CEDAR RAPIDS — A recent tweet from Caleb Lewis summed it up perfectly.
“Never seen anything like this in a basketball season,” the English Valleys boys’ coach wrote. “Bout to start challenging other teams to scrimmage us at ice hockey at this point.”
Lewis’ Bears haven’t played since Jan. 17, and that’s not even the longest drought between games for schools in Eastern Iowa. Boys’ and girls’ teams from Anamosa, Monticello and West Liberty have not competed since Jan. 15.
Mount Vernon’s boys also have been off for 16 days and counting. This stretch of weather has been absolutely brutal for everyone and incredibly frustrating for prep basketball players and coaches, in particular.
“Worst that I’ve seen it,” said West Liberty boys’ coach James Laughlin, in his 10th season at the school. “I remember up in Northwest Iowa, I was in Laurens for five years, we had a year where we probably missed three days in a row. Like a Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, missed a couple of games in there. But this is the worst I have seen in my years of coaching. This has been bad.”
“This has thrown everything off,” said Monticello boys’ coach Tim Lambert. “There is nothing normal about it. You try and stay positive and remind your guys that everybody is in the same boat. They don’t forget how to shoot, they don’t forget how to play. They just don’t stay sharp, and they lose their conditioning.”
Monticello was supposed to play Thursday night at West Branch, but that got postponed late Thursday morning. Naturally.
Maybe, just maybe, the Panthers were able to get a full-fledged practice in, though. That has occurred just once in the past two weeks.
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As is policy with many schools, if you don’t have classes on a particular day because of the weather, or you get let out early, you don’t get to use the gym to practice.
“It’s something you can’t really control,” said Monticello girls’ coach Donnie Kremer. “The girls have gotten out and shot at the rec center in town. But other than that, there’s not much that can be done.”
“It’s just disappointing because it disrupts your season so much,” said Lambert, whose team is 11-3 despite starting five sophomores. “It throws everything off. You get to Christmas break, and, by then, everyone is kind of ready for it. This is like a second break, but you can’t have practice. Our staff has just missed being around our team. It was fun to see them every day. Now you don’t see them hardly at all for two or three weeks.”
Schools, especially smaller schools, are running out of available dates to complete their regular-season schedules. Boys’ district play in Class 1A and 2A begins Feb. 11, and for the two bigger classes, it’s Feb. 18.
Postseason play for the girls begins Feb. 7.
That means you are going to be seeing many teams playing on consecutive nights. In fact, Ankeny Christian’s boys are playing two games on one day, which is allowed by the Iowa High School Athletic Association and Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union.
Wednesday nights generally are considered off limits for games for church reasons, but that won’t be the case the next two weeks. The IGHSAU said Tuesday on its website that it doesn’t consider the season over until the end of the state tournament, which means teams can play regular-season makeup games, even if they have been eliminated from the postseason.
Still, many games on both sides will end up being canceled.
“You know, I have no idea what to expect when we finally do play,” said Mount Vernon boys’ coach Ed Timm. “Our legs could be fresh, and we could feel good. Or we could forget everything we’ve ever done before. Or somewhere in between, maybe.”
Timm’s Mustangs are scheduled Friday night to host Dyersville Beckman. That will begin a stretch of nine games in 14 days.
Weather permitting, of course.
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“I don’t know what that’s going to look like,” Timm said, with a slight chuckle. “But it is what it is. You try to make the best of a bad situation.”
And this qualifies as a bad situation.
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