Conference Preview: Pride of Iowa

High School
Iowa

Posted On: 10/31/18 9:30 AM

The Teams
Bedford (19-6, 14-4): You can make a very strong argument that the two best players in the conference this season will be suiting up for the Bulldogs in guard Brennan Sefrit (18.1) and big man Cooper Nally (15.9). In all, the ‘Dogs return their top four scorers from last year’s group, and five of their top six overall. Sefrit, a high scoring guard who knocked down 66 3s last year, is the big name on the perimeter, but he’s far from along out there, with Abe Weed (8.3) and Damien Henry (7.6) joining him. Weed led the team in assists last year with 137, while Henry knocked down 48 3s of his own. Nally is the team’s most important piece, an efficient scoring big man who led the team in rebounding and blocked three shots a night (76 on the year). Jordan Perkins (6.7) will round out the likely starting five, giving this group balance with the ability to score inside and out. Bedford has arguably the top two players in the league, and returns more than anyone else. This is their league to lose.

Central Decatur (19-6, 15-3): The Cardinals have an awful lot to replace following the graduations of Carter Boothe and Grant Atwood, who combined to average just under 32 points a game last season. Only one starter, Cole Pedersen (9.0), returns, but the Cards do have their third through fifth leading scorers from last season back. Pedersen will be the focal point of the attack, a 6-5 junior forward who thrives in the paint. He’s primed to have a big year, taking over Atwood’s production on the interior. Cauy Spidle (5.6) and Michael Evertsen (5.2) are the other key returnees. Evertsen could become the team’s lead guard and primary scoring threat on the perimeter after dishing out 34 assists (to just 12 turnovers), and knocking down 35 3s last season. That trio are the only returnees for Central Decatur who scored more than 15 points last season, so they’ll be asked to carry a heavy load. 

East Union (3-19, 1-15): It was a struggle to score on a nightly basis last year for the Eagles, who averaged just 41.4 points with 33-21-53 shooting splits, and they lost their best shooter from that group. Matt McGuire (7.9) leads a trio of returnees who saw plenty of action last season, but don’t expect much out of this group. 

Interstate 35 (12-10, 10-7): The Roadrunners are going to have a lot of new faces on the floor this season, as five of their top seven scorers from last year’s team graduated. The good news is that Richie Griglione (11.7), one of three to average in double figures last year, is back. Griglione posted an impressive 82-29 assist-to-turnover mark and led the team in rebounding. He’ll be called upon to be Mr. Everything for the ‘Runners. Alex McCuddin (4.6) and Tanner Daniels (2.4) are back after being rotational pieces last season, but no other returnee scored more than five points last year. I-35 generally finds themselves near the middle of the pack in the POI, and they have enough returning with Griglione to win some games and float around the .500 mark this season.

Lenox (3-19, 1-15): The Tigers, like East Union, struggled on the offensive end last season, averaging just 36.4 points a game. Unlike East Union, however, they bring back their top five from that group, including a double figure scorer in Colton Vieux (11.7), who actually had respectable shooting numbers (40-38-72) across the board for a team that shot 36-27-57. Still Carter (5.2) is back after posting a positive (77-61) assist-to-turnover mark, and Cullen Wood (4.7), Colton Gordon (4.2) and Trey Whipple (3.3) all have plenty of experience. There isn’t much talent on the roster, but with the losses that East Union and Southeast Warren suffered, they could claw their way to a handful of wins and avoid the basement this year. 

Martensdale-St. Mary’s (19-6, 13-4): The Blue Devils are going to be one of the most fascinating small school teams to keep an eye on across the state not only this year, but for the next few seasons. They lose Brady Gavin, who put up absolutely ridiculous numbers as a senior (25.7 points, 15.8 rebounds), and on the surface, that may look like too much to overcome. But MSM brings back their next four scorers from that group, three of whom are coming off highly productive freshmen seasons. Trey Baker (11.4) leads the charge, a 6-3 wing who led the team in 3-point shooting last season and finished second in rebounding behind Gavin. Jack Franey (7.3) dished out 185 assists (to just 76 turnovers) and led the team in steals. Carson Elbert (7.6) does a little bit of everything. Senior Jacob Dunn (6.8) joins the sophomore trio and is an efficient scorer. The key to this group’s success this season likely comes in the form of Gavin’s younger brother, Isaac (3.2), a 6-7 junior forward who should slot in nicely alongside the sophomore trio and Dunn, and if he keeps improving, this team could be a real handful. There is a bevy of young talent on this roster, and while they could be a year away, this group will be heard from all winter long.

Mount Ayr (17-5, 13-4): The Raiders are probably the biggest threat to Bedford in the league this year, with five of their top six scorers returning from last year’s group which split with the ‘Dogs. They’re led by Dawson Frost (13.3), a talented scoring guard who can get the job done at all three levels. Isaac Grose (9.9), Payton Weehler (7.7), John Shields (7.0) and Myles Greene (4.0) round out the starting five. Greene was great with the ball in his hands last year, dishing out 127 assists to just 51 turnovers, and he’ll be the straw that stirs the drink. If this group can become a bit more efficient on the offensive end (shot just 41.9%), watch out. The pieces are in place for them to be really, really good on that end. This is a team that is going to be very balanced, and should be able to put four capable shooters on the floor at a time. 

Nodaway Valley (11-14, 7-10): The bad news for the Wolverines is that they lost leading scorer Spencer Thompson to graduation. The good news is that he’s the only player not returning who scored more than 11 points last season. They’ll be led by a pair of double figure scorers in Brady Hilpipre (13.7) and Tyler Vandewater (10.4). Hilpipre led the team in rebounding last season and is a versatile combo forward who can score inside and out, while Vandewater likely takes over primary ball handling responsibilities. Aryll Shantz (7.3) shot 62.2% from the floor last season and should be a solid tertiary scoring option. Nodaway Valley is used to being near the top of this league, and they’ll fallen off over the last few years. Look for them to get back up into the upper third of the conference this season.

Pleasantville (17-6, 11-5): The Trojans were one of the best defensive teams in Class 2A last season, ranking sixth in points allowed at just 44.0 a night. They’ll need to be stellar on that end of the floor this season, as only one of their top seven scorers returns, and that’s last year’s fifth leading scorer, Grant Fouch (5.7). No other returnee scored more than 21 points on the season, so Fouch will be asked to do quite a bit. He had a better than 2-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio last season, but will likely need to play a much more aggressive scoring role this year for a team breaking in a lot of new faces. 

Southeast Warren (4-18, 2-15): Three starters return for the Warhawks, another team that struggled on the offensive end (37.6 points, 31-24-50 splits). They’re led by Colton Greif (8.8), Dalton Weeks (5.9) and Mason Merfeld (4.6). They may grab a few wins against the East Unions and Lenoxs of the world during league play, but don’t expect to see them eclipse last year’s four wins.

Southwest Valley (11-12, 7-10): Over 92% of last year’s scoring production for the Timberwolves graduated, so just about everyone on the floor will be a new face. The leading returnee is Dustin Lund (2.6), who shot 60% from the floor in limited time. Look for a sharp decline in record here.

Wayne, Corydon (11-11, 7-9): The Falcons, like Southwest Valley, have a lot of production to replace after losing a trio of double figure scorers who accounted for just under 80% of the team’s scoring last year. Brooks Jacobsen (4.7) and Gunner Fogle (2.7) each saw plenty of time last year, but will be asked to step into much larger roles this year. 

 

Projected Order of Finish
1. Bedford
2. Mount Ayr
3. Martensdale-St. Mary’s
4. Nodaway Valley
5. Central Decatur
6. Interstate 35
7. Pleasantville
8. Wayne
9. Southwest Valley
10. Lenox
11. Southeast Warren
12. East Union

Analysis: This likely turns into a two-horse race between Bedford and Mount Ayr. We’ll give the edge to Bedford, who has arguably the top two players in the conference in Brennan Sefrit and Cooper Nally. But don’t be shocked if the supremely young, but talented, Martensdale-St. Mary’s Blue Devils make a run as well.

 

Preseason Player of the Year

2020 Cooper Nally, Bedford: 15.9 points, 8.6 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 3.0 blocks, 54.5 FG%

The 6-4 forward is a game changing presence on both ends of the floor with his ability to score around and protect the rim. Don’t be surprised to see him averaging a double-double for a ‘Dogs team that should be in or near the top 10 in the Class 1A rankings for a majority of the season.

 

Biggest Sleeper

2021 Jack Franey, Martensdale-St. Mary’s: Part of a really talented 2021 group at MSM, Franey is a tiny (listed at 5-7) lead guard who dished out 185 assists as a freshman. 

 

Players to Watch
2020 Cooper Nally, Bedford
2020 Brennan Sefrit, Bedford
2019 Abe Weed, Bedford
2019 Damien Henry, Bedford
2020 Jordan Perkins, Bedford
2019 Brady Hilpipre, Nodaway Valley
2019 Aryll Shantz, Nodaway Valley
2020 Tyler Vandewater, Nodaway Valley
2020 Dawson Frost, Mount Ayr
2020 Isaac Grose, Mount Ayr
2021 Payton Weehler, Mount Ayr
2021 Trey Baker, Martensdale-St. Mary’s
2021 Jack Franey, Martensdale-St. Mary’s
2021 Carson Elbert, Martensdale-St. Mary’s
2020 Colton Vieux, Lenox
2019 Richie Griglione, Interstate 35
2020 Cole Pedersen, Central Decatur
2019 Colton Greif, Southeast Warren
2019 Matt McGuire, East Union