35, edge-of-your-seat dramatic, victory by the Lady Vikes’ regional final opponent, Logan-Magnolia.
Both Scheffler and coach Steve Sauvain have departed from that 20-4 team. Jill Vanderhoof, Sauvain’s top assistant the past two seasons, now leads the team, which opened the season ranked sixth in the first Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union poll.
Kailey Jones, a senior and returning third-team all-stater, was last season’s Player of the Year in the Western Iowa Confernece, averaging 16.6 points and 12.6 rebounds a game. She also added 36 assists, 37 steals and 11 blocks, plus a wealth of leadership ability and an imposing physical presence on the court.
Three other starters, all guards, return, all with plenty of scoring ability: Claire Denning (11.0), Claire Harris (9.6 ppg) and Julia Kock (2.7 ppg). Each has done the little things that helped the Lady Vikes be so successful last year: Dennings’ 106 rebounds and 64 assists, Harris’ 65 steals, and Kock’s 35 assists and 34 steals.
Junior Morgan Heiny is the only other Lady Vike who returns after playing in (almost) every game), with 33 rebounds and 16 steals, but is looking to make a much larger contribution this year. Freshman Delaney Goshorn also was making an impression in her first two games of her high school career.
Senior Holly Hoepner, junior Morgan Heiny and sophomore Ellie Peterson are also back from last year and could see more playing time. Rounding out the team are two additional freshmen: Rylie Knop Saydi Paulsen.
The Wheelers have two players back from a team that picked up 15 wins and an Iowa Class 1A regional quarterfinal berth a year ago, their best season since 2015-2016.
Aleah Hermansen led the conference with 253 points and averaged 14.7 points per game. Jaci Christensen was right behind averaging 12.5 points per game while leading the team with just under nine rebounds per game. Hermansen grabbed just under seven rebounds and was second in the conference in steals.
Those numbers alone should give Wheeler fans optimism for the future. But consider that as a team the Wheelers committed the fourth fewest turnovers (215) in the conference, were fourth in total points (853) and average points per game (53).
With a solid core of seniors, Kaitlyn Nielsen, Johanna Sauers and Kodie Sporrer along with juniors Hannah Thygesen and Kate Tessman all with another year of experience under their belts, it’s not out of the question that the Wheelers could improve on those numbers and rank at the top of the conference.
Despite a limited roster, the Spartans have proven to be winners, given a 21-2 season, a Rolling Valley Conference championship and an Iowa Class 1A regional final berth.
Junior Macy Emgarten was an all-state selection last year – second team by the Iowa Girls Coaches Association, third team via Iowa Print Sports Writers Association – leading the team with 364 points (15.8 ppg average) and shooting 42.5% from the field, including 44.9% from beyond the three-point line. She also collected a team-high 180 rebounds, so she was near a double-double per game.
Tatum Grubbs, who was around for the Spartans’ last state trip in 2018, is expected to be the lone senior, bringing with her a 10.1 ppg, 48.3% shooting and a team-high 62 assists. Also back are juniors Alisa Partridge and Mollie Rasmussen, and juniors Shay Burmeister and Quinn Grubbs. Partridge saw action in 19 games, while the others saw action in each of the 23 games, with only Quinn Grubbs and Rasmussen typically coming off the bench to contribute strong games.
With a thin roster – only a couple of freshmen and other newcomers are expected – the Spartans will look to use their signature style of fast, aggressive play in a league wherein CAM, Boyer Valley, Paton-Churdan and Woodbine are expected to be the favorites.
The Lady Dawgs will be turning to co-coaches as they seek to build a winning program. Liz Graves and Mitch Rice were approved late this past summer as co-coaches for the Bulldog program, taking over for Taylor Schueman who stepped down after winning just seven games in two years.
While just two girls graduated, Ashlynn Amdor and Meghan Reed represetned a large share of the scoring output, including Amdor’s 12.8 ppg average and Reed’s 120 rebounds.
The good news for Graves and Rice is that eight girls expected to return that have some starting experience. Of those, junior Franee Miller is the only one who started all 23 games. She returns 5.1 ppg, best among returnees, and is second best with rebounds with 106. Senior Emily Brown grabbed 110 rebounds, the most of all returning players.
The Lady ‘Dawgs will be looking to improve on both sides of the ball, as they averaged just 31.2 points per contest while yielding an average of 68.6.