It wasn’t the weather that wreaked havoc on the pre-holiday portion of the girls’ basketball season.
It was the coronavirus.
Dozens of area games were postponed or canceled through December, whether it was from COVID-19 outbreaks or online learning.
Mississippi Valley Conference programs, particularly those in the Cedar Rapids/Marion metropolitan area and Iowa City, were most affected. Cedar Rapids Community School District teams didn’t begin play until Dec. 11. Linn-Mar started Dec. 15, Cedar Rapids Prairie and the Iowa City Community School District squads Dec. 18.
The season resumes, precariously, Saturday. And the slate includes a biggie at Delhi, where Class 2A top-ranked Maquoketa Valley welcomes No. 2 North Linn in a Tri-Rivers Conference West Division showdown. Tipoff is 12:30 p.m.
North Linn (6-0, 1-0) is the defending 2A state champion and is riding a 12-game win streak. The Lynx have beaten their first six foes by 40.2 points per game, and their top scorers (Kamryn Kurt and Macy Boge) are freshmen.
Maquoketa Valley (7-0, 3-0) counters with a veteran lineup led by the senior trio of Taya Tucker (16.1 points per game), Ella Imler (13.3) and Emerson Whittenbaugh (13.0). The Wildcats’ 26.0-point defensive average is second-best in 2A.
The game was originally scheduled for Dec. 18, but was postponed due to COVID-related issues within the North Linn program.
Here’s a glimpse into the area races as the season resumes:
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MVC Mississippi Division
Overview: Cedar Rapids Washington (5-0, 2-0) has assembled the most impressive resume thus far, based on its overtime win over Class 5A preseason No. 1 Waterloo West. The Warriors have been bolstered by the return of Sydney Mitvalsky, who missed a big chunk of her junior year due to injury. The MVC, overall, figured to have four heavyweights, and the emergence of the Warriors makes it five. Cedar Falls (6-1, 3-0) suffered a loss to Waterloo West, and Iowa City High (2-1, 1-0) took a hit at Iowa City West, but neither of those outcomes figured into the MVC standings. City is at Cedar Falls on Jan. 8, then the Tigers go to Washington on Jan. 12.
Midseason MVP: Hannah Stuelke, jr., Cedar Rapids Washington
Projections: 1. Cedar Falls, 2. Iowa City High, 3. Cedar Rapids Washington
MVC Valley Division
Overview: Which West will it be? Waterloo West (4-1, 1-1) was a state semifinalist last year and carried the tag of preseason 5A favorite this season. The Wahawks haven’t always dominated, though. In addition to their loss to Washington, they trailed Dubuque Wahlert after three quarters before rallying, and squandered most of a 22-point lead against Western Dubuque before escaping, 62-60, in their last game before the break. Iowa City West (2-0, 1-0), meanwhile, has taken advantage of its limited opportunities, opening with double-digit wins over Iowa City High and Linn-Mar. The Trojans head to Waterloo for their pivotal meeting Jan. 8.
Midseason MVP: Halli Poock, soph., Waterloo West
Projections: 1. Iowa City West, 2. Waterloo West, 3. Dubuque Senior
Wamac East Division
Overview: A five-year run of Wamac divisional championships has reached a crossroads for Marion (3-4, 3-2). Graduation has gradually chipped away at the Indians’ power, and the injury to Riley Wright has brought them back to the pack. Solon (6-2, 6-1) has pounced on the opportunity. The Spartans have stacked five straight wins together, including a pivotal 55-43 victory over the Indians on Dec. 15. The rematch is Jan. 19 at Marion. Win that one, and the Spartans are in good shape for their first league title since winning the Eastern Iowa Hawkeye Conference in 2007.
Midseason MVP: Callie Levin, fr., Solon
Projections: 1. Solon, 2. Marion, 3. Dyersville Beckman
Wamac West Division
Overview: Definitely the deeper of the two Wamac divisions, the West houses five quality teams. For now, Clear Creek Amana (6-1, 6-0) can claim itself as the best team in the entire conference. With three 6-footers in their lineup, the Clippers already have wins over Center Point-Urbana (7-2, 5-2) and Solon in the bank, and have their first outright divisional championship in their sights. But there’s a long way to go, and many tests against capable opponents await. Two-time defending champion CPU (7-2, 5-2) remains the chief threat, Vinton-Shellsburg (8-1, 7-1) and Benton Community (5-2, 4-2) maintain their own title hopes, and Williamsburg (3-5, 2-4) is dangerous.
Midseason MVP: Ryley Goebel, jr., Center Point-Urbana
Projections: 1. Clear Creek Amana, 2. Center Point-Urbana, 3. Vinton-Shellsburg
River Valley North Division
Overview: A pair of last-second wins over four-time defending champion Cascade have tilted the scale toward Bellevue (8-1, 7-1). The Comets already have many of their tough tests behind them, winning two of three against the top teams in the South Division. If they can complete a season sweep against Monticello (6-2, 6-2) at home Jan. 15, they ought to be home free for their first league title since winning the Big East in 2013. For the most part, Cascade (6-4, 5-3) has performed well despite the absence of Coach Mike Sconsa, who is likely to miss the entire season due to a stroke suffered Nov. 8. The teeth of Monticello’s schedule still lie ahead.
Midseason MVP: Ally Hoffman, jr., Cascade
Projections: 1. Bellevue, 2. Cascade, 3. Monticello
River Valley South Division
Overview: After a slow beginning (four games postponed, then an 0-2 start), West Liberty (5-2, 5-1) has accelerated into high gear, winning five straight games (allowing 34.6 points per game) and looking every bit the part of a championship contender. Defending champion West Branch (7-1, 7-1) suffered an overtime loss to Cascade, but has won its other seven games by double-digit margins. The teams meet Friday at West Liberty, then reconvene Feb. 2 at West Branch. Don’t overlook Iowa City Regina (6-1, 6-1) which won its first six games and is right in the hunt. The Regals have four straight toughies to start January.
Midseason MVP: Sasha Koenig, sr., West Branch
Projections: 1. (tie) West Branch and West Liberty, 3. Iowa City Regina
Tri-Rivers East Division
Overview: It appears that Bellevue Marquette’s six-year run at the top will end, and Clinton Prince of Peace (5-3, 3-0) looks to be the heir apparent this winter. The Irish have won their three divisional games handily, and have been competitive with the top teams in the West, which is no small feat. The race for second place is wide open among Lisbon (2-3, 2-0), Calamus-Wheatland (4-4, 2-2), Easton Valley (4-5, 2-2) and Marquette (1-6, 1-2).
Midseason MVP: Lilly Isenhour, jr., Clinton Prince of Peace
Projections: 1. Clinton Prince of Peace, 2. Lisbon, 3. Calamus-Wheatland
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Tri-Rivers West Division
Overview: This might be the deepest the West has been in the current Tri-Rivers format, with six quality teams. But the usual suspects — Springville (9-0, 4-0), Maquoketa Valley (7-0, 3-0) and North Linn (6-0, 1-0) — have risen to the top. Springville has had some surprisingly close games, against Marquette, Elkader Central, Prince of Peace and Alburnett, and its role in the race will become a lot clearer in the next two weeks. After Saturday’s showdown in Delhi, North Linn hosts Springville on Jan. 8, then the Orioles welcome Maquoketa Valley on Jan. 12. Don’t be shocked if East Buchanan (5-2, 2-2), Central City (4-2, 2-2) or Alburnett (5-2, 1-2) upsets one of the top three teams.
Midseason MVP: Lauren Wilson, jr., Springville
Projections: 1. (tie) Maquoketa Valley and North Linn, 3. Springville
Overview: Waverly-Shell Rock owns nine of the last 10 NEIC titles, and the Go-Hawks are favored once again. They passed their biggest test thus far, earning a 49-40 decision at Waukon (4-1, 3-1) on Dec. 11. The rematch is Tuesday at Waverly. If the Indians can pull the upset, they have a good opportunity to earn a share of the crown. Decorah (4-2, 2-1) still gets two shots against WSR, on the road Jan. 15 and at home Feb. 5.
Midseason MVP: Abbie Draper, sr., Waverly-Shell Rock
Projections: 1. Waverly-Shell Rock, 2. Waukon, 3. Decorah
SICL East Division
Overview: A clear favorite has yet to emerge. Four-time defending champion Sigourney (5-2, 3-2) owns a win over Iowa Valley (6-2, 6-1), which defeated Belle Plaine (7-2, 6-1), which edged Sigourney. The SICL schedule is full of East-vs.-West games through Jan. 15, then the East Division puzzle will be solved Jan. 19-29. English Valleys (2-4, 2-3) has the capability to play spoiler. Because of the inside presence of Kaylee Weber and because they’re the incumbent, we’ll go with the Savages.
Midseason MVP: Kaylee Weber, sr., Sigourney
Projections: 1. Sigourney, 2. Iowa Valley, 3. Belle Plaine
SICL West Division
Overview: If this one isn’t a slam dunk, it’s at least an uncontested layup. Montezuma (9-1, 7-0) has survived just fine in the post-Shateah Wetering era behind a group of 3-point shooters. The Bravettes have subdued their two closest challengers — North Mahaska (5-1, 4-1) and Lynnville-Sully (8-2, 4-2) by verdicts of 65-36 and 68-39, and both of those have been on the road. A third straight divisional title is nearly a sure thing for the Bravettes; a fourth consecutive state berth, a distinct possibility.
Midseason MVP: Elise Boulton, sr., Montezuma
Projections: 1. Montezuma, 2. North Mahaska, 3. Lynnville-Sully
Overview: Two teams with distinctly opposite title pedigrees have separated themselves from the field. On one hand, MFL MarMac (7-2, 6-0) is in pursuit of its fourth consecutive UIC championship. In the other corner is North Fayette Valley (7-0, 5-0), the most surprising of the area’s remaining unbeatens. North Fayette’s last UIC title came in 2001, one year after Valley Community won it. The Bulldogs and the TigerHawks collide Jan. 8 at West Union and Feb. 9 at Monona. Turkey Valley (7-4, 5-2) can’t be counted out, but probably needs to win out.
Midseason MVP: Ali Hoffert, sr., Turkey Valley
Projections: 1. MFL MarMac, 2. North Fayette Valley, 3. Turkey Valley
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