CEDAR RAPIDS — Now if only they can get another game in, the Cascade Cougars would be all right.
It has been an interesting season for the defending Class 2A state champions, who haven’t played since a big 54-47 win over a ranked Camanche club Jan. 15. There are a ton of Eastern Iowa schools in the same boat right now, weather-wise.
Cascade (9-5) graduated nine guys from its title team, including four multi-year starters. The lone returning starter, all-stater Haris Hoffman, injured his ankle early in the season and missed five games.
Trying to put together a brand new team, without its best player and with the expectations a school’s first state championship brings has been challenging.
“We started the year kind of behind the eight-ball, as far as figuring out who we were,” said Coach Jacob Brindle. “There has been a learning curve, for sure ... It has been a learning year. I think we’ve finally released that burden (of playing after a state title).”
Brindle said he and his group have come to the conclusion they are best when playing a slower tempo offensively and relying on defense. If that sounds familiar, hall of fame coach Al Marshall, whom Brindle succeeded three years ago, used that formula to win a heck of a lot of games in his legendary career.
Senior guard Reid Rausch has gone from sixth man to Cascade’s leading scorer (12.6 points per game). He has taken some of the offensive burden off Hoffman, who averages 11.4 a game.
Juniors Michael Trumm, Carter Green and Alex Aitchison have been the other starters, with seniors Tom Knepper and Wil Roling the only guys coming off the bench most nights.
Brindle said he met with his returning guys shortly after last March’s championship to discuss what it was going to be like handling the extra pressure. Cascade played in a spring league but didn’t get much summer court time in because most of the players were playing baseball, another great Cougars tradition.
Cascade won three in a row heading into the holiday break, then promptly dropped its first two games coming out of it, by three points to Monticello and one to Durant. Wins over Northeast, Anamosa and Camanche followed, and here the Cougars are ... waiting to play again.
“After losing two coming out of Christman, I think we have gotten a tremendous response from our guys,” Brindle said.
Around the arc
— Central City’s Nick Reid goes into Friday second in the state in scoring. He is one of two players averaging over 30 points per game (30.9), behind only Tyreke Locure of Des Moines North (31.2). Reid, a 6-foot-6 junior, leads the state by a wide margin in attempted and made free throws (152 of 200). The next-highest free-throw attempts total is 137.
— We are down to 14 undefeated teams left in the state. Six of the 14 are in Class 1A: Ar-We-Va, Stanton, Montezuma, New London, Van Meter and Ankeny Christian. In 2A, your unbeatens are West Sioux, North Linn, Van Meter and Boyden-Hull. In 3A, it’s Clear Lake and Maquoketa. North Scott and Waukee are your last undefeated teams in Class 4A.
— The Iowa High School Athletic Association is expected to release postpseason pods Friday for Class 3A and 4A. That would be districts in 3A and substates in 4A. It will be especially interesting what happens in 4A on this side of the state since the Mississippi Valley Conference has such parity this season and the Mississippi Athletic Conference is especially top heavy. Postseason assignments for 1A and 2A were released by the IHSAA last week. Coaches will seed each district/4A substate, which will determine pairings.
— IHSAA Hall of Fame coach Ed Colbert passed away Thursday. Colbert coached 28 years at Dubuque Wahlert, Mason City Holy Name and Fertile, compiling a 468-173 record. That included a state champion at Wahlert.
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