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From winless to winning for Cedar Valley Christian
5 senior starters lead Huskies, who have winning record, 5-game win streak after not getting a victory as freshmen 4 years ago
CEDAR RAPIDS — It’s the final minute of a game long since decided, and Cedar Valley Christian School’s starting basketball players are whooping it up on their team bench.
Everyone is standing, clapping, waving towels around their heads, cheering on teammates who don’t get to play very often. One of those teammates nails a 3-point shot, which sends everyone into delirium.
Winning is fun. A lot of fun.
“It’s really nice to have everybody come out and just build this together and get all these victories,” said senior guard Drew Grimm. “It’s been tough the last few years. So it’s nice building it all together and sharing this success together.”
Tough the last few years? Yeah, that’s fair to say for this small school tucked just down Cottage Grove Avenue from Washington High School on the city’s southeast side.
Cedar Valley Christian was 2-17 last season, bedeviled by a barrage of injuries. It was 5-18 the season before that, 0-20 the season before that.
Four freshmen started on that winless 2018-19 Huskies team. Those guys are seniors now and reaping the benefits of sticking with it and improving.
CVC took a 9-6 record into its home game Tuesday night at Isaac Newton Christian Academy against Easton Valley. The Huskies were on a five-game win streak.
Cedar Valley and Isaac Newton have a shared boys’ basketball program, with a total enrollment of 56 students, according to the Iowa High School Athletic Association, which uses BEDS numbers from the Iowa Department of Education to determine classifications.
“It’s been tough, really demoralizing just going out night after night and getting blown out,” said senior guard Levi Telecky. “We had four freshmen starting on varsity, and we’ve just worked up since then ... The offseasons, we’ve put in hours. We’ve put blood, sweat and tears into it. We had Conor come in, move in, and that has really helped give us some height. This just feels really good, feels great.”
Conor is Connor Sukel, a 6-foot-1 guard who transferred in to Isaac Newton from Joliet West High School in Illinois. He played for Joliet Catholic as a freshman and sophomore.
Sukel has completed this team, a high-energy kid who averages a team-high 22.4 points and 10.5 rebounds per game. He also averages four assists and four steals per contest.
He has seamlessly transitioned from big-time, big-school hoops in the Chicago suburbs to Class 1A basketball in Iowa. He loves his teammates, and they love him.
“I had met Drew in March at a camp, and he was talking about his school. He told me they needed that one piece to kind of take the next step, for them to make a run at the 1A level,” Sukel said. “I knew I wanted to go back to a Christian school. I grew up like that. Before we lived in Chicago, I grew up in a small town. I feel like I learn better that way. So I came out for a small Christian school environment. Plus I knew I’d be one of the main basketball players, which would help me fit in.”
“I love playing with Conor,” said Telecky, who averages 16.5 points a game and is on pace to become what is believed to be CVC’s first career 1,000-point scorer. “I’ve had a lot of connections with guys over the years, but I’d say mine with him is probably the best.”
Joshua Jackson and Nati Kejella are the other Huskies who suffered through that winless season as freshman starters. Gabe Werling and Brandon Jessen make it a lucky seven seniors for this team.
“We’ve been through our battles,” said Coach John Grimm. “We’ve been through that 0-20. I always believed in these boys, have always told them to believe in themselves, and they could do some special things. We’ve had some glimmers of some special things throughout the last couple of years. I thought last year we were going to take a bigger jump, and then we had the injury bug.”
Cedar Valley Christian has six regular-season games remaining as it seeks to secure its first winning season since 2012-13, when it went 16-7. Since then, the school had won just 25 games total coming into this season.
“I just thank God everybody is healthy right now and staying healthy. Hopefully it continues,” Coach Grimm said. “This is a special group. We have (seven) seniors, and they have seen everything. I’m enjoying this.”
Needless to say, everyone is enjoying this.
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