Prep Basketball

Girls' basketball notes: Kennedy, Washington collide Friday in a delayed season opener

Virtual learning has ended in CRCSD; practice began Saturday

Cedar Rapids Washington's Hannah Stuelke (44) battles for possession against Cedar Rapids Kennedy last year. The Warrior
Cedar Rapids Washington’s Hannah Stuelke (44) battles for possession against Cedar Rapids Kennedy last year. The Warriors host the Cougars in the girls’ basketball season opener for both teams Friday. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

It’s a common coaches’ cliche. This time, though, it’s the truth:

“You can throw out the records when these archrivals meet. It’s just like they’re both 0-0.”

Virtual-only learning has ended, at least for now, in the Cedar Rapids Community School District. And as timing would have it, Kennedy and Washington will collide in a delayed girls’ basketball season opener Friday night at Washington High School.

Actually, it’s the front end of a girls/boys doubleheader. Tipoff for the girls’ game is 6 p.m.

“I’m excited, and I’m nervous, in terms of only having five practices to get stuff in and ready to go,” Washington Coach Chris James said. “We’re not going to be (Friday) where we’ll be at the end of the year.”

Neither will the Cougars. Both teams began practice Saturday.

“It’s going to be five quick days,” Kennedy Coach Andy Courtney said. “It feels good to get back. It’s difficult with socialization as an adult right now. I can’t imagine what it would be like as a high-schooler.”

Kennedy remains in online learning, but now it’s because of derecho damage to the school, not COVID-19. The Cougars are splitting practice time between the West Gym at the high school, along with Harding and Franklin middle schools.

Both teams were 10-12 last year. Washington returns 75 percent of its scoring, led by junior Hannah Stuelke, a University of Iowa recruit.

“I think we could be pretty darn good if we stay healthy,” James said. “There’s a lot of potential there.”

Kennedy brings back 54 percent of last year’s attack, and welcomes back sophomore Kaliyah Sain, who went down in the season opener against North Scott with a knee injury. She scored 16 points in that game.

“She’s worked hard all summer long in her physical training,” Courtney said. “Now it’s a matter of confidence, getting into game shape and moving around in a brace.”

For Cedar Rapids Jefferson, the wait continues. The J-Hawks’ first game back would have been Friday against Linn-Mar, which remains in virtual learning. The J-Hawks are scheduled to play at Cedar Falls on Tuesday.

West Liberty to start, too

For West Liberty, this is the equivalent of going zero-to-60 mph in a flash.

After missing their first four games due to online learning, the Comets start their season Friday at Bellevue. It’s the first of four games in five days.

“The girls are eager and happy,” Coach Matt Hoeppner said. “I’m sure a lot of them worked out on their own, because when I saw them for the first time (Saturday), they looked a lot better than I would have anticipated.”

After the trip to Bellevue, the Comets face defending 4A state champion North Scott (Saturday at Eldridge), Durant at home in a makeup game (Monday), then travel to Tipton (Tuesday).

Ranked No. 2 in Class 3A, West Liberty is coming off its first winning season (19-5) since 1991. The Comets reached the regional finals.

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“It’s going to start for us on defense, just like last year,” Hoeppner said. “We want to be all over the court, make it hard for the other team to score, turn defense into offense.”

The Comets return their top six scorers, led by sophomore Finley Hall (12.7 ppg).

Comments: (319) 368-8857; jeff.linder@thegazette.com

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