Conference Preview: Heart of Iowa

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Iowa

Posted On: 11/3/17 8:00 AM

The Teams
Gilbert (12-10): The Tigers lose some key rotation pieces from last year’s team, but return a pair of double figure scorers in Matt Barragy (10.9) and Will Turner (10.4). That duo will be one of the best in the conference, offering a quality inside-out threat. Barragy, a 6-4 junior, led the team in rebounding and blocked 20 shots last year, while Turner was the team’s top 3-point shooter and led the team in assists. They received a boost in the second half of last season from 5-8 sophomore guard Matt Ockey (7.8), who knocked down 17 3s at a 44.7% clip and will join up with Turner to give them a potent backcourt. Garrison Holck (4.4) and Nathan Chasey (4.0) saw some quality playing time last season and return as well. With plenty of experience returning, and a potentially really good backcourt in tow, the Tigers will be a threat to finish in the top three of the league.

Greene County (14-8): The Rams lose high scoring guard Trey Tucker, who averaged 24.5 points a game last year. But they bring back a pair of talented players who averaged in double figures, including a guard in Trey Hinote (15.2) who could easily take over Tucker’s production. He knocked down 68 3s last season at a 43.6% clip and is a gifted all-around offensive threat. Wade Adcock (11.5, 67.3 FG%) is a highly efficient forward who gives them some size on the interior. The final key returnee is Lance Hughes (6.5), a 6-1 junior wing who can stuff the stat sheet. They’ll need Hinote to be brilliant if they want to replicate last year’s success, but he certainly has the ability to do so.

Nevada (15-8): If someone is going to make a run at South Hamilton, it may be the Cubs, who return six of their top seven from last season and have a nice balance of shooting and size. They’ll be led by Trent Stahl (14.1), a versatile offensive threat who can score at all three levels and led the team in assists and steals last season by a wide margin. He’ll be joined on the perimeter by Tyler Sansgaard (8.9), a 5-8 sophomore guard who established himself as one of the state’s best shooters last year when he went 42-89 (47.2%) from the arc. Om’Unique Wilkerson (8.5) is an athletic wing who is capable of knocking down jumpers but is at his best attacking the rim. They’ll surround Luke Merfeld (9.6) and Matt Chitty (4.8), who at 6-6 and 6-5 respectively, give them some great size on the interior. This team will have lots of versatility, and the shooting to knock off anyone on any given night.

North Polk (6-17): The Comets lose five of their top eight rotation players from last year, but return their top two scorers in Caleb Lomica (13.1) and Colten Parkins (9.2). Lomica is one of the conference’s best rim protectors, blocking 42 shots last season in addition to leading the team in scoring and rebounding. He does all of his damage around the rim and is a threat to dunk on anyone. Parkins is more of a shooter, knocking down 31 3s last year. Clark Hood (4.9) is also back on the perimeter after making 21 3s last season (41.2%). This team struggled to put the ball in the bucket last year, averaging just 45.6 points a game (39-28-50), and they’ll need to improve their efficiency if they want to stay out of seventh place again.

PCM, Monroe (11-12): The Mustangs return 88% of last year’s scoring production, and they’ll be looking to rebound from a late season swoon in which they lost eight of their last 10 games. They’ll be led by 6-1 senior wing Jackson Thomas (14.0), a gifted scorer from inside and out who also competes well on the glass, finishing as the team’s second leading rebounder last season. Andrew Van Ryswyk (8.8) was the team’s leading rebounder and shot blocker, and can stretch out to the arc and knock down an occasional 3. Elijah Sperfslage (8.7) will be the team’s primary ball handler after dishing out a team high 67 assists last season. If he can cut down on the turnovers, it would go a long way in making PCM a more efficient offense. Derek Brown (6.1) and Reed Worth (5.5) will likely round out the starting five, and guys like Dayton Boell (2.8), Brayton Van Dyke (2.3) and Noah Lanphier (1.7) will play roles off the bench. With plenty of experience returning, and one of the league’s top scorers on their side, PCM should contend for a top three finish in the league.

Roland-Story (8-14): The Norsemen lose plenty of role players from last year’s team, but the top four scorers return, so they should be competitive and compete for a top half finish in the conference. They’ll be led by Austin Hobbs (9.6), a talented shooter who knocked down 41 3s last year. Carter Greenfield (7.9), Kade Faga (7.3) and Mitchell Shorkey (6.5) are also back. Greenfield and Faga will join Hobbs on the perimeter while Shorkey is more paint oriented. If this group can become more efficient offensively (35-25-58 shooting last year), that’ll go a long way towards grabbing a few more wins.

Saydel (0-21): Last season was a winless one for the Eagles, and with four of their top five scorers from that group gone, there isn’t much hope for success this year either. Zach Bobenhouse (5.3) is the leading returnee. He knocked down 21 3s last season, good for third on the team. Devin Walker (2.6) and Jackson Jarrell (2.3) are the other returnees with experience, but it’s looking like it will be another long winter in Saydel.

South Hamilton (22-3): Coming off perhaps the best season in the school’s history, and losing perhaps the best player in the school’s history, you’d expect to see the Hawks fall off a bit, right? Wrong. This team is going to be just as good as they were last season, and are a big favorite in this conference. Yes, Collin Hill was a phenomenal player on both ends of the floor. But they have loads of experience returning, with scorers two through six from last season coming back. They’re led by point guard Marco Balderas (12.7), a diminutive force on both ends of the floor who is arguably the toughest player in the state. He’ll be the focal point of opposing team’s game plans this year after shooting an efficient 51.2% and dishing out 147 assists (to just 37 turnovers) last year. Collin’s younger brother Conner Hill (11.3) is also back, and the combination of Hill and Balderas will be one of the best perimeter defensive duos in the state, regardless of class. In addition to his prowess as an on-ball defender, Hill is a knockdown shooter who buried 61 3s (at a 41.8% clip) last season. Role players Logan Peters (5.8), Logan Klemp (5.2), Cole Berg (4.7) and Cade Balvanz (2.1) also return, and they all understand their roles and play them well. This group may be a bit more balanced than they have been in previous years, but they’re going to be really good again, and anything less than a trip back to Des Moines would be a disappointment.

Projected Order of Finish
1. South Hamilton
2. Nevada
3. PCM, Monroe
4. Greene County
5. Gilbert
6. Roland-Story
7. North Polk
8. Saydel

Analysis: Despite losing an all-state player in Collin Hill, South Hamilton is a healthy favorite here behind our preseason POY Marco Balderas. They’re the best defensive team in the league, and they’ll have some talented scoring weapons as well. Nevada and PCM bring back lots of experience and talent, and Greene County has a highly skilled scorer who can take over any game.

PRESEASON PLAYER OF THE YEAR

2018 Marco Balderas, South Hamilton: 12.7 points, 3.8 rebounds, 5.9 assists, 2.5 steals, 51.2 FG%

The 5-9 point guard is one of the toughest players in the state, and a menace on both ends of the floor. With Collin Hill graduated, his scoring numbers should increase, but that won’t prevent him from being among the best assist men in the state too.

BIGGEST SLEEPER

2020 Matt Ockey, Gilbert: A talented shooter, Ockey provided a spark for the Tigers in the final ten games last year, knocking in 17 3s at a 44.7% clip. His shooting will make a major difference for a Gilbert team looking to burst into the top three in the league.

PLAYERS TO WATCH
2018 Marco Balderas, South Hamilton
2019 Conner Hill, South Hamilton
2019 Trey Hinote, Greene County
2018 Wade Adcock, Greene County
2018 Trent Stahl, Nevada
2018 Luke Merfeld, Nevada
2020 Tyler Sansgaard, Nevada
2018 Om’Unique Wilkerson, Nevada
2018 Jackson Thomas, PCM, Monroe
2019 Andrew Van Ryswyk, PCM, Monroe
2019 Will Turner, Gilbert
2019 Matt Barragy, Gilbert
2019 Caleb Lomica, North Polk
2019 Carter Greenfield, Roland-Story