Caleb Lewis won his very first game as head coach at English Valleys back in 2016. Then he lost his next 46.
Going over two years between Ws was as tough as it sounds. And it makes what’s going on right now with the Bears that much more satisfying.
English Valleys went into its South Iowa Cedar League game Thursday night against Colfax-Mingo with a 5-1 record. Four of the five wins have been by double digits.
“The other night I was up until 2:30 in the morning. I told my guys that, too,” Lewis said. “It wasn’t just breaking down film and this and that. It was just enjoying it, you know what I mean? When you go through 46 straight losses, it feels so good right now not only to win, but win big and play how I thought we could play.”
Lewis said the reasons for this EV turnaround are three-fold. He has concentrated on stressing fundamentals and culture in the program, simple things like playing good defense and just being on time for practices and games.
Then there’s the fact this team has a bunch of juniors and seniors. Experience beats lack of experience.
Like their coach, these older kids are enjoying the winning ways.
“There were some games there where it was like ‘All right, we’ll try and lose this game by this many.’ Try not and get blown out quite as much,” said junior forward Kaden Hall, EV’s leading scorer. “We love every win, we don’t take any for granted. Losing that many in a row was super tough. So we don’t take the wins for granted and want to keep them coming.”
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Hall is a 6-foot-3 player his coach says has offensive versatility, can score inside or out. He averages 20.8 points and 14.8 rebounds per game.
English Valleys’ other starters are fellow junior Beau Flander and seniors Brayden Mikesell, Cole Stephenson and Hayden Irmen. Irmen started for a 2017-18 team that went 0-22.
How engrained is the losing in this program? The school hasn’t had a winning record in 20 years.
But that streak, too, could end soon. English Valleys went a competitive 9-13 last season and now there’s this ...
“We’re so close, we’re all friends. We all get along. It just works out,” Hall said.
Lewis said he feels the momentum being built in the program, says the student body and community are excited about what is going on, though they can’t come to games because of the COVID-19 pandemic. He has 24 players from ninth through 12th grade, allowing EV to play a full-fledged junior varsity schedule.
“We’ve got a veteran group,” Lewis said. “Since I’ve been here, it has always been a youthful group. So now those young guys that went through losing 46 in a row, they’ve learned a lot from it, they’ve grown together, been through all that together and perservered together to where they are so bonded. Their chemistry is really good on the court.”
Around the hoop
— Springville’s Alex Koppes broke the school record for points in a game when he poured in 40 in a win Dec. 8 against Cedar Valley Christian. That huge night also allowed Koppes to surpass 1,000 points in his Orioles career.
The senior guard is averaging 25.7 points per game for Springville, which is 6-0 and ranked fifth in Class 1A.
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— While some schools in the state already have gotten in as many as seven games, several schools haven’t even played one, yet. In the area, that would be Lone Tree in 1A and Cedar Rapids Prairie, Iowa City High, Iowa City Liberty and Iowa City West in 4A.
Prairie, City High, Liberty and West are scheduled to start their seasons Friday, with City High playing at West and Liberty playing at Prairie. Lone Tree was scheduled to host Keota on Thursday night.
— Montezuma senior guard Trey Shearer leads the state in scoring, averaging 33.3 points in his team’s first six games. That includes a 44-point game earlier this week against Lynnville-Sully.
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