Posted On: 11/27/18 2:30 AM
Bishop Heelan (14-10)
The Crusaders lose almost all of its scoring from last season, 91 percent to be exact. Gone is all-state selection Elijah Hazekamp, meaning fourth-year head coach Andy Foster will need new playmakers to step up. Tommy Schiltz, who averaged 4.0 PPG as a junior, is the only returning player with valuable game experience. He will be asked to step up as a leader in his final year. Big contributors for the Crusaders this season will also be the Hogue brothers, Cole and Brant. Cole will be making his varsity debut, while Brant saw limited time at the varsity level last year. Heelan must be a strong team out on the perimeter with the lack of size it has inside. Foster does like his teams’ energy and is excited about the challenge of coaching a team that will showcase a lot of new faces in the upcoming season.
Council Bluffs Abraham Lincoln (13-10)
Jason Isaacson’s squad continues to be one of the best teams in the conference and always seems to be playing for a spot in the state tournament. The Lynx have played in four straight substate final games, but have managed to only come away with one win. Abraham Lincoln defeated Sioux City East 72-65 back in 2016 to advance to the state tournament. It will hope to be in the mix again, despite losing Troy Houghton and Preston Fant to graduation. Senior guard Hunter Hendrix, who averaged 6.4 points per game and recorded 64 assists, will be asked to step up along with highly-touted sophomore Jadin Johnson. Senior Tyler Reiss will also play a key role after converting 37 three-pointers and shooting 48.1 percent from beyond the arc last season.
Council Bluffs Thomas Jefferson (4-18)
Thomas Jefferson has fallen on tough times as of late. It has been in the cellar of the MRAC for the past seven years and has averaged 2.6 wins per season in the last decade. For a second straight season, Cameron Lukavsky will lead the way for the Yellow Jackets after averaging a team-high 14.2 PPG last year. Lukavsky also led the way with 123 rebounds and 30 steals. Quran Owens and Beayha Gilo will be asked to step up and make an impact as well. Owens averaged 7.7 PPG in his sophomore season. The Yellow Jackets will rely heavily on Lukavsky’s production and be looking to improve their win total from last year.
Sergeant Bluff-Luton (15-10)
The last two seasons have been more of the same for Sergeant Bluff-Luton. Lose multiple close games early, play strong down the final stretch of the season and defeat rival Bishop Heelan to advance to the Class 3A State Tournament. Last season, the Warriors lost nine of their first 15 games by an average of 8.3 points before reeling off nine straight wins to get back to Des Moines. Head coach Adam Vander Schaaf returns three key pieces to the puzzle in Conner Groves, Sam DeMoss and Daniel Wright. Groves led the MRAC with 66 three pointers and averaged 15.0 PPG last season, while DeMoss chipped in 11.2 PPG and recorded 120 rebounds. Wright, who had a solid sophomore campaign, will be both stronger down low and more versatile this year. This has the making of being one of Vander Schaaf’s best teams yet.
Sioux City East (19-4)
Ras Vanderloo’s Black Raiders have made two straight trips to the state tournament with hopes of making it three this season. While Van Rees’ presence will be missed, East returns four of its six top scorers. Aidan Vanderloo enters his senior season as one of the top players in the state of Iowa. Vanderloo averaged 16.4 PPG and knocked down 52 three pointers. Jack Peterson will return to the point guard role, while senior Javonte Keck and junior Jaleque Dunson will step up and be bigger contributors this season. Keck came on strong at the end of the season when he scored 17 points in East’s win over Council Bluffs Abraham Lincoln in the Substate Final. A third straight trip to the Wells Fargo Arena is expected.
Sioux City North (4-18)
The Stars have combined for just 10 wins the last two seasons and are hoping things can change with seven of their top eight scorers returning. Seniors Trent Frerichs and Nick Opsahl lead the way this season after combining for 42 percent of North’s scoring. It will also be nice to have senior point guard Tyrell Blakey back in the mix for the Stars, after he missed almost all of last year with a foot injury. Seniors Hunter Walker and Devonta Cobbs will also look to provide a presence both in the paint and on the glass this season too. Shawn Miller’s squad will again be undersized and rely on their quickness and athleticism to push the tempo. North should show much improvement this season with the experience and depth it has returning.
Sioux City West (12-11)
The Wolverines have been on the cusp of competing for the MRAC title the last two seasons, but have had trouble closing out close games. Last season, West lost eight of its 11 games by an average of 6.9 points. It’s something that head coach Harvis “CoCo” Cofield hopes to finally overcome this season. Senior point guard Cliff McCray leads the way as the top returning scorer after averaging 14.5 PPG. McCray also led the MRAC with 126 assists and 72 steals. Omar Maldonado is back after leading West with 31 three pointers, while Micah McWell looks to pose a bigger threat to opponents this year after shooting 60.5 percent from the field last season. Cofield’s team will be arguably the most athletic team in the conference again, but will this be the year it finally takes the next step?
Projected Order of Finish (Staff Picks)
1. Sioux City East
2. Sergeant Bluff-Luton
3. Sioux City West
4. Council Bluffs Abraham Lincoln
5. Bishop Heelan
6. Sioux City North
7. Council Bluffs Thomas Jefferson
Sioux City East will be the favorite to take home the MRAC crown again, but Sergeant Bluff-Luton is looking to play spoiler with the talent it has returning from last season. Matchups on December 14 and January 25 between the two programs could decide who takes home the conference title. Five of the last six contests have been decided by an average of four points. Once again, Sioux City West will be a dark-horse candidate to win the MRAC, while Abraham Lincoln hopes it can stay atop the conference despite losing its top two scorers from last season.
Preseason Player of the Year
Aidan Vanderloo, Sioux City East- 2019
Vanderloo, who has found success in his first three years already, will be the true leader of this East high team with Van Rees gone. The senior needs just 39 points to hit 1,000 career points and will be dangerous from beyond the arc again.
Javonte Keck, Sioux City East- 2019
The 6-foot-7 senior only averaged 6.4 PPG and 3.8 RPG off the bench last season, but he is poised to have a breakout senior season as the new big man for the Black Raiders. He will give East a strong inside presence and provide excitement with his ability to throw down big dunks, which he showcased at the East High Jamboree on November 20.