Posted On: 11/26/18 3:11 PM
After an eight-win season two years ago, The Braves struggled last season and went winless in conference play. That was in part to an inexperienced team that was led by a group of sophomores. Ryan Hurd led Cherokee with 10.3 points per game and recorded 98 total rebounds, while Alex Paulsrud and Kobe Grell averaged just over 9.5 PPG. Expect improvement from Mark Hurd’s team this upcoming season.
Nick Gruhlke heads into his second year at the helm after leading the Midgets to their best finish since the 2013-14 season. Gruhlke loses his top two scorers in Trevor Freisner and Jacob Heinrichs, as well as his best defender Trey Jacobson. Even though it will be a rebuilding year, there is excitement surrounding the program. Sophomore point guard Octavious Piercy-Maze has a lot of potential, but won’t be available until after the holidays because of a knee injury.
Le Mars (16-7)
Le Mars loses 85 percent of its scoring, particularly its leader Will Pottebaum. Don’t count Dave Irwin’s team out though, he will get his team playing well in no time. Alex Irwin, who averaged 8.3 PPG and knocked down 42 three pointers, is the only returner from last year with valuable game experience. Junior Tate Westhoff and sophomore Spencer Mackey will now be asked to step up and play bigger roles.
Head coach Kory Petzenhauser returns four seniors from a team that won 10 games last season. Gone is team-leading scorer Brady Kluender and his 15.6 PPG, but third-year starter Chase Hough and Colin Slattery return. The Tigers will also lean on senior Michael Storey, who has great athleticism and can defend any opponent on the floor. Petzenhauser’s squad will spread the ball around and force opponents to run with them.
Spirit Lake (17-6)
Spirit Lake had the talent the past two years to get back to the state tournament, but were knocked off both times by Sergeant Bluff-Luton in the substate semifinal round. Paul Brown steps in as the new head man and will return two starters, including 6-foot-10 South Dakota State commit Owen Coburn. Coburn led the Lakes Conference with 20.1 PPG and 11.1 RPG last season. Two-year starter Kip Hurd is back as well, while Ben Newman will take over at point guard.
Storm Lake (11-10)
The Tornadoes are going to be the team to watch in the Lakes Conference this season. While head coach Heath Stille returns both of his top scorers in Cham Deng and Malga Yanga, he also adds Grand View Christian transfer Mach Nyaw and Storm Lake St. Mary’s transfer Chakouthchok Malou to the mix as well. Nyaw won two state championships and averaged 12 PPG in his time at Grand View Christian. This will be the best Storm Lake team in quite some time.
Western Christian (21-3)
The Wolfpack have been a force to be reckoned with when it comes to powerhouse basketball programs in Northwest Iowa. Western Christian will be under its third head coach in four years with Derek Keizer taking over. Keizer was a graduate of Western Christian back in 2003. The Wolfpack return talented big men Jacob Vis and Carter Broek. Vis finished second in the Lakes Conference with 18.5 PPG and 8.8 RPG.
Projected Order of Finish
1. Western Christian
2. Storm Lake
3. Spirit Lake
4. Le Mars
6. Estherville/Lincoln Central
Coaches have said that this is a league where you cannot take a night off. On any given day, anyone can beat anyone. Western Christian heads into the 2018-19 season as the favorite with Storm Lake and Spirit Lake right behind. Storm Lake may have finished just above .500 last season, but with the talent returning and incoming transfers the Tornadoes are going to be dangerous. Owen Coburn will lead Spirit Lake once again and Le Mars is a mystery with basically all of its scoring gone.
Preseason Player of the Year
Owen Coburn, Spirit Lake- 2019
Coburn will enter his senior season as one of the top players in Class 3A this season after leading the Lakes Conference with 463 points and 255 totals rebounds last season. While Coburn is dangerous around the basket, he has extended his range as a three-point shooter.
Alex Irwin, Le Mars- 2019
Irwin is among the best in Northwest Iowa, but he hasn’t necessarily received much attention yet. That’s due in part to a team that featured five seniors that saw significant playing time last season. Irwin, who averaged 8.3 PPG, will now take the reins as the leader of this Bulldog team.