The favorite: A young but talented Springville team is the district’s top seed, and deservedly so. The Orioles sit at 15-4 as of this writing, with three of those four losses coming to undefeated teams in Easton Valley and North Linn. Alex Koppes (19.2) leads an attack that has been potent, averaging 72.8 points a game, with two other players also averaging in double figures in Rhenden Wagaman (14.6) and Luke Menster (12.6). This team takes great care of the ball (286 assists, 260 turnovers) and has far more firepower than any other team in this district. The scary thing is that only one of their top seven contributors is a senior, so this group is only going to get better.
The biggest threat: In 6-8 big man Zack Lasek (17.2), Highland has the type of size that Springville could potentially have an issue with. Lasek, an Iowa football commit, is a big, athletic forward who can control the paint on both ends of the floor, while Mason McFarland (14.9) and Cole Adamson (11.3) give the Huskies some scoring punch on the perimeter. If Lasek is engaged and can avoid foul trouble, he could have a huge night in a potential district final and lead Highland to the upset.
The dark horse: Playing in the River Valley Conference, North Cedar has played the toughest schedule of any team in this district. The Knights have four players averaging in double figures – Ethan Sahr (14.9), Kael Unruh (11.1), Keon McCullough (11.4) and Gage Walshire (10.5) – meaning they can always have a different player step up and lead the team on a given night, and you can’t really game plan for just one player.
Players to watch
2021 Alex Koppes, Springville
2022 Rhenden Wagaman, Springville
2022 Luke Menster, Springville
2020 Kyle Koppes, Springville
2020 Ethan Sahr, North Cedar
2020 Keon McCullough, North Cedar
2021 Kael Unruh, North Cedar
2021 Gage Walshire, North Cedar
2020 Zack Lasek, Highland
2020 Mason McFarland, Highland
2020 Keegan Edwards, Lone Tree
2021 Eli Ours, Hillcrest Academy
2020 Kobe Borntrager, Hillcrest Academy
2021 Kaden Schnede, Calamus-Wheatland
2021 Brady Buchmeyer, Calamus-Wheatland
2021 Iziek Soper, Midland
2020 Britan Martens, Midland
The favorite: WACO is one of just four remaining undefeated teams, and that includes a season sweep of both Notre Dame and New London, their top two threats in the district. The Warriors have four players averaging in double figures, led by 6-7 big man Nik Coble (14.9), who leads the team in every major category. Coble is the type of big man you can play through, which gives WACO an edge. Pietro Vannini (12.9), a foreign exchange student, has come in and provided the Warriors with some needed additional scoring punch on the perimeter, while Drew Kissell (11.0) and Gabe Reichenbach (10.1) have been reliable perimeter options. This group has held teams to 43.1 points a game, which ranks 9th in 1A.
The biggest threat: Both Notre Dame and New London have played WACO to single possession losses, but Notre Dame is the bigger threat, since they won’t need to meet until the district final, when teams have a tendency to play a little tighter. The Nikes are led by the athletic duo of Axel Tjaden (14.4) and Mitchell Brent (12.0), a pair of highly efficient forwards who do a bit of everything. They also have a pair of good shooting threats on the perimeter in Nick Skerik (9.5, 36.8 3P%) and Matt Johnson (7.8, 41.9%). As a team, they shot just 27.9% from deep (12-43) in those two losses to WACO, and that number will need to improve if they want to get through the Warriors and to the substate final.
The dark horse: A young, but really talented, New London teams (likely) awaits WACO in the semifinals, and the Tigers have given the Warriors their closest game this season, a 55-53 WACO win back on January 3. New London has a pair of really talented freshmen in Blaise Porter (17.4) and Kade Benjamin (11.6) who have played against some great talent with the Iowa Barnstormers. And senior big man Grant Swanson (17.9) has played in a lot of big games in his time at New London. Porter is the type of player who can take over a game on both ends of the floor, and if he’s able to get hot, he could carry New London to a district crown.
Players to watch
2020 Nik Coble, WACO
2020 Pietro Vannini, WACO
2020 Drew Kissell, WACO
2020 Axel Tjaden, Notre Dame
2020 Grant Swanson, New London
2023 Blaise Porter, New London
2023 Kade Benjamin, New London
2021 Brady Millikin, Pekin
2022 Maddox Griffin, Wapello
2021 Caden Thomas, Wapello
2020 Daunte Oepping, Winfield-Mt. Union
2023 Mason Harter, Sigourney
2020 Eric Valdez, Columbus
SUBSTATE FINAL PREDICTION
Springville vs. WACO
Nik Coble has the size to give Springville some issues, but the Orioles have a lot of offensive firepower and the guard play to get this game sped up more to their liking. We were high on WACO coming into the season, but we think Springville makes it to State for the first time since 1975 with a win here in what would be a very entertaining substate final.