Prep Basketball

Iowa high school girls' basketball: Area conference predictions, reset for 2020

Maquoketa Valley-North Linn, Cascade-West Liberty among Friday's highlights

Cedar Rapids Kennedy's Sadie Powell (20) drives the ball up the court in the second half of the Cougars' 74-65 win over
Cedar Rapids Kennedy's Sadie Powell (20) drives the ball up the court in the second half of the Cougars' 74-65 win over Cedar Rapids Washington on Dec. 20. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

It’s an uncommonly high list.

Two years ago, only three area girls’ basketball teams were unbeaten at the holiday break. Last year, there were four.

Led by top-ranked clubs Iowa City High, Cascade and Montezuma, nine area teams head into January with perfect records.

That group — which also consists of Cedar Rapids Prairie, Marion, Center Point-Urbana, West Liberty, Maquoketa Valley and Springville — will be whittled a bit Friday when Cascade (8-0, 7-0) faces upstart West Liberty (7-0, 6-0) in a River Valley Conference cross-divisional matchup at West Liberty. The Comets are the feel-good story in the area this season, apparently well on their way to their first winning season in more than two decades.

The other top game in the area Friday is at Troy Mills, where Tri-Rivers Conference West Division rivals Maquoketa Valley (8-0, 2-0) and North Linn (6-1, 2-0) collide.

The following is a primer on area conference and divisional races as the season resumes in full force Friday.

MVC Mississippi

By far the stronger and deeper of the two MVC divisions, the fun begins here in earnest next Tuesday, when Cedar Rapids Prairie (6-0, 3-0) visits Cedar Falls (6-2, 2-1). The Tigers took a pair of unexpected nicks when Emerson Green was out with injury (she’s back now). Iowa City High (6-0, 3-0) is chasing its eighth straight divisional title, and has done nothing to damage its status as frontrunner. The senior trio of Aubrey Joens, Rose Nkumu and Paige Rocca has been joined by freshman Kelsey Joens, and all four are averaging at least 12 points per game. Behind Mallory McDermott and Sidney McCrea (46.3 ppg between them), Prairie has won all six of its games by double digits. Cedar Rapids Xavier (4-3, 3-0) is a 4A title threat.

Midseason MVP — Mallory McDermott, sr., Cedar Rapids Prairie

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

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

MVC Valley

Waterloo West (7-1, 2-1) appears to be on one of its periodic ascents. The Wahawks are averaging 65.8 points per game and carry a four-game win streak that includes a convincing conquest of Cedar Falls. Six players are averaging at least eight points per game, including three freshmen and a sophomore. Cedar Rapids Kennedy (4-3, 2-1) has won four of its last five games, and appears to be on its way of breaking a streak of three straight losing seasons. The Cougars visit the Wahawks next Tuesday. Iowa City West (3-3, 1-2) has won three straight divisional titles, but has some work to do to extend that streak.

Midseason MVP — Sadie Powell, sr., Cedar Rapids Kennedy

Preseason picks, top 3 — 1. Iowa City West, 2. Linn-Mar, 3. Waterloo West

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

Wamac East

Led by Division-I recruits Kayba Laube, Riley Wright and Ella Van Weelden, Marion (6-0, 6-0) is the favorite to win the East for the second straight year after switching divisions. But the gap between the Indians and the field has closed. That’s not because the Indians have backtracked, but rather because other teams are improving. DeWitt Central (8-0, 7-0) has been tested only once, and hosts the Indians on Jan. 10. Maquoketa (6-2, 5-2) led the Indians after three quarters Dec. 20 before Marion prevailed, 72-60. Dyersville Beckman (6-3, 5-2) also has taken a step forward this winter.

Midseason MVP — Kayba Laube, sr., Marion

Preseason picks, top 3 — 1. Marion, 2. DeWitt Central, 3. Maquoketa

Midseason picks, top 3 — 1. Marion, 2. DeWitt Central, 3. Maquoketa

Wamac West

It looks like Center Point-Urbana (6-0, 5-0) will rule the West again. Last year’s Class 3A state champions, the Stormin’ Pointers already enjoy a three-game lead in the loss column over Clear Creek Amana (5-3, 4-3), thanks in part to a 60-46 victory at Tiffin just before the break. CPU has tough road cross-division matchups with DeWitt Central (Tuesday) and Marion (Feb. 1). After averaging 2.8 wins through the past eight seasons, Vinton-Shellsburg (4-4, 3-4) is climbing toward respectability, and the Vikettes should battle Benton Community (5-3, 4-3) for an upper-division finish.

Midseason MVP — Ryley Goebel, soph., Center Point-Urbana

Preseason picks, top 3 — 1. Center Point-Urbana, 2. Clear Creek Amana, 3. Williamsburg.

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

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River Valley North

Cascade’s calling card through the years — even before Mike Sconsa was in charge — was a suffocating zone defense. But the Cougars (8-0, 7-0) pack some offensive punch now too, averaging 66.5 points per game. Nicole McDermott is one of the best players in the area, regardless of class, averaging 20.3 points per game, shooting 62.4 percent from the floor and leading the team in rebounds, assists and steals. Monticello (6-3, 6-1) is the Cougars’ chief rival in the North behind post Jordan Kuper. Northeast (5-3, 4-3) already has matched its win total from a year ago.

Midseason MVP — Nicole McDermott, sr., Cascade

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

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

River Valley South

West Liberty (7-0, 6-0) had made the transition to “winner” this season. In the next few days, we’ll find out if the Comets can add the label “contender.” Starting Friday, they play five games in an eight-day span, including a home test with Cascade on Friday, a South Division showdown Tuesday against division favorite West Branch (7-2, 6-1), and a home date Jan. 10 against perennial power Iowa City Regina (5-1, 5-1). West Branch’s two losses have come against the top two ranked teams in 2A, Cascade and West Hancock, and the Bears were competitive in both of them.

Midseason MVP — Sasha Koenig, jr., West Branch

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

Midseason picks, top 3 — 1. West Branch, 2. West Liberty, 3. Iowa City Regina

Tri-Rivers East

A state-tournament team last year, Bellevue Marquette (8-1, 2-0) made waves with a 20-point win over North Linn in a cross-divisional match Dec. 13, and the Mohawks are a pretty safe pick to snatch their sixth consecutive divisional championship. Post Tori Michel averages 15.3 points and 13.3 rebounds per game and shoots 61.5 percent from the floor. Clinton Prince of Peace (4-3, 2-0) is the most legitimate challenger; the Irish are two years removed from an 0-22 season but possess a strong mix of sophomores and juniors.

Midseason MVP — Tori Michel, sr., Bellevue Marquette

Preseason picks, top 3 — 1. Bellevue Marquette, 2. Easton Valley, 3. Clinton Prince of Peace

Midseason picks, top 3 — 1. Bellevue Marquette, 2. Clinton Prince of Peace, 3. Easton Valley

Tri-Rivers West

There are four quality teams in this division, and Maquoketa Valley (8-0, 2-0) fired the first salvo, holding off East Buchanan (6-2, 1-1) just before the break, 39-35. The Wildcats shared the divisional title last year with North Linn, and travel to Troy Mills on Friday for a showdown with the Lynx (6-1, 2-0). North Linn has won 20-plus games in nine consecutive seasons, but showed some vulnerability in an overtime win over Van Buren County and a 20-point loss at Bellevue Marquette. The other title hopefuls, East Buchanan and Springville (7-0, 2-0) tussle Tuesday at Springville.

Midseason MVP — Grace Flanagan, sr., North Linn

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

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

Northeast Iowa

Waverly-Shell Rock (6-2, 4-0) and Crestwood (9-1, 3-0) have combined for the last nine NEIC championships, and it’s a good bet that either (or both) of those teams will be crowned this winter. The first meeting is Jan. 10 at Waverly; the rematch is Feb. 7 at Cresco. Both teams are prolific in the paint — Crestwood’s Sharon Goodman is a University of Iowa signee and averages 29.0 points and 11.7 rebounds per game (shooting 76 percent from the floor) while WSR is led by Abbie Draper (19.6 ppg, 8.6 rpg). Waukon (6-3, 2-2) was a 3A state semifinalist last year and lost to the co-leaders by a combined 10 points in its last two games before the break.

Midseason MVP — Sharon Goodman, sr., Crestwood

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

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

South Iowa Cedar East

Sigourney (6-2, 5-1) is on track for its fourth consecutive outright divisional title. The Savages had one challenge from inside their division, a 46-41 win over Iowa Valley (5-2, 4-1) at home Dec. 10, and the rematch is Jan. 31 at Marengo. Megan Stuhr and Kaylee Weber combine for 37 points per game. Iowa Valley has matched its win total from last year, and English Valleys (7-2, 4-2) is vastly improved after a 4-15 campaign in 2018-19.

Midseason MVP — Megan Stuhr, sr., Sigourney

Preseason picks, top 3 — 1. Sigourney, 2. Belle Plaine, 3. English Valleys

Midseason picks, top 3 — 1. Sigourney, 2. Iowa Valley, 3. English Valleys

South Iowa Cedar West

Montezuma entered the season as the No. 1 team in Class 1A, and has done nothing to harm its status. Behind Iowa signee Shateah Wetering (21.5 ppg) and 3-point threat Elise Boulton, the Bravettes (8-0, 6-0) have beaten all of their opponents by 15 points or more, including SICL West rivals North Mahaska (6-2, 5-1) and Lynnville-Sully (6-3, 4-2), as well as East Division leader Sigourney. Montezuma should be 14-0 when it travels to North Mahaska on Jan. 24.

Midseason MVP — Shateah Wetering, sr., Montezuma

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

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

Upper Iowa

After running the UIC table and winning the league by four games last year, MFL MarMac (8-2, 6-1) learned early that it would be more difficult this time around, suffering a 36-34 loss at North Fayette Valley (5-2, 5-1) on opening night. The Bulldogs remain the favorite, though, and have rattled off eight consecutive victories, including an emphatic win over another contender, Turkey Valley (8-1, 5-1), on Dec. 13. They face another challenge Friday, at Elkader Central (8-1, 5-1), then host the rematch with NFV next Tuesday.

Midseason MVP — Bailey Winter, sr., MFL MarMac

Preseason picks, top 3 — 1. MFL MarMac, 2. Turkey Valley, 3. Elkader Central

Midseason picks, top 3 — 1. MFL MarMac, 2. Turkey Valley, 3. Elkader Central

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

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