Prep Basketball

Aubrey Joens of Iowa City High is the Gazette girls' basketball player of the year

That makes it 2 straight for her, 4 consecutive for her family

Aubrey Joens of Iowa City High is the Gazette girls' basketball player of the year
Aubrey Joens of Iowa City High is the Gazette girls' basketball player of the year

IOWA CITY — Everybody is dealing with hardships these days.

If you’re a gym rat and the gyms are closed, that’s rough.

“Most of them are closed here now,” Aubrey Joens said. “I got into one a couple of days ago. But now they’ve shut them all down.

“I could shoot at home, but our basket there isn’t that good.”

There’s a void in Joens’ life right now. No school. And no basketball.

So there’s time to reflect. And to look ahead.

Both views are good.

Close the book on a high-school career that netted 1,560 points at Iowa City High. A 5-foot-8 senior guard, Joens is the 2019-20 Gazette area girls’ basketball player of the year.

“She puts a lot of time into it. She works every day,” City Coach Bill McTaggart said. “When you work on your game every day, you’re ahead of the curve.”

Joens, along with classmates Rose Nkumu and Paige Rocca, were four-year regulars for the Little Hawks, compiling a career record of 89-8, including 23-2 this season. They reached the Class 5A state semifinals, bowing to eventual-champion Johnston.

The only void in her glossy resume was a championship. The Little Hawks reached the title game in 2018, losing to Iowa City West. They returned to state in 2019, then got to the semis in March.

“We had a lot of fun,” Joens said. “A state championship would have been nice, but we accomplished a lot. I think it was a good career.”

It was a career that produced four Mississippi Valley Conference divisional titles (including a 53-2 league record).

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Joens averaged 12.1 and 12.9 points per game in her first two seasons. Then, after older sister Ashley Joens graduated, Aubrey’s numbers jumped, as did her shooting percentages.

Aubrey averaged 23.0 points per game as a junior, 20.2 as a senior.

“Obviously, I wanted to become more versatile,” she said. “I really tried to work on finishing down low.”

“She’s a better rebounder than in previous years. She has increased her assists,” McTaggart said. “She’s one of the best shooters ever to come out of City High.”

Joens made 224 3-pointers in her career, hitting 38.4 percent from long range. In a Feb. 7 rout of Cedar Rapids Prairie, she made her first seven 3-point attempts in a 31-point spree.

“When she’s got the hot hand, she’s got it, and you want to keep feeding her,” Nkumu said.

The career highlight came six days earlier, when City, then ranked No. 1, outlasted then-No. 2 West Des Moines Dowling, 75-73.

Joens scored six of her 29 points in the final 3 1/2 minutes, including the game-winning bucket with four seconds remaining.

“It was exciting,” Joens said. “A lot of back and forth — competitive personalities out there.”

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Joens repeats as Gazette-area player of the year, headlining a list of 12 players. She is joined by her teammate Nkumu, along with Caitlynn Daniels of Cedar Rapids Xavier, Grace Flanagan of North Linn, Ryley Goebel of Center Point-Urbana, Kayba Laube of Marion, Sidney McCrea and Mallory McDermott of Cedar Rapids Prairie, Nicole McDermott of Cascade, Karsyn Stratton of Clear Creek Amana, Hannah Stuelke of Cedar Rapids Washington and Shateah Wetering of Montezuma.

Meet the 2019-20 Gazette all-area girls’ basketball team

Joens’ back-to-back Gazette honors follow a two-year reign of Ashley Joens, who this year earned honorable-mention All-America honors by the Associated Press at Iowa State.

Aubrey will join Ashley in Ames next fall.

It will be the first time Bill Fennelly has coached siblings at ISU. He coached twins once when he was at Toledo.

Fennelly said he consulted with Ashley while he was recruiting Aubrey.

“I asked Ashley if it was OK, and she said, ‘It’s fine ... but she’d better pass me the ball,’” Fennelly said.

It’s not as if they’ll be competing for minutes.

“It’s a good thing they play different positions,” Fennelly said. “They have completely different skill sets, different body types.

“But they have the same DNA on how they approach the game.”

The Mississippi Valley Conference is a far cry from the Big 12. Joens understands the work that needs to be done between now and next fall.

If only she can find a gym.

“I want to keep improving my rebounding and my defense,” she said. “I need to get stronger.”

Fennelly is confident she’ll get there.

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“She’s skilled, she’s ultra-competitive, she’s a winner,” he said.

“She’s a Joens.”

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

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