Prep Basketball

Girls' basketball notes: Wamac has more depth, and more drama, these days

Improvement to programs like Vinton-Shellsburg, Benton, CCA and Solon have enhanced the league

Led by senior Lucy Howes-Vonstein, Vinton-Shellsburg is off to a 9-1 start and in the thick of the Wamac Conference West
Led by senior Lucy Howes-Vonstein, Vinton-Shellsburg is off to a 9-1 start and in the thick of the Wamac Conference West Division title hunt.

In recent years, Wamac Conference girls’ basketball supremacy has been determined by one game:

Marion vs. Center Point-Urbana.

No longer. The emergence of Solon in the East Division and the vast improvement of three programs in the West has added much-needed depth and drama to the league.

“Honestly, I can’t tell you who the best team (in the Wamac) is,” said Vinton-Shellsburg Coach Rich Haisman, whose team certainly is in the mix at the season’s midpoint. “I think we’ll know a lot more where we fit in a week.”

The Vikettes (9-1, 8-1 Wamac) are squarely in the West Division title hunt, along with Clear Creek Amana (6-2, 6-1), CPU (8-2, 5-2) and Benton Community (6-2, 5-2).

In the East, Solon (7-2, 7-1) is in control, though it’s too early to dismiss Marion (4-4, 4-2).

“It’s a really good league,” Benton Coach Jeff Zittergruen said. “In our half, just about every game is a dogfight.”

Benton tightened the West race with a 53-39 win over CCA on Tuesday.

“(CCA) has so much size, and we have about nine girls that are 5-foot-7,” Zittergruen said. “We tried to speed them up in the full court, then pack it in once they got into a half-court game.”

Once a girls’ basketball powerhouse under Harold Shepherd, Vinton-Shellsburg suffered through a stretch in which it won 22 games in eight seasons (2011-12 through 2018-19). But the Vikettes have climbed again under Haisman, a former middle-school coach. They improved to 12-11 last year, and have continued their ascent this winter.

“The girls have bought into the idea of the potential they truly have,” Haisman said. “They are always ready to work, to put themselves in the best position possible.”

The Vikettes have strong senior and sophomore classes. Lucy Howes-Vonstein leads the Vikettes at 11.7 points per game.

CPU has the top player in the league in junior Ryley Goebel, CCA broke through with a state-tournament berth last season and employs mobile size that poses a problem, and Benton possesses promising youth, led by sophomore Jenna Twedt and freshman McKenna Kramer.

Solon has tilted the East Division in its favor behind freshman Callie Levin, who leads the division in scoring, assists and steals.

As Haisman said, the races will become more clear in the next week. The Vikettes host CCA on Tuesday and welcome CPU on Jan. 15.

Rivalry Saturday update

Due to scheduling complications, the second attempt at this season’s Rivalry Saturday has been pared to a five-game event.

Originally scheduled for Nov. 28 at Coe College and postponed due to COVID-19 issues, the event is set for Jan. 30 at Delhi.

The matchups: Iowa City West vs. DeWitt Central, Solon vs. West Liberty, Algona Garrigan vs. Cedar Rapids Xavier, Maquoketa Valley vs. Des Moines Christian, North Linn vs. Denver. Times are yet to be determined.

Around the area

• Led by 13 points from sophomore Lexi Turner, resurgent Cedar Rapids Xavier pulled the area surprise of the season (so far) Tuesday, 50-49 over Iowa City West. The Saints are 3-3.

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• Springville junior Lauren Wilson surpassed the 1,000-point career mark in the Orioles’ 66-16 win over Starmont on Tuesday. The Orioles are 11-0 heading into Friday’s Tri-Rivers Conference West Division showdown at North Linn.

• North Cedar is 0-9, but the Knights have the state’s leading rebounder in senior Jenna Syring, who is averaging 15.7 boards per game.

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

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