A project like this is fun, in theory.
It’s easy to come up with a list of players deserving to be named as the Gazette-area “team of the decade.” The trouble comes in determining where to stop.
A decade is a nice, round number, 10 years. So we’ll stop at a nice, round number for our roster, 10 players.
Could have gone with 12, or 15, or 20, and it might have been easier. Or maybe not.
Also, who is eligible for consideration? We made the decision that players who graduated between 2010 and 2019 can be on the list. Current players — and this year’s senior class is loaded — will be on the board if I’m still around to do this in 2029.
Three players stood out as player-of-the-decade candidates — Kiah Stokes of Linn-Mar, Ally Disterhoft of Iowa City West and Ashley Joens of Iowa City High. All were Miss Iowa Basketball winners. Stokes and Disterhoft won a state title. All had (or in Joens’ case, is having) distinguished college careers. There’s no wrong answer among those three.
Same with coach of the decade. B.J. Mayer of Iowa City West won a pair of state championships, and so did Nate Sanderson at Springville. And there was the decade-long excellence that Mike Sconsa, Bill McTaggart and Brian Wheatley enjoyed at Cascade, Iowa City High and North Linn, respectively.
The game didn’t change much in the area inside the lines. There are five classes now instead of four, but that’s about the only change. Participation continues to decrease. There’s still no shot clock, much to the chagrin of some.
The 2010s marked the end of the careers of Gene Klinge (1,009 victories), Larry Niemeyer (871) and Harold Shepherd (777). It’s difficult to imagine anybody approaching those numbers in today’s climate.
Onward. Here is The Gazette-area all-decade girls’ basketball team of the 2010s:
Ally Disterhoft, Iowa City West (2009-13)
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Crowned Miss Iowa Basketball 2013 after a career punctuated by a Class 4A state championship in 2012, her junior season. Also led the Women of Troy to state as a sophomore (runner-up) and a senior. Finished her high-school career with 1,590 points, then scored 2,102 at the University of Iowa (No. 2 all-time), playing on the Hawkeyes’ NCAA tournament Sweet 16 team of 2015.
Ashley Joens, Iowa City High (2014-18)
The second of the five Joens sisters, Miss Iowa Basketball 2018 and a three-time Gazette-area player of the year. She finished her City career with 2,158 points and 800 rebounds. Led the Little Hawks to state twice, including a Class 5A runner-up finish as a senior. Currently a sophomore at Iowa State, where she already has established herself as one of the top players in the Big 12.
Haley Lorenzen, Iowa City High (2010-14)
The daughter of former Cedar Rapids Kennedy/University of Iowa standout Al Lorenzen, she blazed her own trail as an elite post player. A first-team all-state selection as a junior and a senior. Averaged 18.7 points per game as a junior, 20.8 as a senior. Finished with 1,322 points. Played collegiately at the University of Florida.
Rylee Menster, Springville (2014-18)
Along with Mikayla Nachazel, Menster was a key figure in Springville’s small-school run that included three straight state titles (2016-18, after a runner-up finish in 2015). A defensive nuisance, she ranks fifth in Iowa history with 581 career steals, to go with 1,607 points and 447 assists. The Orioles were 98-10 in her career. Now playing at Minnesota State University in Mankato.
Nicole Miller, North Linn (2011-15)
North Linn has produced nine consecutive 20-win seasons, and Miller was on four of them. She led the Lynx to the state tournament as a junior and senior (runner-up), and was named Miss Iowa Basketball 2015. She ranks 11th all-time on the Iowa five-player scoring chart, with 2,207 points, and also distributed 467 assists. She played on three NCAA tournament teams at Drake University.
Amanda Ollinger, Cedar Rapids Jefferson and Linn-Mar (2012-16)
Began her career at Jefferson, then transferred to Linn-Mar midway through her junior season. Earned first-team all-state honors as a senior after leading the Lions to the state semifinals. Compiled 1,344 points and 780 rebounds in her career. A member of Iowa’s NCAA tournament Elite Eight team last year and a starter on the current team.
Morgan Paige, Marion (2006-10)
Paige helped move the Indians’ program forward. Marion made its first two state-tournament appearances (2008, 2010) during her time there, including a berth in the semifinals as a sophomore, and the Indians won three league titles. She registered 1,777 points and 362 assists at Marion, then moved on to the University of Wisconsin. Currently an assistant coach at North Dakota State.
Jade Rogers,, Cedar Rapids Kennedy (2006-10)
A four-time all-state selection, earning first-team honors three times. Kennedy advanced to state in Rogers’ junior and senior seasons. She accumulated 1,499 points and 952 rebounds at Kennedy, and her best season was her sophomore season, averaging 22.3 points and 13.5 rebounds per game. Played briefly at the University of Iowa before injuries ended her career.
Madison Weekly, Benton Community (2009-13)
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One of the area’s premier guards of the decade, she was the ringleader over the best stretch in school history. The Bobcats made the state tournament in each of her last three seasons (2011-13) and finished 24-1 in Weekly’s junior season. She finished with 1,552 points, 365 assists and 383 steals in high school, then was an all-Missouri Valley Conference performer at the University of Northern Iowa.
Kiah Stokes, Linn-Mar (2007-11)
Player of the Decade
A narrow choice over Disterhoft and Joens for the top honor, Stokes is probably the best defensive post in state history. The daughter of former Iowa Hawkeye great Greg Stokes, she ranks No. 4 in Iowa all-time in rebounds (1,239), and was the all-time career blocks leader until recently with 515. Her offensive game developed later, and she finished with 1,704 points, and led the state in field-goal accuracy in 2009 (.714) and 2011 (.691). Linn-Mar compiled a 94-7 mark and went to four state tournaments with Stokes patrolling the paint, highlighted by a 26-0, Class 4A championship campaign of 2010. Won three NCAA championships at the University of Connecticut, and was drafted by the New York Liberty of the WNBA.
B.J. Mayer, Iowa City West
Coach of the Decade
West was a sleeping giant when Mayer arrived in 2007 from Spirit Lake (he coached there seven years, and at North Iowa two years before that). Needless to say, it awakened quickly. The Women of Troy advanced to the state tournament for the first time in 2011 (Mayer’s fourth season at West), reaching the championship game. They returned in 2012 and won it all, capping a 25-1 season. West was a qualifier in 2013, a semifinalist in 2015 and 2017. West defeated crosstown rival Iowa City High for the 5A championship in 2018. Mayer’s teams compiled a 187-53 record in the 2010s, claiming six MVC divisional titles. Before this season, he was 211-74 in 12 years at West, 339-157 overall.
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