Conference Preview: Heart of Iowa

High School
Iowa

Posted On: 10/19/18 9:30 AM

The Teams
Gilbert (9-12, 8-6): The Tigers lost 12 games last year, but nine of those losses came by single digits. They return three double figure scorers in Will Turner (17.2), Matt Barragy (11.6) and Matt Ockey (11.6), giving them one of the most experienced cores in the league. Turner and Ockey form the second best guard group in the conference, behind only South Hamilton, and that is going to win them plenty of games. Also returning in the backcourt is Tony Terrones (4.3), who led the team in assists last year. The question for Gilbert will come beyond those top four, as they’ll need to find some depth. But that quartet is going to be among the best in the conference, and should put them on track to be one of the biggest threats to South Hamilton in the league. 

Greene County (12-11, 8-6): There will be a lot of new faces on the court this winter for the Rams, as six of their top nine scorers, including two of the top three, have graduated. Fortunately, leading scorer Trey Hinote (16.9), one of the league’s best players, returns to lead the way. He’s a gifted shot maker who has a chance to be among the state’s leaders in scoring this year as they look to fill in the gaps. Lance Hughes (9.4) is also back after leading the team in assists last year, and Carter Morton (4.7) saw quite a bit of playing time last season. Outside of those three, nobody returning scored more than eight points a year ago. If they can adjust to significantly larger roles, Greene County could float around .500 again because of how good Hinote is. If they struggle, this group could see themselves in the bottom third of the league.

Nevada (10-13, 8-6): We had high hopes for the Cubs last season, as they brought back a big group of talent, and while they finished above .500 in the league, they underperformed. This year’s team loses a lot of talent, with their top three scorers, and four of their top five, graduated. The lone returning starter is Devin See (4.5), while sixth man Tyler Sansgaard (5.6) also returns. Sansgaard is a good shooter but he really struggled with his shot last year, shooting just 27.2% from the floor. If he can become more efficient, he should develop into the team’s go-to scorer. Jakob Strottman (4.0) is the only other returnee with significant playing time under his belt, so the Cubs will have a lot of new faces on the floor.

North Polk (4-18, 3-11): The Comets are an interesting group, as they largely struggled last season, but they bring back their top four scorers, including a trio of double figure scorers in Colten Parkins (13.9), Caleb Lomica (14.4) and Braden Hoksbergen (13.3). Also back is Cameron Markert (5.4), who led the team in assists. That quartet should be pretty solid and elevate North Polk in the standings. Lomica has a chance to be one of the best players in the conference, an athletic 6-5 rim protector who blocked 3.3 shots a game. They’ll also get a boost from freshman guard Jevin Sullivan, who should be able to make an impact immediately for the Comets. He’s a solid ball handler and decision maker who will give them a talented shooter on the perimeter, something this team, which shot 27.5% from the arc last year, could surely use. The pieces are there for this group to make a major move up the standings, but will they put them all together?

PCM, Monroe (16-6, 11-3): Traditionally strong PCM should be good again this year, as the Mustangs bring back their top two scorers from last year’s 16-win, conference runner-up team. The tandem of Andrew Van Ryswyk (12.4) and Reed Worth (10.9) is one of the best in the league. Van Ryswyk is a nightly double-double threat who can score from anywhere on the floor, and with his versatility at 6-4, he’s a matchup issue. Worth made more 3s (35) than anyone else on the roster last year, and was second in assists. With Elijah Sperfslage graduated, Worth will have the ball in his hands quite a bit this year. A pair of players who saw significant playing time as reserves last year, Derek Brown (5.5) and Jason Stafford (4.3), are back. They were the two best shooters PCM had last year, and throwing their shooting into the starting lineup alongside Van Ryswyk and Worth will make this a dangerous, and potentially explosive, team. They’ll need to develop some depth, but PCM always has players, and this looks like as safe a bet as any team to finish second behind South Hamilton. 

Roland-Story (8-14, 3-11): The senior backcourt of Kade Faga (12.3) and Carter Greenfield (10.4) are the headliners for the Norsemen, a group that needs to improve their efficiency (36.1 FG%) and decision making (211 assists to 279 turnovers) if they want to make a move in the league this year. Faga and Greenfield are each capable shooters, as are other returnees Dylan Matheason (5.4), Dylan Ihle (2.7) and Sam Skaar (3.3). This is a group that should be able to put quite a bit of shooting on the floor, and they should look to go small and make teams defend them on the perimeter. This could be an entertaining group to watch if they are willing to play a little faster than they have in the past. 

Saydel (3-19, 1-13): The Eagles were the lowest scoring team in Class 3A last season, averaging just 39.1 points a game and shooting 33.7% from the floor. That’s the bad news. The good news is that they return their top four players from last year’s group, including leading scorer Zach Bobenhouse (12.7), so there is some experience here to build with in a league that saw some teams lose a significant amount of just that. This group needs to value the basketball more, dishing out 200 assists to 326 turnovers last year, if they want to improve in the win column this winter. 

South Hamilton (24-1, 14-0): The Hawks lose one of the best players in the school’s history in Marco Balderas, a tough, physical guard who was the definition of a leader. But we still have this group ranked No. 3 in Class 2A to start the year, and they’re the team to beat in the HOIC. They’ve gone 28-2 against conference opponents in the last two years, and they bring back a trio of double figure scorers from last year’s group in Conner Hill (13.1), Logan Peters (12.0) and Cole Berg (11.0). Hill, a Morningside commit, is one of the better two-way players in the state. He’ll have the ball in his hands a ton this winter, and good things should come from that. Peters led the team in rebounding, and has the ability to score from all three levels, while Berg gives the team some toughness and physicality in the paint. Also returning is Cade Balvanz (5.8), who gives them some size at 6-5, and he’s an efficient scorer (53.7 FG%) who will benefit playing alongside the Hawks’ great guards. South Hamilton is always going to be tough, disciplined, efficient and defensive minded. That won’t change with this group. This is an experienced team that has played a lot of games together, and they should be considered the team to beat in the league again this year.

 

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

Analysis: This has been South Hamilton’s league for the last two years, going undefeated last year and 28-2 against league competition the last two seasons. This year will be no exception, with plenty of experience back from those two teams. PCM is always strong and will give the Hawks a run, while Gilbert has a chance to make some noise with their trio of scorers. Trey Hinote may be the single best player in the league, which should keep Greene County competitive, while Nevada takes a big drop with all the personnel losses they have. 

 

Preseason Player of the Year

2019 Conner Hill, South Hamilton: 13.1 points, 4.6 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.6 steals

You could make strong arguments for about five different players in the league, but we’re siding with the Morningside commit. Hill is one of the best two-way players in the state, a versatile defender and scoring threat looking to lead the Hawks back to Des Moines. South Hamilton is our preseason No. 3 team in Class 2A, and Hill is the biggest reason why.

 

Biggest Sleeper

2021 Tony Terrones, Gilbert: A small lead guard who will get overshadowed a bit by the trio of double figure scorers on the Tigers, Terrones led Gilbert in assists last year as a freshman, and posted a better than 2-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio while doing it. He’s a smart young guard who puts his teammates in positions to be successful.

 

Players to Watch
2019 Conner Hill, South Hamilton
2019 Cole Berg, South Hamilton
2019 Logan Peters, South Hamilton
2020 Cade Balvanz, South Hamilton
2019 Trey Hinote, Greene County
2019 Lance Hughes, Greene County
2019 Will Turner, Gilbert
2019 Matt Barragy, Gilbert
2020 Matt Ockey, Gilbert
2019 Caleb Lomica, North Polk
2019 Colten Parkins, North Polk
2019 Braden Hoksbergen, North Polk
2022 Jevin Sullivan, North Polk
2019 Andrew Van Ryswyk, PCM Monroe
2019 Reed Worth, PCM Monroe
2019 Kade Faga, Roland-Story
2019 Carter Greenfield, Roland-Story
2019 Zach Bobenhouse, Saydel