City High junior Ashley JoensBy Ryan Murken
Your Prep Sports
IOWA CITY – The last two seasons for City High have followed a nearly identical script.
A strong regular season filled with big wins is followed by a disappointing regional final, home court loss to end the season.
The Little Hawks plan to write a much different ending to this season.
After back-to-back regional final loses the past two seasons City High is looking to rewrite recent history this season and snap a two-year state tournament drought.
“Every year that we don’t get to state is obviously disappointing,” City High junior Ashley Joens said. “We just want to keep on working and make sure that we get there.”
Joens is familiar with the recent regional final struggles.
She was a freshman two seasons ago when a loss 57-46 loss to Johnston kept the Little Hawks from making back-to-back state tournament appearances.
Last season Joens had 16 points and 14 rebounds in a 59-56 loss to Southeast Polk in the regional final that ended City High’s season at 19-4, one game shy of the state tournament.
“It was even more disappointing than the last year because we were playing really well,” Joens said. “This year we bring back a lot of good players. We have all the pieces we just need to put it all together.”
Joens is the biggest piece of that puzzle.
The 5-foot-11 Joens is coming off a sophomore season in which she averaged 19.3 points and 8.9 rebounds per game while earning first team all-state honors.
ESPN ranks Joens as the 16th best junior in the country and she should have plenty of help.
Seniors Kenya Earl and Sydney Schroder return with starting experience and a trio of freshman guards that includes Joens’ younger sister Aubrey will provide immediate help in the back court.
“We are deeper this year and we have a lot of guards,” City High coach Bill McTaggart said. “I can’t remember as much perimeter firepower since I’ve been at City High so that’s a good sign we just have to kick it in on the defensive end.”
The 5-foot-11 Earl teams with Joens to give the Little Hawks a pair of versatile scorers.
Earl shot 32 percent from 3-point range last season while averaging a career-high 12.4 points per game.
“We do have a lot of shooters,” Earl said. “Our starting five are going to be all guards so we are going to be fast and be able to push the ball.”
Schroder returns after averaging 6.7 points per game last season in her first year as a starter.
Freshman Aubrey Joens, Paige Rocca and Rose Nkumu along with junior Christina Hora give the Little Hawks a variety of weapons this season around Earl and Ashley Joens.
“If it’s a slow game, low scoring it will be to the opponent’s advantage because this team likes to get up and down the floor,” McTaggart said. “It’s probably our most explosive team in the last 10 years at City High.”
Ashley Joens will be at the center of everything.
Already a two-time all-state selection who committed to Iowa State last week, Joens shot 49 percent from the field including 40 percent from 3-point range last season while leading Class 5A in free throw attempts.
With teams intent on slowing Joens, McTaggart believes there will be plenty of opportunities for other players to step up this season.
“If she can recognize the double and triple teams that will be key because they are going to be there,” McTaggart said. “We have more weapons this year than we had last year so that has been a point of emphasis in practice is to share the wealth.”