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Posted On: 02/6/16 2:07 PM
Every year, there are teams that rebound from a poor showing the prior season and put together a nice “bounceback” year. Here, we take a look at 14 teams across all four classes that finished below .500 a year ago, and have things headed in the right direction this year.
*Last year’s record first in parentheses, followed by this year.
Ankeny (10-13, 14-3): The Hawks are probably the most obvious case for a marked improvement this season, as they ended last year winning five of their last six, and six of their top seven scorers returning. The biggest difference has been the play of junior wing Drew Maschoff, who has established himself as one of the top players in the CIML. He’s averaging 15 points a game (up from 6.5), and the team has improved their shooting percentages across the board this season. Like many teams on this list, they’ve trimmed nine points off their defensive average from last season, leading to a much improved record. Last year was a learning season for a young team with lots of talent, and they are now one of the top teams in the state.
Iowa City High (7-16, 10-6): Like Ankeny, this one is one that most people could see coming. Don Showalter, of USA Basketball fame, is in his fourth season at the school, and he finally has a nice group of talent to work with. The Little Hawks have a balanced rotation, with five players averaging at least eight points a game, and they’ve got a (sometimes) dominant big man in 6’9″ C Micah Martin that they can surround with a number of players who can catch fire from deep. The biggest improvement I saw for City, however, was point guard Naeem Smith. He’s got an 87-38 assist-turnover ratio, and has paced an offense that is shooting 50% from the floor, nearly 10 points higher than last year.
Sioux City Heelan (9-13, 11-7): One of the traditional powers in Class 3A has enjoyed a nice season under first year coach Andy Foster. The Crusaders have improved their FG% by eight points and Deandre Burnside has turned himself into the most unstoppable offensive force in the MRAC, averaging 25 points a game. Elijah Hazekamp has become more efficient as a sophomore, and is a dominant force on the glass, and Heelan is getting good production from their role players in Kyrese Peck and Jack Boever. Like Dubuque Wahlert and Cedar Rapids Xavier, Heelan has the benefit of playing in a 4A conference, which gets them ready for playoff time. With Burnside, Hazekamp and crew, this is a team nobody wants to see.
Davenport Central (5-16, 13-4): Matt Coss of the Quad City Times had a good piece on Central’s improvement this season, crediting chemistry and leadership improvements. (You can read that piece here). The addition of Kelvin Miller to the varsity roster has been huge. He’s the Blue Devils leading scorer at just under 16 points a night, and his athletic ability makes a big impact on the defensive end. Central doesn’t shoot the ball well from deep (27%), but they are able to dictate tempo most nights and force teams into turnovers and bad shots with their athleticism. The Devils have the looks of a team nobody wants to see come playoff time.
Muscatine (7-15, 12-5): It would be easy to point at Iowa commit, and our top ranked 2018 player, Joe Wieskamp, as the biggest reason for the Muskies coming close to doubling up on last year’s win total. Instead, look at their defensive numbers. Last season, Muscatine ranked 31st in 4A in scoring defense, allowing 59.5 points a game. This year, they’ve trimmed eight points off that number, now allowing just 51.4, good for 9th in the class. Obviously getting 21 points a night from Wieskamp helps, but he’s been getting some help with seven other players averaging at least four points a night.
Newton (9-13, 11-6): Seven of the Cardinals losses last year came by single digits, so they were a little unlucky. Their luck has changed this year, behind the strong play from the duo of Connor Gholson (19.2 points) and Garrett Sturtz (16.9). Sturtz averaged just 4.2 points last year, but he has emerged as a star as a sophomore. His development is the biggest reason behind Newton’s marked improvement. The Cardinals are getting to the free throw line much more (347 FTA this year compared to 345 all of last year), and are shooting it better at the line, which is helping them win those close games that they may have lost a year ago.
Cedar Rapids Jefferson (1-21, 6-11): There is not a more improved team in the state. Last season, Jefferson won only one game and was very rarely competitive. Only four of their 21 losses came by single digits, and three of those were the last three games of the year. Brandon Horman’s second season at the helm has been much better, with the J-Hawks competitive in nearly every game, and they pulled off a signature win over Linn-Mar last week. Using their athleticism to their advantage, they’ve turned into a pressing team that can cause problems and force tempo. They’ve used forced turnovers to help improve their FG% by more than four points, and this has become one of the deeper teams in the Cedar Rapids metro area. A number of their pieces are seniors (Adam Van Oort, Dennis McKinney, James Brown, Valentino Green), but junior guards RoyShawn Webb and Kane Kramer will be back next year. This is a program that will have some momentum going into next year.
Maquoketa (4-18, 11-6): The Cardinals were starting to put it all together at the end of last season, putting together a four-game winning streak late in the year. Under first year coach Derek Roberts, they’ve taken another step forward. They started the year 7-1 before an injury to big man Logan Rockwell (13 points, 7 rebounds) temporarily derailed them, going on a five-game losing streak. They’ve won four in a row again, and with a trio of scoring options – Jon Ernst (19.1), Abraham Kinrade (14.8) and Skyler Bronson (12.5) – the Cardinals will look to push tempo and outscore teams. Kinrade has turned himself into an intriguing college prospect, a long, athletic junior wing who can score from anywhere.
Mount Pleasant (7-15, 13-5): An incredibly young team (they start four sophomores and a junior), the Panthers struggled through last season with a varsity roster that was nearly all freshmen. They’ve become a patient offensive team that also has the lowest points against average (43.7) in 3A. Watch out for this team over the course of the next two years, as they’re still extremely young. Brady Sartorius, Jordan Magnani, Kieran Kohorst and Colin Mulford will win a ton of games over the next few seasons.
ADM, Adel (3-19, 11-7): ADM has been the beneficiary of a big roster turnover, with a pair of key players (Tajen Ross, Jared Sapp) transferring from neighboring Waukee, point guard Payton Conrad moving from Lakeville, MN, and role player Cole Knoll moving from Stuart. Ross was one of the most individually gifted offensive players at our Combine in September, and is averaging 15 points a game for the Tigers. Add that group of talent to a pair of solid returnees in Matthew Larson (13.8) and Jacob Hardy (10.4), and it’s easy to see why ADM is greatly improved this season.
South Hamilton (6-16, 10-8): The Hawks’ record from last season is a little misleading, as they were without one of the top players in the 2017 class, SF Collin Hill. Hill is back and averaging 20 points a game for a South Hamilton team that has won four in a row now and seems to be peaking at the right time. Playing without him last season, guys like Marco Balderas and Trey Woodall were able to get valuable experience. With only one senior among the top five scorers, South Hamilton may be in for an even bigger improvement next season.
Durant (7-15, 12-8): Durant started the season winning ten straight, but have fallen on some tough times of late. Still, they’ve eclipsed their win total from last year, and the biggest improvement has come on the defensive end, where they are allowing seven fewer points than last season. Despite losing eight of their last 10 games, the Wildcats should still be considered a threat come playoff time, with a trio of players in Gavin Meyer, William Bentley and Jacob Benischek that could shoot them to a win or two.
Vinton-Shellsburg (3-19, 11-7): Seven of the top eight scorers from last year’s group returned this season, and with that amount of experience back, the Vikings figured to be significantly improved. Tyler Stueck (12.0) and Austin Bohnsack (10.0) pace an offense that has improved their FG% from 34 to 42%.
East Marshall (2-20, 7-10): Junior guard Dru Boliver has raised his scoring average by nearly three points a game, and he’s getting lots of help from sophomore Zane Johnson, a very active forward who competes on the glass. Johnson is averaging 12.5 points and nearly seven rebounds, giving East Marshall an impact player in the paint. Similar to South Hamilton, the Mustangs may be in for even more improvement next season, with no seniors among the top five scorers.