Prep Basketball

First winning season since 1991 secure, West Liberty girls' basketball chasing more

Vinton-Shellsburg, Solon and Benton are other area 3A teams that have made big strides

West Liberty Comets
West Liberty Comets

Say this about the West Liberty girls’ basketball team — the Comets are invested.

When Coach Matt Hoeppner told the team he was going scouting a couple of weeks ago, about six players tagged along for the two-hour ride.

“They like scouting and game-planning,” Hoeppner said. “They really have a thirst for knowledge.”

And a hunger for success that has been lacking around the program for a long time. The Comets (17-4) have posted their first winning season since 1991. Now they want to take it into the postseason.

No. 14 West Liberty hosts Mid-Prairie (7-14) in a Class 3A regional quarterfinal at 5 p.m. Saturday.

“When I sat down with the team before the season, I asked them what they wanted their motto, their rallying cry to be,” said Hoeppner, in his first season. “They came up with ‘Start Unknown, Finish Unforgettable.’ I think they’ve done that, and now they want to reach for the stars in the postseason and do something nobody expected them to do.”

The Comets are willing to go the extra miles to do so. Their aforementioned scouting trip was to central Iowa, to get a peek at potential regional-final foe North Polk.

With a win-total increase of 10 (so far) from last year, West Liberty is one of several area 3A teams to make a big leap this season.

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Two of them collide in a first-rounder Saturday at Solon — Vinton-Shellsburg (11-10) and Solon (9-12) were 4-18 and 3-18 last season. The Vikettes are enjoying their best season in a decade.

Benton Community (13-8) has flipped its record from last year. Even though the Bobcats have the better record, they’ll hit the road for a first-round game against Williamsburg (7-14). The gym at Van Horne is unavailable due to a show-choir competition.

“It is what it is,” Benton Coach Jeff Zittergruen said. “We’ll have to be ready to go. Williamsburg has been playing well lately, and they’re athletic.”

Benton has one of the top freshmen in the area in Jenna Twedt, who averages 17.8 points per game.

“Early in the year, people were looking for her to do most of the scoring, but lately, the other girls have been more aggressive offensively,” Zittergruen said.

As a result, the Bobcats won six of their last seven regular-season games.

Monticello (16-5) is the highest ranked area 3A team, at No. 12. The Panthers begin their postseason path at home against Mount Vernon (6-15).

Class 2A regionals open Saturday, but all of the top area teams don’t begin until Tuesday. That group includes top-ranked Cascade (22-0), No. 3 North Linn (19-2), No. 4 MFL MarMac (19-2), No. 6 West Branch (18-3) and No. 10 Maquoketa Valley (17-4).

Saturday’s Class 3A regional quarterfinals

(All games, 5 p.m.)

Region 3

Carroll Kuemper (5-16) at Roland-Story (17-3)

Greene County (2-19) at Southeast Valley (8-13)

Iowa Falls-Alden (3-18) at Hampton-Dumont/CAL (17-3)

Oelwein (0-21) at Jesup (17-4)

Region 4

North Fayette Valley (11-10) at Crestwood (17-4)

New Hampton (10-10) at Waukon (13-8)

Tipton (7-14) at Davenport Assumption (12-7)

Camanche (6-14) at Anamosa (4-16)

Region 5

Union Community (3-18) at Dike-New Hartford (19-1)

Independence (3-18) at Waterloo Columbus (8-14)

Mount Vernon (6-15) at Monticello (16-5)

Vinton-Shellsburg (11-10) at Solon (9-12)

Region 6

South Tama (1-20) at North Polk (16-5)

Monroe PCM (9-12) at Eddyville EBF (10-10)

Mid-Prairie (7-14) at West Liberty (17-4)

Benton Community (13-8) at Williamsburg (7-14)

Saturday’s Class 2A regional first round

(5 p.m. unless noted)

Region 4

West Fork (10-11) at Sumner-Fredericksburg (12-10)

South Hardin (4-16) at Denver (13-8), 7:30 p.m.

Region 5

Clayton Ridge (2-19) at Postville (4-16)

North Cedar (1-20) at Durant (5-16)

Region 6

Wilton (6-15) at Columbus Community (1-19)

Cardinal (5-17) at Danville (8-13)

Region 7

Pella Christian (2-18) at Colfax-Mingo (7-14)

Madrid (0-20) at Ogden (6-15)

Saturday’s Class 1A regional first round

Region 2

Northwood-Kensett (2-19) at Mason City Newman (12-9), 5 p.m.

North Iowa (0-21) at Ackley AGWSR (16-5), 7 p.m.

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

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