Girls' basketball reset: Unbeaten Marion faces a difficult weekend

City High, North Linn also are undefeated

Marion's Chloe Rice (4) drives against LInn-Mar's Ally Johnson (10) in their game at Coe College on Nov. 25. The Class 4A top-ranked Indians face a pair of challenges this weekend, against Western Dubuque and Indianola. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
Marion's Chloe Rice (4) drives against LInn-Mar's Ally Johnson (10) in their game at Coe College on Nov. 25. The Class 4A top-ranked Indians face a pair of challenges this weekend, against Western Dubuque and Indianola. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

The Marion Indians aren’t going to see a lot of stiff challenges through the remainder of the regular season.

They’ll get two this weekend.

Ranked No. 1 all season in Class 4A, Marion (9-0) hosts Western Dubuque (6-2) on Friday. Then comes the biggie, when 5A No. 10 Indianola (7-2) comes to town. The Indians, 5A state semifinalists last year, feature University of Missouri signee Grace Berg.

Marion is one of three area unbeatens, all of which carry No. 1 tags.

Led by Miss Iowa Basketball 2018 hopeful Ashley Joens, Iowa City High (5A) takes a 9-0 mark into Friday’s Mississippi Valley Conference contest against Waterloo West. North Linn (2A, 12-0) opened the post-holiday portion of its schedule Tuesday with a 74-21 victory over Alburnett; the Lynx host Easton Valley on Friday before a non-conference challenge at Monticello on Saturday.

The following is a primer on area conference races as the season hits high gear again Friday:

MVC Mississippi

Overview — It will be a stunner if Iowa City West (7-2, 6-0) doesn’t repeat as champion in this division. The Women of Troy already are two games clear of the rest of the pack. The other two MVC giants are in the other division. West plays them in back-to-back games — Iowa City High on Jan. 23, Cedar Falls on Jan. 26 — both at home. Cedar Rapids Xavier (6-4, 3-2) looks like the next best team.

Midseason MVP — Logan Cook, sr., Iowa City West.

Preseason picks, top 3 — 1. Iowa City West, 2. Linn-Mar, 3. Cedar Rapids Xavier.

Midseason picks, top 3 — 1. Iowa City West, 2. Cedar Rapids Xavier, 3. Waterloo West.

MVC Valley

Overview — Based on a 59-54 win at Cedar Falls on Dec. 8, Iowa City High (9-0, 5-0) has assumed the role of favorite. Both teams still have a tough test against Mississippi Division leader Iowa City West — the Little Hawks travel to West on Jan. 23 (City won a non-conference encounter against the Women of Troy, 53-40), and Cedar Falls (8-1, 4-1) goes to West three days later.

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Midseason MVP — Ashley Joens, sr., Iowa City High.

Preseason picks, top 3 — 1. Iowa City High, 2. Cedar Falls, 3. Cedar Rapids Prairie.

Midseason picks, top 3 — 1. Iowa City High, 2. Cedar Falls, 3. Cedar Rapids Prairie.

Wamac East

Overview — This could be the most entertaining race in the area, one that might not be decided until February, and one that could see multiple champions. Five teams are within one game of first place, with Anamosa (7-3, 4-1) and Mount Vernon (6-4, 4-1) sharing the pilot’s seat right now. Five-time defending champion Western Dubuque (6-2, 3-2) has lost its two divisional games — to the current co-leaders — by a combined three points. Dyersville Beckman (7-3, 3-2) is one of the area’s biggest surprises, and DeWitt Central (5-4, 3-2) remains in the hunt.

Midseason MVP — Kristen Elliott, sr., Mount Vernon.

Preseason picks, top 3 — 1. Western Dubuque, 2. Mount Vernon, 3. Anamosa.

Midseason picks, top 3 — 1. Mount Vernon, 2. Western Dubuque, 3. Anamosa.

Wamac West

Overview — Marion (9-0, 5-0) and Center Point-Urbana (9-2, 4-1) are miles ahead of the rest of the pack, so it’s likely that their second meeting (Jan. 26, at Marion) will determine whether the Indians win it outright or if the Stormin’ Pointers earn a title share. Marion won the first encounter, 52-35.

Midseason MVP — Chloe Rice, sr., Marion.

Preseason picks, top 3 — 1. Marion, 2. Center Point-Urbana, 3. South Tama.

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Midseason picks, top 3 — 1. Marion, 2. Center Point-Urbana, 3. Clear Creek Amana.

River Valley North

Overview — Cascade (9-2, 8-0) was the best team, in either division of the RVC, prior to the holiday break. The Cougars have a three-game cushion on Bellevue (9-3, 6-3), Camanche (7-3, 6-3) and Monticello (7-3, 5-3), all quality teams who will battle for second place.

Midseason MVP — Nicole McDermott, soph., Cascade.

Preseason picks, top 3 — 1. Cascade, 2. Bellevue, 3. Monticello.

Midseason picks, top 3 — 1. Cascade, 2. Bellevue, 3. Monticello.

River Valley South

Overview — Iowa City Regina (7-3, 7-2) is pursuing its 10th consecutive league championship, but the Regals have been nicked a couple times by North Division foes. Mary Crompton played her first game of the season Tuesday after missing November-December with a knee injury, and her return makes the Regals a clear favorite. Mid-Prairie (7-2, 6-2) played Regina to a four-point game Dec. 5, and gets the Regals at home Jan. 16.

Midseason MVP — Tatum Koenig, sr., West Branch.

Preseason picks, top 3 — 1. Iowa City Regina, 2. Mid-Prairie, 3. Wilton.

Midseason picks, top 3 — 1. Iowa City Regina, 2. Mid-Prairie, 3. West Branch.

Tri-Rivers East

Overview — Cedar Valley Christian (6-5, 5-5) had an opportunity to take a share of the lead into the break, but suffered a 44-43 loss to Edgewood-Colesburg on Dec. 22 that may come back to bite the Huskies. Three-time defending champ Bellevue Marquette (8-6, 7-4) has the inside track to rule again, and hosts Cedar Valley on Jan. 19. Easton Valley (6-5, 6-5) is in the hunt for now, but faces an excruciating schedule in the next eight days.

Midseason MVP — Molly Hembera, sr., Cedar Valley Christian.

Preseason picks, top 3 — 1. Bellevue Marquette, 2. Cedar Valley Christian, 3. Easton Valley.

Midseason picks, top 3 — 1. Bellevue Marquette, 2. Cedar Valley Christian, 3. Easton Valley.

Tri-Rivers West

Overview — Without a doubt, this is the superior Tri-Rivers division. The West owns a 26-2 mark against their counterparts from the East. North Linn (12-0, 11-0) leads the way. The Lynx already have handled two-time defending 1A state champion Springville (10-2, 9-1) and Maquoketa Valley (11-2, 9-1) on the road. The Orioles come to Troy Mills on Jan. 23, the Wildcats on Feb. 2.

Midseason MVP — Ashley Tull, sr., North Linn.

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Preseason picks, top 3 — 1. North Linn, 2. Springville, 3. Maquoketa Valley.

Midseason picks, top 3 — 1. North Linn, 2. Springville, 3. Maquoketa Valley.

Northeast Iowa

Overview — This might be the year that Waverly-Shell Rock’s stranglehold ends after a seven-year run. Crestwood (10-0, 4-0) has asserted itself as the cream of the crop, and gets another chance to prove it when it hits the road to face the Go-Hawks (7-3, 4-1) on Friday. Waukon (6-4, 4-1) already has a win over WSR, but suffered a 29-point loss to Crestwood at home.

Midseason MVP — Shannon Pisney, sr., Crestwood.

Preseason picks, top 3 — 1. Crestwood, 2. Waukon, 3. Waverly-Shell Rock.

Midseason picks, top 3 — 1. Crestwood, 2. Waukon, 3. Waverly-Shell Rock.

South Iowa Cedar East

Overview — This division should belong to Sigourney (8-1, 8-0) in a landslide. The Savages own a three-game lead, with Belle Plaine (7-3, 5-3) the closest challenger. Sigourney will play for overall SICL supremacy Tuesday, when it travels to West Division leader North Mahaska.

Midseason MVP — Autum Barthelman, sr., Sigourney.

Preseason picks, top 3 — 1. Sigourney, 2. Iowa Valley, 3. Belle Plaine.

Midseason picks, top 3 — 1. Sigourney, 2. Iowa Valley, 3. Belle Plaine.

South Iowa Cedar West

Overview — The biggest news out of the West Division came Sunday, when Montezuma sophomore Shateah Wetering committed to the University of Iowa. There are three quality teams in this division, and so far, North Mahaska (10-0, 8-0) has been the best. The Warhawks have home wins against Montezuma (9-2, 6-2) and Lynnville-Sully (8-3, 6-3) under their belts. In addition to the home test with Sigourney on Tuesday, North Mahaska still has road dates awaiting at Sully (Jan. 19) and at Montezuma (Jan. 26).

Midseason MVP — Kassidi Steel, soph., North Mahaska.

Preseason picks, top 3 — 1. Montezuma, 2. North Mahaska, 3. Lynnville-Sully.

Midseason picks, top 3 — 1. North Mahaska, 2. Montezuma, 3. Lynnville-Sully.

Upper Iowa Large

Overview — Clayton Ridge has been the Large School champion in the first three years of a divided UIC, but MFL MarMac (11-2, 6-0) is the class of the division this year. The Bulldogs’ key game is Jan. 12, when it hosts Small leader Lansing Kee in the teams’ only meeting.

Midseason MVP — Bailey Winter, soph., MFL MarMac.

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Preseason picks, top 3 — 1. MFL MarMac, 2. North Fayette Valley, 3. Starmont.

Midseason picks, top 3 — 1. MFL MarMac, 2. South Winneshiek, 3. North Fayette Valley.

Upper Iowa Small

Overview — Pretty much the same script as the Large Division. Lansing Kee (9-1, 5-0) has supplanted three-time defending champ Turkey Valley (6-6, 4-2) as the frontrunner, though the first meeting was close — 40-38, Dec. 12. The rematch is Feb. 2 at Jackson Junction. Kee has allowed 75 points — total — in its last four games.

Midseason MVP — Ashley Schwartzhoff, sr., Lansing Kee.

Preseason picks, top 3 — 1. Lansing Kee, 2. Elkader Central, 3. Turkey Valley.

Midseason picks, top 3 — 1. Lansing Kee, 2. Turkey Valley, 3. Elkader Central.

l Comments: (319) 368-8857; jeff.linder@thegazette.com

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