SPRINGVILLE — The natural thing — from an outsider, at least — is to call this a Victory Tour of sorts, the coronation of one of the best small-school girls’ basketball runs of the five-player era.
The Springville Orioles aren’t buying it.
“If you look ahead too far, you lose the little moments,” Alyssa Jaeger said. “I know the season is going to go fast, so I want to cherish every moment.”
And this is a team to cherish, to celebrate. It’s a team that has relied on a stingy zone defense and a remarkably unselfish mindset to capture the last two Class 1A state championships.
All of the key players return, and the Orioles are favored — yes, expected — to do it again.
Outward expectations are mere noise, though. The Orioles are tuning it out.
“We’re not going to let the end outcome define our season,” Mikayla Nachazel said. “We’re going to let the moments define the season.”
Springville’s nucleus is full of seniors now. All the Orioles know is winning, and playing in Des Moines on the first weekend of March. They were 1A runners-up in 2015, then won it all in 2016 and 2017.
In that span, they’ve won 74 of 81 games.
They have a new coach now: Nate Sanderson departed to take the job at Linn-Mar, and he is succeeded by former assistant Christina Zaruba.
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“We’re going to start fresh,” Nachazel said. “I think we’re going to do what we’ve been doing. We’re not going to let the coaching change bother us in any way.”
“The drills we run, the way we play ... we’ll do some new things and some old things,” added Madi Wagaman.
Zaruba is a 1998 graduate of Springville who teaches preschool in the district — “I have 3- and 4-year-olds by day, then 15- to 18-year-olds after school,” she said.
She envisions a smooth transition.
“(Sanderson) allowed us, his assistants to do quite a bit,” Zaruba said. “I was kind of a counselor. I made sure the girls were comfortable. If there were problems, they would come to me.
“They still come to me, and I’m glad.”
An addition to the staff is assistant Jeff Menster, the father of guard Rylee Menster. He was the first coach of the current senior class, assembling them to play in third grade.
“It’s kind of cool,” Rylee said. “He taught us how to dribble. He started with us, and now he’ll finish with us.”
Menster and Nachazel are best friends, first-team all-staters and the main pillars of this mini-dynasty.
A 5-foot-11 post with a soft touch out to 15 feet, Nachazel has scored 1,215 points in her career. Menster is a whip-quick, long-armed guard who has tallied 1,159.
Both have signed with NCAA Division-II Minnesota State-Mankato.
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It was Jaeger, though, who provided the heroic, signature moment of this run. As a sophomore, she hit two free throws with 3.2 seconds left to get Springville past Turkey Valley, 49-48, for the 2016 title.
“I don’t remember that much about it now, I was so in-the-moment,” she said.
When Sanderson coached, he would make YouTube videos of the Orioles’ ball movement. It was — and is — a beautiful thing to watch. Springville averaged 18.4 assists per game last season, and allowed 27.6 points per contest.
That’s winning basketball, and it should continue this season.
All the way into March.
“Every year is a new year,” Jaeger said. “We’ll definitely take one step at a time, and we’ll work every day in the gym to get better.”
GIRLS’ BASKETBALL: TEAMS WITH THREE OR MORE CONSECUTIVE STATE CHAMPIONSHIPS
4: Ankeny (4A, 2002-05)
4: Audubon (6-player, 1921-24)
3: Western Christian (2A, 2012-14)
3: Davenport Assumption (3A, 2011-13)
3: Rock Valley (2A, 2001; 1A, 2002-03)
3: Washington (3A, 1999-2001)
3: Lynnville-Sully (1A, 1997-99)
2017-18 Girls' basketball preview
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