Prep Basketball

Girls' basketball notes: North Linn starts transition season with a win

A new cast, a new volunteer assistant, but the beat goes on for the Lynx

North Linn girls basketball coach Brian Wheatley instructs his team during last year's state tournament. The Lynx began
North Linn girls basketball coach Brian Wheatley instructs his team during last year’s state tournament. The Lynx began a season of transition with a win over Midland on Tuesday. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

Tradition, meet transition.

North Linn has been the poster child for consistent excellence in girls’ basketball for the past decade. The Lynx have won 20-plus games in each of the last 10 seasons, capping it with a Class 2A state championship last March.

A new chapter has begun.

Four starters have moved on. A talented freshman class has come aboard. A high-profile coach has joined as a volunteer assistant. And, you know, there’s that coronavirus thing.

“It has started pretty well, honestly,” Coach Brian Wheatley said after the 2A fourth-ranked Lynx surged past Midland, 64-23, in their season opener Tuesday at Wyoming. “Normally, we have a couple of scrimmages before our first game, but obviously, that didn’t happen this season.

“We had three solid weeks of practice without playing anybody, and I was a little concerned about our energy level. But we came out right away and got some easy baskets.”

North Linn went hard for a quarter, after which it led 22-1, then settled into a half-court game most of the rest of the way.

Senior post Ellie Ware is a returning all-stater, and Chloe Van Etten was a key reserve last season. The new crew also features freshmen Macy Boge (who led the team with 14 points Tuesday) and Kamryn Kurt (10 points, four rebounds, seven assists, five steals).

“We’re going to lean on the freshmen a lot,” Wheatley said. “In basketball years, they’re not freshmen. They’ve done a lot of the extra stuff for a long time.”

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Also new is the presence of volunteer assistant Nate Sanderson, who won two state titles at Springville. Sanderson joins Wheatley and veteran assistant Kevin Goedken on the bench.

“The three of us get along well, and it’s good to have another set of eyes,” Wheatley said. “Certain aspects I’ve turned over to Nate, like shooting drills and some of his culture ideas. It has built on what we already had.”

COVID-19 disruptions split down the middle

In tracking COVID-19’s impact on the early portion of the season, you can safely say half of the schedule has been cut.

To be exact, 49.7 percent of games involving area teams have been played through the first week-plus of the season.

Due to online learning in most of the bigger schools, only 20 percent of scheduled games have been contested thus far in the Mississippi Valley Conference. On the other end of the spectrum, 71.4 percent of games involving Upper Iowa Conference teams and 63.0 percent of River Valley Conference contests have gone on as scheduled, 58.3 percent in the Northeast Iowa Conference, 50 percent in the Tri-Rivers, 48.4 percent in the Wamac and 44.4 percent in the South Iowa Cedar League.

Of the 71 area teams playing varsity girls basketball this season (Hillcrest Academy is not), 25 have not yet played a game.

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

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