Prep Basketball

Girls' basketball notes: No nosedive for retooled Springville

Mix of seniors and freshmen have Orioles off to 7-1 start

Springville's Nichole Kane (12) takes possession from Algona Garrigan's Jenna Boelter (23) in their Class 1A state quarterfinal last season. Kane is a key returner for the three-time defending state champions, who have opened the season at 7-1. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
Springville's Nichole Kane (12) takes possession from Algona Garrigan's Jenna Boelter (23) in their Class 1A state quarterfinal last season. Kane is a key returner for the three-time defending state champions, who have opened the season at 7-1. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

So, you expected the Springville girls’ basketball program to fall off the cliff this season, didn’t you?

Christina Zaruba didn’t.

“A lot of people didn’t think we’d be very good,” said Zaruba, the Orioles’ head coach. “I never doubted us. We wanted to show people that we were going to be all right.

“Yeah, we lost a lot of great players, but we knew we had a good freshman class coming in, and some returning seniors that were ready for their turn.”

The three-time defending state champion in Class 1A, Springville is a somewhat surprising 7-1. The Orioles’ 61-33 win over Edgewood-Colesburg on Tuesday was their sixth in a row.

Gone are familiar names like Mikayla Nachazel, Rylee Menster, Alyssa Jaeger and Madi Wagaman, who led the team to an extended run of glory. And though it’s a stretch to consider this squad a title contender, it’s much better than most predicted.

Nichole Kane (12.3 points per game) was a starter on last year’s team. And Lauren Wilson (18.5 points, 10.2 rebounds per game) highlights a good crop of freshmen.

“Lauren is able to find open space on the court, and she finishes well around the basket,” Zaruba said.

The Orioles were 11 for 18 from 3-point range against Ed-Co.

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Springville has capitalized on a soft early schedule; none of its first eight opponents are above .500.

“It has given us a chance to get our feet wet,” Zaruba said. “We know it’s going to get tougher, and it starts Friday (at home against Alburnett).”

Courtney, Cougars are on the board

After a grueling early stretch (its first five opponents are a combined 26-3), Cedar Rapids Kennedy gave first-year coach Andy Courtney his first win Tuesday, 67-51 over Waterloo East.

“It definitely felt good to get it out of the way,” Courtney said. “We stressed that with such a tough schedule early on, just to hang in there, work to get better each night we’re out on the court.”

Kennedy jumped to a 22-13 lead after one quarter, 40-22 at halftime.

Carlee Smith led the Cougars (1-5 overall, 1-2 MVC) with 15 points. Laila Sain added 12, Auddie Alepra 11.

“Our first two games against North Scott and Iowa City High, we turned the ball over 29 and 28 times,” Courtney said. “We’ve been taking better care of the ball and have been gradually improving.”

The Cougars are at Cedar Rapids Washington on Friday.

A wild finish at Lansing

Lansing Kee pulled off an improbable Upper Iowa Conference victory, 38-37 over Turkey Valley on Tuesday at home.

Trailing 37-34 in the final seconds, the Hawks missed a potential tying 3-pointer and the Trojans rebounded. As the rebounder was fouled with 0:01.0 remaining, she threw an elbow and was called for a flagrant foul, her fifth.

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A substitute free-throw shooter was summoned for Turkey Valley, and she missed the front end of a one-and-one. Kee’s Makayla Walleser stayed in the game after taking the elbow to the face, and made two free throws to cut the deficit to one.

Kee gained possession after the free throws, and Walleser took an inbounds lob pass and scored at the horn to win it.

The Hawks improved to 5-1 overall, 4-0 UIC.

Showdowns all around

A matchup between unbeatens Cedar Falls and Cedar Rapids Xavier at Ron Thillen Gymnasium highlights a big night of action Friday.

The Tigers (6-0) and the Saints (7-0) collide in a game that does not count in the Mississippi Valley Conference standings (their rematch Jan. 4 at Cedar Falls is the one that counts).

Two River Valley Conference cross-divisional games are on Friday’s slate: Cascade (4-1, 4-1) is at Mid-Prairie (6-0, 5-0), and West Branch (6-1, 5-1) travels to Bellevue.

Elsewhere, Tri-Rivers West archrivals North Linn (7-0, 2-0) and Maquoketa Valley (6-1, 2-0) renew acquaintances at Delhi, Waukon (4-0, 3-0) — fresh off a win over defending 3A state champion Crestwood on Tuesday — hosts Waverly-Shell Rock (5-1, 3-0) in the Northeast Iowa Conference, and Montezuma (7-1, 5-0) is at Sigourney (5-0, 4-0) in a South Iowa Cedar League biggie.

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

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