Prep Basketball

Marion girls' basketball staff has changed, but the nucleus is the same, and so are the results

Girls' basketball notes: Kayba Laube, Ella Van Weelden, Riley Wright are 'coaches on the floor' for unbeaten Indians

Marion's Riley Wright (14), Kayba Laube (24) and Ella Van Weelden (25) were key members of last year's Class 4A state ru
Marion's Riley Wright (14), Kayba Laube (24) and Ella Van Weelden (25) were key members of last year's Class 4A state runner-up team, and provide the nucleus for this year's 11-0 squad. (The Gazette)

Numbers are down a little within the Marion High School girls’ basketball program this season, so the coaching staff has been carved, too.

It’s OK. The veterans have it covered.

“We’ve got three kids who have seen a lot of playing time here,” head coach Josh Claypool said. “We have some coaches on the floor.”

Staff-wise, a lot has changed at Marion since last season’s run to the Class 4A state championship game (the Indians lost to North Scott, 50-49). Assistant coach Pete Messerli became the head coach of the boys’ team, then former head girls’ coach Corby Laube resigned in May.

An assistant for the last seven seasons, Claypool was elevated to the head position shortly thereafter.

The staff has been cut from four to three. Henry Martinson serves as a varsity assistant, Dave Messerli as the JV coach.

On the court, meanwhile, the Indians — 11-0 overall, 11-0 Wamac Conference and ranked No. 2 in 4A — returned their nucleus in senior Kayba Laube and juniors Riley Wright and Ella Van Weelden. All earned all-state recognition last season, and all have committed to Division-I programs (Laube and Wright to UNI, Van Weelden to Valparaiso).

The trio combines for more than 48 points per game.

“They have all found something they have improved on,” Claypool said. “Kayba is a lot tougher driving to the basket and creating things. Ella has improved her dribble-drive game and is relentless on the boards. Riley is giving us more vocal leadership, and her outside shot is improving.”

Sadie Struchen, who saw unexpected, extensive minutes at state last year and delivered, has developed into another good option in her sophomore season. She is averaging nearly 10 points per contest.

Freshman Ella Bockenstedt has emerged as the starting post, with senior Jo Hartke, sophomore Madison Prier and freshman Regan Rice earning minutes off the bench.

With one exception, the Indians haven’t faced much resistance. They are averaging 71.6 points per game, allowing 30.4.

The outlier came just before the holiday break. Maquoketa led through three quarters at home before the Indians prevailed, 72-60.

“That game taught us a lot,” Claypool said. “It taught us that we’re not that tough. The girls decided that they needed to get better, and better quick.”

Marion has allowed 24 points per game since.

The schedule gets more challenging soon, starting with a Saturday battle at Cedar Rapids Kennedy. The Indians still also have a Wamac showdown with Center Point-Urbana on Feb. 1, as well as home and away East Division battles with DeWitt Central and a home meeting with Iowa City West.

At last, West Liberty has a winning season

West Liberty clinched its first winning season since 1990-91 on Monday when it defeated Iowa City Regina, 49-38, at home.

The Comets followed with a 56-24 triumph over Durant on Tuesday, and stand at 13-2. The school record for wins in a season is 15.

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

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