Maybe it was just the principal in him.
Springville boys’ basketball coach Nick Merritt was asked to grade his team’s performance so far this season, especially a week-long stretch in which the Orioles played high-quality opponents Alburnett, Edgewood-Colesburg and Meskwaki.
“Depends on the game,” said the district’s secondary principal.
It was defintely an ‘A’ in an 87-55 win over Alburnett. Merritt thought Bs to Cs for the other games.
Man, what a tough grader!
All in all, Springville heads to the holiday break 9-0 and ranked fourth in Class 1A. The Orioles and Avoca AHSTW lead the state in victories.
“Kind of like most people, it’s been an interesting start to the year,” Merritt said. “We weren’t able to do any of our preseason practices or scrimmages, which kind of threw a little bit of a wrinkle into things. Threw a wrinkle into some of the summer stuff, too. We usually do some team camps and couldn’t do any of those. So it just felt a little off early.”
Off but still successful.
Springville beat Bellevue Marquette in its opener, 70-53, despite getting in only one preseason practice. That has been its closest game, sans a 58-49 win last Saturday over Meskwaki, the second of back-to-back games.
The Orioles were supposed to be really good this season, considering they had all but one regular back from a state tournament team of a season ago. That includes senior guard Alex Koppes, a first-team all-stater who surpassed 1,000-career points in a school-record 40-point night a couple of weeks ago against Cedar Valley Christian.
Considering former NBA player Al Eberhard is a Springville grad, that school-record night is especially impressive.
ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT
“Obviously I expected continual growth,” Merritt said. “Anytime you get a year older and mature, you think you’d get a little better and step into a leadership role. A greater leadership role because he already was a leader for us last year. But we’re extremely thrilled by just how he has grown from last year to this year, off the great season he had last year.”
But this team isn’t just about Koppes. It has four dudes whose scoring is in double figures: Rhenden Wagaman and Luke Menster (15.8 each) and Bryce Wilson (10.1).
The Orioles aren’t big, basically guys who are 6-foot to 6-2, but they play fast and have been very efficient offensively. That 56.1 shooting percentage doesn’t lie.
“When we’re efficient on offense and play effectively and consistently on defense, we can be pretty tough to beat,” Merritt said.
Impossible to beat at this point.
“I don’t think we flew completely under the radar (last season), but I think people kind of knew we were going to be an all right team,” Merritt said. “Not having those expectations to where we expected to be a state-qualifying team allowed us to kind of play our game and be who we were. This year, we obviously come in with a lot greater expectations. Not only ourselves, but I’m sure a lot of people have bigger expectations for us than they did last year. That adds an additional layer of pressure, but at the same time, our guys definitely don’t focus on any of that stuff. They’re competitive. You wouldn’t know it was any different than it was last year.”
Around the lane
— Keota is one of the biggest surprise teams the first part of the season. The Eagles are 8-0, their closest game being 23 points.
That’s a surprise because Keota graduated all-state guard J.D. Stout, who was one of the state’s most prolific scorers in 2019-20. This team has been led in scoring by senior guards Carson Sprouse (18.0) and Luke Hammen (16.5).
— The best record in the Metro going into break belongs to Cedar Rapids Washington.
ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT
The Warriors pounded Cedar Rapids Xavier, 62-46, Tuesday to improve their record to 4-1. That matches last season’s win total, as Wash went 4-18.
Emerging sophomore Traijan Sain leads Washington in scoring (15.2). He started last season as a freshman.
Senior forward Quincy Underwood averages 13.4 points and 8.6 rebounds per game.
— Solon is 6-1 thanks in part to a couple of guys who couldn’t get more University of Iowa.
Senior forward David Bluder averages a team-best 14 points per game. He’s the son of Hawkeyes women’s head hoops coach Lisa Bluder.
Junior center Kinnick Pusteoska is next at 10.7 points and is shooting an absurd 78.4 percent from the field (29 of 37). His first name is self explanatory.
Comments: (319) 398-8259; firstname.lastname@example.org