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Posted On: 10/18/18 9:30 AM
East Mills (10-12, 8-7): If you’re looking for a team in this league to elevate themselves into the top two or three, look no further than the Wolverines, who return five of their top six scorers from last year’s team. They’re led by the senior guard tandem of Riley Story (11.8) and Michael Schafer (8.6). Schafer dished out 81 assists last season and was the only player on the roster to have a positive assist-to-turnover ratio. Look for him to be the primary ball handler again this year, and with players with experience like Nic Duysen (5.7), Trevor Glockel (5.5) and Anthony Rainey (6.4) returning alongside Story and Schafer, this group should become a bit more efficient. They were competitive in games against Fremont-Mills and Sidney last year, the two teams they’ll likely be battling against for the No. 2 spot in the league, and with five experienced players returning, that may push them above the others.
Essex (3-17, 2-11): The Trojans were largely noncompetitive last season, as expected after losing nearly 85% of their production from the previous season. The good news for them is they lose only one player from last year’s roster, which included three sophomores and four freshmen. The bad news is that loss (Shane Franks) accounted for nearly 25% of their scoring last year. Regardless, with everyone else returning, this group should be more competitive this season. It may not lead to many more wins, but don’t expect to see as many blowouts this year, either. Colton Thornburg (10.4) is the standout for this group after leading the team in scoring, assists and steals.
Fremont-Mills (14-9, 11-4): The top four scorers return for the Knights, which should make them the biggest threat to Stanton in the league. They’re led by Mason Vanatta (16.3), a 6-1 forward who does a majority of his scoring around the rim but is a threat to knock down an occasional 3. The big name to watch here will be Austin Gartner (5.5), a 6-5 senior who blocked 64 shots last season and is the best rim protector in the conference. If they can get some increased offensive production out of him, he could become a player that Stanton struggles to match up with. Jaeger Powers (6.1), Cooper Langfelt (5.9) and Eli Owen (5.1) figure to fill out the starting lineup, each quality pieces alongside Vanatta.
Heartland Christian (3-17, 1-12): Like Essex, the Eagles were routinely blown out last season, but they also only lose one player from that roster. A pair of double figure scorers return in Brenden Dingus (17.9) and Landen Gray (10.2), giving them a solid duo to build around. Also like Essex, don’t expect to see a lot more wins come their way this winter, but they’ll be in more games and could pull a few out.
Sidney (12-11, 10-5): No team in the league was hit harder by graduation than the Cowboys, who lose their leading scorer and five of their nine rotation pieces from a team that went significantly deeper than most 1A schools do. They have a quality piece to build around in 6-4 senior Brady Lorimor (10.0), who led the team in rebounding, was second in scoring and blocked 35 shots last year. Noah Jorgenson (7.7), Brock Shirley (5.4) and Zayne Osborn (3.3) will headline the backcourt, but this team is going to go as Lorimor goes.
Stanton (21-2, 14-0): The Vikings rolled through the league last year, going 14-0 in conference games and winning those 14 games by an average score of 76.9-48.4. Only two of those games were decided by single digits. And they bring back a pair of big-time scorers in senior guards Drake Johnson (22.0) and Donnie Weis (18.7). The Vikings will lose some depth from last year’s team, but bring back two other players who saw plenty of playing time last year in Tyler Peterson (6.7) and Keygan Day (6.6). With their two best players back to a team that dominated the league last season, look for the Vikings to roll through their conference slate yet again. This is one of the safest picks of any conference around the state.
Note: Clarinda Academy is also in the Corner Conference, but they are a residential foster care facility that has complete roster turnover every year. Therefore, we don’t know what to expect from them.
Projected Order of Finish
3. East Mills
6. Heartland Christian
Analysis: This league should be another runaway for Stanton, who not only has the best player, but probably has the two best in the conference. Fremont-Mills has a chance to push them, and could steal a game at home. East Mills should be improved, as should Essex and Heartland Christian, but the bottom two just don’t have the talent to match up with the top four on a nightly basis.
Preseason Player of the Year
2019 Drake Johnson, Stanton: 22.0 points, 8.0 rebounds, 5.7 assists, 3.2 steals, 52.4 FG%
The senior wing was also our Player of the Year pick last preseason, and he backed up that selection by averaging 22 points and leading the Vikings in rebounding, assists and steals to boot. Look for another huge statistical season out of the 6-3 Johnson, as Stanton’s stranglehold on the Corner Conference continues.
2019 Austin Gartner, Fremont-Mills: The 6-5 senior will be overshadowed by high-scoring Mason Vanatta with the Knights, but he led the league in blocks last year with 64, nearly doubling up Sidney’s Brady Lorimor, who finished second with 35. Any offensive production you get out of Gartner is an added bonus to the rim protection he’ll provide the Knights on a nightly basis.
Players to Watch
2019 Drake Johnson, Stanton
2019 Donnie Weis, Stanton
2020 Tyler Peterson, Stanton
2020 Keygan Day, Stanton
2019 Mason Vanatta, Fremont-Mills
2021 Cooper Langfelt, Fremont-Mills
2019 Brady Lorimor, Sidney
2020 Noah Jorgenson, Sidney
2019 Brock Shirley, Sidney
2019 Riley Story, East Mills
2020 Michael Schafer, East Mills
2020 Nic Duysen, East Mills
2019 Brenden Dingus, Heartland Christian
2019 Landen Gray, Heartland Christian
2020 Colton Thornburg, Essex