Conference Preview: West Central Activities

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Posted On: 11/19/18 10:38 AM

The Teams

 

ACGC (3-19)

Things didn’t go well for the Chargers last season, and they’ll look to improve upon their three wins in 2018-19 with guys like juniors Quynton Younker and Bryce Littler leading the way. 

 

Des Moines Christian (20-3)

The always-good Lions will again be very good this winter. But just how good can they be is the question — state title good, or conference title good? They’ve got five of their top seven scorers back and are ranked eighth in pour Way Too Early 2A Top 10. 

 

Earlham (13-10)

After a moderately successful 13-win season last year, the Cardinals head into 2018-19 with a certain degree of expectations. Trent Williamson has been one of the conference’s best guards since his freshman season when he’s healthy, and sophomore TJ Harkins a young gun to be excited about. 

 

Interstate 35 (10-9, POI Conference)

A new addition to the West Central Valley Conference, I-35 is is here from the Pride of Iowa Conference, where they had resided since 1988. How will they fare in this ultra-tough more northern conference? We’ll be interested to find out.  

 

Madrid (15-8)

After winning 15 games last season, there’s reason to believe the Tigers can get closer to 20 wins this winter. Braden Gibbons is one of the conference’s best floor generals, he’s back and so are five of the top six scorers from last season. 

 

Panorama (6-16)

Yet another team with a strong group of experienced players coming back. Gracen Welburg in now a senior, he led the team in scoring last season. Zac Rizzutti is one of the state’s more promising young guards. We expect the Panthers to win way more than six games this winter. 

 

Pleasantville (17-6, POI Conference)

Another program to make the switch from Pride of Iowa — where they’d been since 2001 — over to the West Central. The Trojans were really goof last year, winning 17 games, but that was a senior-laden squad, and this will be a new-look squad in a tougher conference. 

 

Ogden (10-14)

There’s reason to be optimistic for the Bulldogs this season. Ben Heeren is a preseason first-team all-conference selection, he’s back for his senior season. Guys like Kayden Kruse and Griffin Diggs provide more skill and experience. 

 

Van Meter (23-2)

For the last two seasons Van Meter has been down at Wells Fargo Arena in March at the state tourney. They’ll rely heavily on big-man Ryan Schmitt if they’re going to get back this season. Anthony Pothoff, Spencer Lamb and Ian Abrahmamson will step into much larger roles. 

 

West Central Valley (3-21)

There’s a lot of top scorers from last season’s squad returning, including top scorer Cole Arnburg. But there’s just too many good teams in this conference for the Wildcats compete for a top spot. 

 

Woodward Academy (14-7)

Leading man Mike Barker is gone, he graduated early and is attending Quakerdale Prep for a post-grad season. The Spartans tend to have fluctuating rosters from year to year, so it’s hard to predict how good they could be. What we do know, is that whatever team they’ve put on the floor has been really good the past few years.  

 

Woodward-Granger (15-10)

Bryce Achenbach is one of the conference’s most exciting players, he averaged 11.6 points, 5.8 assists, 2.8 steals and 5.6 rebounds last season. He headlines a very strong group of juniors that has the Hawks thinking they can compete for a conference title not just this year but next, too. 

 

Projected Order of Finish

1 Des Moines Christian

2 Woodward-Granger

3 Van Meter

4 Madrid

5 Earlham

6 Ogden

7 Panorama

8 Pleasantville

9 Woodward Academy

10 Interstate 35

11 ACGC

12 West Central Valley

Analysis

The Lions are the pick here, they’re the only team ranked in our preseason 2A top 10 . They’ve been an elite small-school team for a long time now, and that’s not going to change any time soon. Seth Juhl will have a monster junior season, fellow juniors Brady Hewitt and Jackson Waring will too. Woodward-Granger ousted Des Moines Christian in a district final last winter. That will be a formidable rivalry this season. Van Meter has been the class of the conference for two seasons now. Can Ryan Schmitt keep it that way? This will be a fun one to monitor throughout the season. 

 

Preseason Player of the Year

Ryan Schmitt, Van Meter — 2019

Van Meter has been to the state tournament the last two seasons, and this 6-foot-9 power forward has been integral to that success. This season, Schmitt is back as the Bulldogs’ leading scorer, shot-blocker and rebounder from a season ago. He’s one of the state’s best big-men and is a versatile one at that. Look for him to step out and can some mid-range jumpers this winter in addition to dominating the paint. 

 

Biggest Sleeper

TJ Harkins, Earlham — 2021

He came off the bench last season and averaged 7.5 points per game, so it’s not like he’s coming out of nowhere. But he could certainly emerge as a bonafide go-to star guard this season. He’ll be starting and certainly letting go of a lot of 3-point attempts. If he can improve upon last season’s 35.5 percent clip from deep, then watch out. 

 

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