Once again one of the most talented conferences in western Iowa comes from the Hawkeye 10 conference.
Last year only one team from the conference was represented at the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union State tournament (Denison-Schleswig). That could very well change this season with a cast of teams that all seem to bring back talent.
It seems that no team is favored for a run at the conference title, but the team, or teams, that ends up as the conference championship could be favored to make a trip to Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines by the time March rolls around.
Last season Denison-Schleswig rolled though the rest of their conference, and a quarterfinal appearance in the State tournament with an undefeated conference record. On the season they fell just three times (once to fellow Hawkeye 10 conference opponent Glenwood in a non-conference game).
This season doesn’t seem likely that the Monarchs will return as the queens of the Hawkeye 10 Conference standings. Last year’s team was stacked with eight seniors that helped propel the Monarchs to their eventual State tournament appearance.
In the preseason rankings released by the IGHSAU last week it seems that more than a few teams are primed to make their way to the top of the Hawkeye 10.
In class 3A the Red Oak Tigers enter the season as the No. 5 ranked team. They ended last season with an 18-5 record.
Other ranked teams from the Hawkeye 10 from the preseason poll come from class 4A.
In the class 4A poll Glenwood, the team that challenged Denison-Schleswig the most last season, enters the season as the No. 6 ranked team. Overall the Rams finished last season with an 18-5 overall record. Glenwood finished last season 10 points shy of the State tournament, when they fell to the Monarchs in the regional final.
The final ranked team of class 4A that calls the Hawkeye 10 its home conference is Lewis Central. This year the Titans are entering the season as the No. 10 team in class 4A. Overall the Titans were able to finish last season with a record of 17-4. The Titans started last year on a tear, but were tripped up by Glenwood, Denison-Schleswig, and out of conference foe, Bishop Heelan, throughout the season.
As for the top scorers in conference play from last year, four of the top-10 scorers from last year have graduated. While that opens up the room for other players to make a name for themselves, it also means that several of the returning stars from last winter are primed to continue their legacy that they started the last year.
The top scorer from last year was Shenandoah great Logan Hughes. However she graduated last season after scoring 590 points. In second place with a total of 362 points scored is the first returner to this year’s conference play.
Lewis Central junior Morgan Witte made 48 percent of her shots a season ago. Creston junior Kelsey Fields scored a total of 334 points last season, but the stat line that really stands out for her is how she finished the year with 57 percent of her field goals hitting the net.
Other returners that led the Hawkeye 10 in scoring include: Elle Scarborough, a junior this season, who is coming off 334 points scored a year ago. Red Oak’s Sophie Walker finished last season with 320 total points.
While Denison-Schleswig lost many of their seniors, their leading scorer from last season was Paige Andersen, a junior this season that scored 303 points as a sophomore. Another returning top scorer from last season is Glenwood’s Madison Camden who scored 290 points as a freshman.
Five of the top rebounders from last year return this season to conference play too.
Creston’s Kelsey Fields finished her sophomore year with a total of 296 rebounds. The Panthers have a gem in Fields, who stands at 6-feet 2-inches and grabbed 99 offensive rebounds and 197 defensive rebounds last season.
The Panthers aren’t the only team with their best rebounding player returning. Red Oak will feature Chloe Johnson, a senior this year, who finished last season with 188 total rebounds. She grabbed 101 defensive rebounds and controlled 87 total offensive rebounds.
Denison-Schleswig features the first name that is seen twice among star returners. Andersen, who led the Monarchs in points a season ago was also the best rebounder on her team with 169 total rebounds. She grabbed 125 defensive rebounds and had 44 offensive rebounds. The Monarchs may be one of the top rebounding teams in the conference as junior Hannah Neemann also finished among the top rebounders for the conference. She finished with 166 rebounds. Overall she had 117 defensive rebounds and 49 on the offensive side of the glass.
Lewis Central brings back another one of the top rebounding players from last season. Delaney Esterling finished her junior year with a total of 151 rebounds. She had 86 defensive rebounds and led her team with 65 offensive boards. Other notable rebounding players of note include Shenandoah’s Roxy Denton who had 151 a year ago. Scarborough from Glenwood finished with 140 total rebounds.
A few words on every returning team in the Hawkeye 10:
Kuemper Catholic: The Knights will have to rebuild from last year after losing three seniors that helped lead the Knights through the season. With a new coach this season the Knights have plenty of talent to build their team around. Mallory Badding brings in experience, and a tough playing attitude. The Knights have plenty of confidence as they enter the season, and could climb up the ranks with their mixture of youth and experience that will be on their team.
Denison-Schleswig: Losing the seniors from last year’s team will hurt the Monarchs this year. They do have their best point scorer and rebounder from last year back. Support will come from Hannah Neeman who scored 277 points last year, and brought in 166 rebounds.
Glenwood: The Rams enter the season as a top-10 team with good reason on paper. From last year’s squad they have 11 returning players. Six of those players saw meaningful playing time.
Lewis Central: The good news for the Titans from last season is bad news for the rest of the conference. The Titans did not lose a single player from last year’s team due to graduation. That means not only have the Titans survived at least one season of Hawkeye 10 play, and they will be primed and ready for another.
Red Oak: A big factor in the Tigers catapulting into the top-5 of class 3A is what they have returning. They only lose four players from last year’s team. Even scarier is the fact that of those four seniors that departed last year’s team, none of them had a meaningful impact in Red Oak’s run.
Shenandoah: The Fillies finished the season at 14-10 last year, and a big factor in that was All-State player, Logan Hughes. Hughes led the Fillies in both scoring and rebounding, and was a force in every game that was played. Overall the Fillies lose four players from last year’s team. They also feature a pair of sophomores this year that are listed at 5-feet, 11-inches.
Creston: Overall the Panthers are losing five seniors from their team that finished 11-10 on the year a season ago. The Panthers started this season with a narrow defeat to Des Moines Christian (55-54). In that contest they had three players with double-digit points.
St. Albert: After finishing last season at 9-13 the Saintes will have to rebuild after losing four seniors on their team last year. For the Saintes that will hurt them as three of the four seniors were among their top scorers last year. The Saintes started this season with a lopsided win over Tri-Center.
Harlan: The Cyclones struggled to a 5-17 overall record last year. That included a team that featured just two seniors. While those two could score and pull in rebounds. Like Lewis Central, the Cyclones seemed to be primed with talent this season as most of their starters have seen what a season or two in the Hawkeye 10 is like.
Atlantic: The Trojans scored just four wins last year and carried 20 losses on their record. They were a young team with just three seniors. While those three seniors included the third leading scorer and top rebounder, it seems that the youth of the Trojans might have been their biggest weakness from last year.
Clarinda: The season started on a high note for the Cardinals last season as they were able to win their first game. From there they experienced a 20-game skid that brought them to the end of their year. The Cardinals lost five seniors from last year. The Cardinals will be hampered this year as they lost their two best scorers and rebounders from last year.