Prep Basketball

Boys' basketball notebook: Clear Creek Amana backing up special season in 2020-21

Clippers are 12-2, on 11-game win streak

Clear Creek-Amana's Christian Withrow (23) jumps to shoot over Sergeant Bluff-Luton's Nick Muller (20) and Daniel Wright
Clear Creek-Amana's Christian Withrow (23) jumps to shoot over Sergeant Bluff-Luton's Nick Muller (20) and Daniel Wright (44) during the second quarter of their Class 3A state semifinal game at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines on Thursday, March 12, 2020. (Andy Abeyta/The Gazette)

A lot of folks looked at the personnel losses from last season, when perhaps they should have looked at the personnel returning instead.

Those latter guys have been the nucleus of what has become another really good boys’ basketball team at Clear Creek Amana.

The Clippers sail into Friday on an 11-game win streak. CCA is 12-2 overall and leads the Wamac Conference’s West Division by four games.

“We did lose some key guys, but we knew we had a pretty good core coming back,” said head coach Brandon Clubb. “I think the seniors, in general, are so close and tight knit and get along really, really well. We’ve just really jelled and come together, especially on the offensive end. If you look at our stats, we’re built a little bit different position wise in how we score compared to last year. But they just know each other so well, they don’t really care about individual stats or accolades. They just want to score and win games. That’s kind of been the difference this year.”

Clear Creek Amana put everything together after the holiday break last season, made its way to the state tournament in Class 3A and finished third. But two of the top three scorers on that team graduated, and starting center T.J. Bollers didn’t go out this season, graduating early and choosing to start his football career at the University of Wisconsin.

Those seemed like really significant departures. Yet this team has just kept on keeping on.

“Last season, it was a movie,” said senior forward Christian Withrow. “It was just a whole movie, awesome. Definitely some of the highest points of my basketball career. Winning those big games, how the team came together to win those. Obviously then going to state, staying in a hotel with friends was an awesome feeling. Just the whole experience: staying in a hotel, practicing at Drake, rushing off that court with the stands full, that was amazing. It was one of those things that you’ll never forget.”

Withrow is a returning all-stater, a 6-foot-2 forward who leads CCA in scoring at 19.4 points per game. Mike Potter (10.4 points per game) is the other returning starter for the Clippers.

Ryan Navara, Brock Reade and Kyle Schrepfer were bench guys last season but have all stepped into starting roles and excelled, averaging right around 10 points each. Navara is just 6-2 but has evolved into a quite capable replacement inside for Bollers.

“That kid works harder than anyone you’ll know,” Withrow said.

“From day one, even from March 13 last year (the end of the state tournament), I had a couple of juniors who were going to be seniors come up to me and say what they wanted to do this season because of what we did last season,” Clubb said. “So I think they were locked in, even though it wasn’t a true offseason or summer. Those guys were still getting their work in, and definitely from day one when we stepped on the court, everyone knew the sky was the limit this year.”

CCA and everyone else in 3A and Class 4A will find out their postseason assignments Friday. That’s when the Iowa High School Athletic Association will release them.

The goal for these Clippers is another trip to state. It’s certainly a realistic one.

“Our season started off a little bit rough, like we did last year,” said Withrow, whose team lost two of its first three games. “But we still kept our heads up and kept on working ... Just the mindset that Clubb and the coaches have brought is a winning mindset. We’re here to change things in how we do things at CCA.”

“A lot of people have commented ‘We didn’t really know how you guys would be,’” Clubb said. “I guess my thought or comment back to them was ‘Well, you didn’t see practice last year.’ We knew what we had, we knew what we had coming, what some of these guys are capable of. It was just a matter of them to step in, have us plug them in and then let them be able to do their thing. So this wasn’t really a surprise because we knew what we had.”

Around the hoop

Postseason assignments for Class 3A and Class 4A are expected to be released Friday by the Iowa High School Athletic Association. Pairings will be determined by team seeds decided by vote of coaches in each district/substate. District assignments for Class 1A and 2A were released by the IHSAA last week. The postseason is scheduled to begin Feb. 12 in 1A, Feb. 15 in 2A and Feb. 22 in 3A and 4A.

Cedar Rapids Prairie, Iowa City High and Iowa City Liberty have gone on hiatus for two weeks due to COVID-19 protocols. Prairie is 3-6 and City High 2-3. Liberty (5-1) came into this week ranked fifth in Class 4A, but suffered an 87-63 loss Tuesday night to top-ranked Cedar Falls. All are scheduled to resume activities Feb. 10. Prairie, City High, Liberty, Iowa City West (which has played just four games) and Dubuque Wahlert are the five schools from the Mississippi Valley Conference to have to pause their seasons in 2020-21. City High and Liberty have had to pause now twice.

Comments: (319) 398-8259; jeff.johnson@thegazette.com

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