On the surface, it seemed like a less-than-lateral move.
Why would Matt Hoeppner leave his position as girls’ basketball coach at up-and-coming Davenport North for the same position at West Liberty?
One major reason: Family.
“My wife (Ericka) is a West Liberty alum, and her side of the family has a couple of girls on the team,” Hoeppner said. “That was intriguing.”
So was the prospect of building a program that hasn’t posted a winning season since, well ... it’s been a long time.
Girls’ basketball has been universally five-player in Iowa since the 1993-94 season, and the Comets have never been at .500 or above in that time. Before that, records are sketchy.
A program with such little success, yet some young talent.
“The family aspect was No. 1,” Hoeppner said. “No. 2 was last year’s freshmen and this year’s freshmen, plus the leadership of the veterans. It just seemed like that mix was there, that this could be something.”
How’s this for something? After Tuesday’s 44-36 win over Tipton, West Liberty is 6-0 overall, tied for first place in the River Valley Conference South Division at 5-0, and ranked 12th in Class 3A.
“The biggest thing with this group is that it’s scrappy,” Hoeppner said. “I’m just putting them in a position to succeed; they’re the ones that are doing it.
“They’re so good at getting rebounds, which creates more shots for us.”
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The top four scorers consist of freshman Finley Hall (14.6 points per game), sophomores Macy Daufeldt (12.2 points, 9.0 rebounds per game) and Sailor Hall (8.4 and 8.0) and junior Janey Gingerich (6.8 ppg). Each of the four have led the Comets in scoring on at least one occasion.
“The Halls are hard-nosed, gritty players. They’ve probably played the most travel basketball of anybody on the team,” Hoeppner said. “And Daufeldt, she’s as athletic as they come.”
Daufeldt is an all-state volleyball player and a state long-jump champion.
West Liberty’s best win so far was at Monticello, 38-28, on Dec. 10.
“They go 6-foot, 6-foot and 6-2 across the front line, and we were able to win because we flat-out had the will to do it,” Hoeppner said.
The Comets close out their pre-holiday schedule Friday at Anamosa.
Tri-Rivers races resume
After a 24-day hiatus, the divisional races in the Tri-Rivers Conference resume Friday, headlined by a West Division showdown at Delhi — East Buchanan vs. Maquoketa Valley.
Tri-Rivers divisional play opened Nov. 26, but it’s been all cross-divisional action since. The Buccaneers (6-1 overall, 1-0 division) and the Wildcats (7-0, 1-0) have emerged as West contenders, along with North Linn (5-1, 1-0) and Springville (6-0, 1-0).
Ella Imler, a junior, leads Maquoketa Valley at 19.3 points per game. East Buchanan has won its last five games by an average of 40.2 points.
Maquoketa Valley and North Linn shared the West title last year.
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