Conference Preview: Tri-Rivers East

High School
Iowa

Posted On: 10/26/18 9:30 AM

The Teams
Bellevue Marquette (10-12, 10-10): Only 21% of last year's scoring output returns for the Mohawks, so they'll have to do quite a bit of work to get back to the near .500 record they posted last season. The only two returnees who saw significant playing time last year are Ethan Pfiffner (7.2) and Danny Koos (3.2), so this team is largely a question mark heading into the winter. There should still be enough talent within the school's system to keep them out of the bottom of the league, but with a big lack of experience, they'll struggle mightily against the conference's better teams. 

Calamus-Wheatland (15-8, 15-6): The Warriors suffered a big loss with the graduation of Jacob Looney, who led the team in scoring and rebounding last season. But they bring back their second through seventh leading scorers from a year ago, so there is plenty of experience and talent back for Cal-Wheat. They'll be headlined by the guard tandem of Josh Hein (11.6) and Hunter Rickels (11.0). Hein will be asked to be the team's primary scoring option, and if he can improve on the 25% from 3 he shot last year, he could get up into the 17-18 point a night range. Rickels is one of the better lead guards in the conference, dishing out 127 assists last season and leading the team in steals. A number of shooting options return alongside those guards in Brant Boeckmann (6.0), Erick Solis (6.1) and Tyler Rowald (2.8), while Kaden Schnede (2.9) will be the team's primary option in the paint. Look for this group to play small and fast with the number of talented guards they have on the roster, and they should be one of a few teams battling in out at the top of the division this winter. 

Cedar Valley Christian (2-20, 1-19): The Huskies weren't competitive last year, with none of their 20 losses coming by single digits. And they lose their top two scorers from last year's team, a group that averaged just 31.5 points a game (and that duo averaged 23.5 of those points). Zach Slama (5.6) is an intriguing junior forward, while Jackson Foote (3.5) is the only other returnee with much experience. It looks like it'll be another long winter for CVC.

Easton Valley (18-6, 16-5): The Riverhawks have a lot of production to replace, as their top two scorers and top three rebounders have graduated (four of the top six scorers in all are gone), but there may not be a program in the division that more routinely finds themselves at the top of the standings than Easton Valley. Nate Trenkamp (9.6), a solid scoring guard, should develop into the team's go-to scorer, while Cade Jargo (7.0) and Cooper Kunde (3.6) join him in the backcourt to give the Riverhawks one of the best in the conference. Jargo shot above 40% from the arc, while Kunde posted a nearly 3-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio last year. Chris Hartung (3.3) and Jessen Weber (3.2) were role players last year and look to step into significantly larger roles this season. A lot of EV's pieces are stepping into much bigger roles this year, but this is a program that routinely puts up 15+ wins, and that won't change this year. The backcourt is going to win a lot of games for the Riverhawks, who will be right in the middle of the race against Cal-Wheatland and Prince of Peace. 

Lisbon (19-5, 17-5): The Lions were pretty dominant against conference schools last year, with two of their losses coming to North Linn. Unfortunately for Lisbon, only one of their top eight players from that team returns. Hagen Waters (14.1) is the lone returnee who scored more than 17 points on the season last year, so the Lions are going to have to replace an awful lot of production. Waters led the team in rebounding last year and is capable of scoring from all three levels, but he'll need to become more efficient with his perimeter shooting if he's going to carry this group. Lisbon generally has plenty of athletes roaming their hallways, so this group should stay out of the basement, but expect to see them fall back towards the middle of the pack this season as they break in a lot of new pieces. 

Midland, Wyoming (2-21, 2-18): Things didn't go well for the Eagles last year, as only one of their 21 losses came by single digits and they averaged just 33 points a game. The top seven scorers return from that group, so there is some reason to expect improvement, but the talent level just isn't on par with some of the other teams in the league. Britan Martens (8.9) figures to be the team's leading scorer again, with Ethan Kaftan (4.6), Iziek Soper (4.5) and Wilson Buckwalter (4.5) serving as the other key players for Midland. 

Prince of Peace Prep (9-14, 9-12): The Irish did pretty much what was expected of them last year, beating the teams worse than them and generally losing handily to the upper echelon teams on the schedule. In a league that loses a lot of talent, PoP is looking to make the big jump to the top of the division behind their top three scorers returning. They're headlined by the guard duo of Patrick Mulholland (16.6) and Kaidion Larson (15.6), a pair of big-time scoring guards who should have their way with opponents on most nights this year. Mulholland is one of the best offensive players in the conference shooting above 50% from the floor and above 41% from the arc last year. Larson is the team's leading assist man, and if he can improve the decision making a bit (92 assists to 102 turnovers last year), this offense could be deadly. Nathan Moeller (8.8) gives them a bigger body in the paint, while Payton Schnier (5.0) and Michael Matthew (5.4) saw plenty of time last year as role players and should contribute as starters. No team in this division returns as much talent as PoP does, they just need to go out and prove it now.

 

Projected Order of Finish
1. Calamus-Wheatland
2. Easton Valley
3. Prince of Peace
4. Lisbon
5. Bellevue Marquette
6. Midland
7. Cedar Valley Christian

Analysis: You could really toss the top three teams in a hat, pull them out in any order and have just as good a guess as I have here. Calamus-Wheatland returns the most depth, Easton Valley is always good, and Prince of Peace returns the most top end talent. The bottom four teams in the division all either suffered significant personnel losses, or just don't have the talent to compete with those top three. 

 

Preseason Player of the Year

2019 Patrick Mulholland, Prince of Peace Prep: 16.6 points, 4.3 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 2.1 steals, 50.6 FG%, 41.2 3P%)

The league's leading returning scorer, the 6-1 wing is a versatile scoring threat capable of getting the job done from anywhere on the floor. He'll be the focal point of an Irish team that could be the best in the division. 

 

Biggest Sleeper

2020 Cade Jargo, Easton Valley: A small (5-7) guard, Jargo quietly put together a pretty solid season last year for the Riverhawks, averaging seven points a game, shooting above 40% from the arc, and dishing out 77 assists against just 32 turnovers. Look for some big shooting nights for Jargo this winter on an Easton Valley team that is going to be right near the top of the league again, despite losing a lot of production. 

 

Players to Watch
2019 Patrick Mulholland, Prince of Peace Prep
2019 Kaidion Larson, Prince of Peace Prep
2020 Nathan Moeller, Prince of Peace Prep
2019 Payton Schnier, Prince of Peace Prep
2019 Michael Matthew, Prince of Peace Prep
2019 Hagen Waters, Lisbon
2019 Hunter Rickels, Calamus-Wheatland
2019 Josh Hein, Calamus-Wheatland
2019 Brant Boeckmann, Calamus-Wheatland
2019 Erick Solis, Calamus-Wheatland
2020 Nate Trenkamp, Easton Valley
2020 Cade Jargo, Easton Valley
2019 Ethan Pfiffner, Bellevue Marquette
2020 Britan Martens, Midland
2020 Zach Slama, Cedar Valley Christian