Posted On: 10/30/18 8:30 AM

The Teams
Alta-Aurelia (18-5, 11-4): The Warriors went into last season with some big expectations, as a potential State team, but injuries to a number of key players never allowed them to really get into a rhythm. So while they lose eight of their top eight players from last year’s team, a number of kids got chances to step into bigger roles throughout last season and should be ready to play this winter. The top returnee is Aric Stephan (7.3), a senior forward who didn’t attempt a single 3 last season, shooting 56.1% from the floor. The perimeter will be controlled by Tyler Hanks (6.6) and Anthony Krier (4.0), while Chandler Damewood (2.9) will help Stephan out in the paint. This roster doesn’t have the top-end talent that last year’s did, but they should still be competitive on a nightly basis and finish well above .500. 

East Sac County (12-8, 10-5): The Raiders will be one of the most experienced teams in the league this season, returning six players who averaged at least three points a game last year, including four of their top five scorers. This is a group that played really well in the middle of the year, winning eight out of nine from January 2nd to January 26th, including a win over Kuemper Catholic. Brandyn Clair (12.3) led the team in scoring and rebounding last season, and he’ll lead what should be a balanced attack in which any of the top four are a threat to score 20 on a given night. Ryan Bellcock (8.0), Camden Schroeder (7.0) and Connor Crabb (6.8) round out the rest of the key quartet, while Derek Aschinger (4.1) and Griffin O’Neill (3.0) were quality role players last year and figure to be so again. If this team can protect the basketball, and slightly improve their shooting (40-31-69 splits last year), they can challenge for the league title and a possible trip to Des Moines. 

Emmetsburg (8-14, 6-9): The E’Hawks were a solid defensive team last year, ranking 22nd in Class 2A, allowing just over 51 points a game. That number will likely take a bit of a hit this year following the graduations of Blake Vermulm and Hunter McAlister, who combined to block 77 shots last year. There is some reason for optimism, however, in the form of 6-3 sophomore forward Ben Dunlap (7.8), who was second on the team in scoring and led the team in assists last year as a freshman. He could become a dominant two-way player for Emmetsburg over the next three years. Tim Geelan (4.9) will pair with Dunlap in the backcourt, while Corbin Saathoff (4.1) should do a majority of his damage inside the arc. The rim protection that Vermulm and McAlister provided was a big part of the E’Hawks defensive success last season, and it’ll be interesting to see how their losses will impact the defensive numbers. 

Graettinger-Terril/Ruthven-Ayrshire (15-8, 11-5): The Titans are always among the top teams in the Twin Lakes, and this year will be no exception, despite losing leading scorer Jacob Conlon (who also far and away led the Titans in assists and steals). they bring back a pair of double figure scorers in Tom Geelan (14.1) and Tyson Kruse (10.1), a pair who are capable of scoring from all three levels. Geelan likely steps into the primary ball handling role, though he may share it a bit with Chris Conlon (7.7) and Kadin Norris (2.6). Kruse will control the glass on a nightly basis, and each key returnee is a capable perimeter shooter. Plenty of talent is back for GTRA, and they’ll factor into the league race again this season.

Manson Northwest Webster (9-12, 8-8): The Cougars lose do-everything forward Cameron Krebsbach, who far and away led the team in scoring and rebounding last season. But their next three scorers from last year’s group return, headlined by Kaden Hanson (13.2), who combined with Brian Pearson (7.6) to make 70 3s last season. Pearson is the team’s top ball handler and does a nice job protecting the ball. The other key returnee is Riley Peters (9.3), a versatile scorer who shot 81.7% from the free throw line last season. The Cougs have some nice pieces back, but they have a lot of holes to fill. Look for them to be right around the .500 mark again this year. 

Newell-Fonda (17-7, 14-3): The Mustangs got off to a rough start last year, losing their first three games of the year by an average of 17.7 points a game. They responded strong after that, however, going 17-4 the rest of the way against a schedule that BC Moore’s system ranked as the 11th toughest in Class 1A. The ‘Stangs are led by a very talented young backcourt in Bryce Coppock (21.9) and Aden Mahler (10.7), a pair of small, but productive, junior guards coming off big sophomore seasons. Coppock serves as the team’s primary playmaker and scorer, and thrives on getting into the paint despite his 5-9 stature. Mahler is the team’s top shooter, knocking down 53 3s last year at a 43.8% clip. RJ Rojas (7.5) also returns to the starting lineup, and Tanner Gerke (2.7) is back with some playing experience from last year. Coppock is the best player in the league, and the ‘Stangs will battle it out with Pocahontas Area (and possibly GTRA) all year for conference supremacy.

Pocahontas Area (14-8, 13-3): A lot of firepower returns for the Indians, who were the highest scoring team in the conference last season. They’re headlined by Jace Davidson (21.3), a lefty scoring guard who puts up huge numbers and is capable of dominating games on the offensive end of the floor. Nathan Aljets (11.4) also returns, a combo forward who does a majority of his damage inside the arc, but made 17 of 33 attempts from the arc last season (51.5%). The other key returnees who will likely fill out the starting lineup are Nathan Hanson (5.9), Christian Davidson (3.6) and Trey Oehlertz (3.5). Poky needs to develop some depth, but Davidson is a dominant scorer who is going to win plenty of games this year. It should be a battle between them, Newell-Fonda and GTRA atop the league all winter. 

Sioux Central (12-10, 9-8): If you’re looking for a sneaky contender in the league, check out the Rebels. They beat both Newell-Fonda and GTRA last season, showing they were capable of playing with the conference’s best teams, and they bring back six of their top seven scorers from that team, including each of the top three. They’re led by a tandem of double figure scorers in Hunter Decker (14.6) and Jake Hanson (10.1), who play well off each other. Decker knocked down 68 3s last season at a 40.2% clip, while Hanson does most of his damage inside the paint. Hanson will be joined by Ben Hargens (7.8), a 6-2 senior forward who shot 71.6% from the floor last year. Prestan Samson (7.0) led the team in rebounding and also returns, as do role players Logan Grote (4.2) and Blake Cavanaugh (4.1). This team has plenty of experience, has a trio of players who should control the glass most nights in Samson, Hargens and Hanson, and a great shooter in Decker. They’ll be highly competitive against the top teams in the conference, and with a few breaks going their way, they could win the league. 

South Central Calhoun (8-14, 6-9): Another team looking to climb the standings this year are the Titans of South Central Calhoun, who lose just seven total points from last year’s team. That’s a team that beat Pocahontas Area by 12 in the middle of the year. Dangerous. They’re led by a pair of double figure scorers in Jared Birks (13.0) and Zane Neubaum (12.1), but this is a group that will go deep with guys like Matthew Clark (7.8), Landon Schleisman (6.1), Sam Musselman (4.7), Jacob Nicholson (4.1), Josh Henkenius (3.7) and Chase Scheidegger (2.1) all expected to contribute as well. Clark and Neubaum are both good shooters, and Clark emerged as one of the best point guards in the league last season, dishing out 93 assists against just 33 turnovers. This group is deep and experienced, and as they proved last year, they can beat top tier teams. It remains to be seen if they can compete with them on a nightly basis, but they’ll get one or two of those teams along the way. 

Southeast Valley (4-19, 3-11): The Jaguars were rarely competitive last season, with only four of their 19 losses coming by single digits. And they lose their top three scorers from that group, so it could be another long winter in Gowrie. Jackson Housken (6.5) will lead what should be a balanced group, a capable shooter who could get hot and shoot this group to some wins against the lower tier teams in the league. Don’t expect this group to eclipse last year’s four wins, however. 

St. Mary’s, Storm Lake (4-18, 0-15): Four players who averaged at least six points a game last year return for the Panthers, who went winless in league play last year. They do, however, lose one of the best rim protectors in the state in Will Hurd, who blocked 124 (!) shots last season. Chakouthchok Malou (10.1) will be the team’s go-to scorer, but this was a middle of the pack team (88th in 1A) in scoring defense last year, so without their rim protector, what’s going to happen on that end? There could be some lopsided scores when the Panthers run into the guard heavy talented teams at the top of the league. 

West Bend-Mallard (5-16, 2-13): There isn’t much returning depth for the Wolverines, but they bring back a pair of double figure scorers in Cole Hoskins (10.2) and Thomas Fehr (10.0), who combined to make 101 3s last year. Both of their conference wins last season came against St. Mary’s, by a combined four points. The middle of this league returns a lot of talent, so their best chances at league wins will come against St. Mary’s and Southeast Valley. 


Projected Order of Finish
1. Newell-Fonda
2. Pocahontas Area
3. Graettinger-Terril/Ruthven-Ayrshire
4. East Sac County
5. Sioux Central
6. South Central Calhoun
7. Alta-Aurelia
8. Manson Northwest Webster
9. Emmetsburg
10. West Bend
11. St. Mary’s, Storm Lake
12. Southeast Valley

Analysis: This is going to be a fascinating league to watch, as any of the top six teams can beat each other on any given night. We prefer Bryce Coppock and the Mustangs at the top of the heap, but it honestly wouldn’t shock anyone to see any of those teams win the conference this year. There should be competitive games on a nightly basis in northwest Iowa this year. 


Preseason Player of the Year

2020 Bryce Coppock, Newell-Fonda: 21.9 points, 4.3 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 2.3 steals

A 5-9 junior, Coppock has been one of the most productive players in the state during his first two seasons. The Mustangs, and the conference’s, leading scorer, he leads the team that should be the best in the league. 


Biggest Sleeper

2019 Matthew Clark, South Central Calhoun: Clark is a small lead guard (listed at 5-8), but he was highly productive last season for the Titans, shooting 47.6% from behind the arc and posting a nearly 3-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. He’ll have the ball in his hands a ton for a South Central Calhoun team that could surprise people this year. 


Players to Watch
2020 Bryce Coppock, Newell-Fonda
2020 Aden Mahler, Newell-Fonda
2019 RJ Rojas, Newell-Fonda
2019 Jace Davidson, Pocahontas Area
2019 Nathan Aljets, Pocahontas Area
2019 Tom Geelan, Graettinger-Terril/Ruthven-Ayrshire
2019 Tyson Kruse, Graettinger-Terril/Ruthven-Ayrshire
2019 Chris Conlon, Graettinger-Terril/Ruthven-Ayrshire
2019 Hunter Decker, Sioux Central
2019 Jake Hanson, Sioux Central
2019 Ben Hargens, Sioux Central
2019 Jared Birks, South Central Calhoun
2020 Zane Neubaum, South Central Calhoun
2019 Matthew Clark, South Central Calhoun
2019 Kaden Hanson, Manson Northwest Webster
2019 Brandyn Clair, East Sac County
2019 Ryan Bellcock, East Sac County
2019 Cole Hoskins, West Bend-Mallard
2020 Thomas Fehr, West Bend-Mallard
2021 Ben Dunlap, Emmetsburg
2019 Chakouthchok Malou, St. Mary’s Storm Lake