Prep Basketball

Quietly and under most recruiters' radars, Nicole McDermott leads Cascade into the postseason

A 2-time all-state tournament selection, she piloted the Cougars to last year's 2A title

Cascade’s Nicole McDermott (blue) is a two-time all-tournament selection at the state tournament. She led the Cougars to the Class 2A championship last year. The Cougars face Belle Plaine in a first-round game Tuesday. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
Cascade’s Nicole McDermott (blue) is a two-time all-tournament selection at the state tournament. She led the Cougars to the Class 2A championship last year. The Cougars face Belle Plaine in a first-round game Tuesday. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

It’s a bit baffling.

OK, maybe Nicole McDermott’s numbers don’t jump off a stat sheet. Maybe it’s her quiet demeanor. Or her height — 5 feet, 5 inches.

But sometimes, words take priority over numbers. Words like “leader.” And “winner.”

“She’s one of the best players I’m ever going to coach,” Cascade girls’ basketball coach Mike Sconsa said.

Still, contact with college coaches has been slow. It hasn’t been for a lack of promotion from Sconsa.

“I don’t understand it,” he said.

A junior and a two-time Class 2A all-state tournament player, McDermott led Cascade to a state championship last season. The fifth-ranked Cougars (19-1) take a 17-game winning streak into their 2A regional quarterfinal game at home Tuesday against Belle Plaine (12-6). Tipoff is 7 p.m.

Cascade headlines a loaded 2A Region 4. The four teams that host regional quarterfinals Tuesday — Cascade, MFL MarMac, No. 13 Bellevue and No. 11 Maquoketa Valley — are a combined 74-7. And there’s nobody left that’s under .500.

McDermott is one of three returning starters from last year’s title team. She is averaging 16.1 points, 6.4 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 3.1 steals per game, leading the team in all four categories.

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“We return a lot of key pieces,” said Sconsa, who recently earned his 300th career win (in just 15 seasons). “A lot of these kids have been on the varsity for three years.”

Defense, more specifically an active 2-3 zone, has been Cascade’s trademark even before Sconsa took the reins. No change this year; the Cougars are allowing 33.7 points per game and have held 18 of their 20 opponents under 40.

Springville (13-9) begins pursuit of a fifth consecutive 1A state tournament Tuesday at home against Central City (7-14). The Orioles have won the last three small-school titles.

The best area matchup of the night is at Waukon, where Lansing Kee (13-5) tangles with Turkey Valley (13-7). Co-runners-up in the Upper Iowa Conference, they split regular-season decisions, with Kee winning 38-37 at Lansing and Turkey Valley taking a 61-57 verdict in triple overtime less than two weeks ago.

Tuesday's Class 2A regional quarterfinals

All games, 7 p.m.

Region 3

Lake Mills (9-13) at Grundy Center (19-0)

Hudson (10-10) at Jesup (14-7)

West Fork (16-5) at Saint Ansgar (16-4)

Wapsie Valley (12-10) at Sumner-Fredericksburg (15-5)

Region 4

Belle Plaine (12-6) at Cascade (19-1)

South Winneshiek (10-10) at MFL MarMac (20-1)

Dyersville Beckman (11-10) at Bellevue (17-3)

East Buchanan (15-6) at Maquoketa Valley (18-2)

Region 5

Northeast (5-14) at North Linn (18-1)

Iowa City Regina (9-10) at West Branch (15-4)

Highland (15-7) at Wilton (19-2)

Danville (15-7) at Mediapolis (19-2)

Tuesday's Class 1A regional quarterfinals

All games, 7 p.m.

Region 2

Rockford (10-10) at Clarksville (17-2)

Mason City Newman (13-8) at Algona Garrigan (15-6)

Lansing Kee (13-5) vs. Turkey Valley (13-7), at Waukon

North Butler (7-12) at Tripoli (12-8)

Region 3

Gladbrook-Reinbeck (9-11) at Janesville (16-4)

Dunkerton (10-12) at Elkader Central (12-9)

North Tama (3-18) at Ackley AGWSR (12-7)

Central City (7-14) at Springville (13-9)

Region 4

Iowa Mennonite (10-10) at Lynnville-Sully (16-3)

HLV (3-17) at Meskwaki (11-8)

Clinton Prince of Peace (8-10) at Bellevue Marquette (18-2)

Calamus-Wheatland (8-12) at Easton Valley (15-6)

Region 5

Moravia (5-13) at Montezuma (18-2)

Moulton-Udell (7-11) at Keota (9-12)

Winfield-Mount Union (5-16) at Sigourney (17-3)

Burlington Notre Dame (11-11) at Fort Madison Holy Trinity (14-6)

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

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