By Ryan Murken
Your Prep Sports
The last thing Rachael Saunders ever wants to do is sit out a game.
After missing two games last month with a concussion the West High junior has seen the merits of a little time away.
“It stinks sitting out, it was tough not being out there,” Saunders said. “It definitely got me refocused. In the beginning of the season I wasn’t really sure what was going on with my game so being able to watch some film while I was out and kind of evaluating what I could be doing better really helped me.”
Saunders may not have enjoyed spending two games on the bench after sustaining a concussion in overtime of a loss to City High but the break has proved to be a positive for the Creighton commit.
In her first two games back Saunders is averaging 12.5 points while shooting 60 percent from the field.
“I think she just got re-energized a little bit,” West High coach BJ Mayer said. “It’s a long season and she is a really aggressive player on the floor a lot, she takes charges, dives on the floor and she just gets beat up a little bit so it was o.k. but obviously we’d love to have her out there.”
Saunders had some uncharacteristic struggles to open the season, shooting 31 percent from the floor through the first six games.
Her breakthrough came in the form of a season-high 19 points in the loss to City High.
Saunders sat out wins over Waterloo East and Cedar Rapids Prairie but is averaging 14.6 points going back to City High game.
“Not doing well in the beginning kind of made me self-evaluate and get back into the gym,” Saunders said. “I got some help from my parents watching film trying to see what I could be doing better and I just got in the gym and got some reps.”
Predicting Points: Like many teams Solon struggled on offense in its first game back from the two-week holiday break.
After Monday’s 47-35 loss to Mount Pleasant Solon coach Lisa Bishop predicted the Spartans offensive struggles wouldn’t last long.
“I still believe that this team is way better than we have shown so far this year and I have the faith that it’s going to be next game. It’s going to be tomorrow,” Bishop said on Monday.
Her prediction turned out to be correct.
After shooting 24 percent and scoring a combined 63 points in back-to-back losses to Dyersville Beckman and Mount Pleasant, Solon (4-7) put up 54 points and 47 points in its first two-game winning streak of the season.
“We just need to take the time and focus on putting the ball in the hoop,” Solon senior Alli Prybil said. “We just need to get the ball in the basket.”
Battle-tested but Unbeaten: The list of undefeated teams continued to shrink in the first week of 2017 with only 21 teams remaining without a loss.
City High and Regina were both tested in the first week out of the holiday break but stayed on the unbeaten list.
Regina (10-0) played its closest game of the season on Friday, a 63-50 win at No. 14 Bellevue.
City High (11-0) had to survive a close call in its first game following break, holding off No. 13 Pleasant Valley 58-51 and added wins over Waterloo West and Keokuk to stay perfect.
“Everyone is going to relax because we haven’t had a game in a while so it’s a hard game to play sometimes,” City High senior Sydney Schroder said of the first game after break. “It can be kind of ugly.”
Rankings Update: All three Iowa City schools held their spots in the most recent rankings released by the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union.
Regina remained atop the Class 2A rankings as the top 10 went unchanged in 2A.
City High stayed at No. 2 and West High No. 3 in Class 5A behind top-ranked Indianola.
Other top-ranked teams include Springville (1A), Pocahontas Area (3A) and Pella (4A).
Top Performances of the Week: Regina junior Mary Crompton had 21 points on 7-of-10 shooting and added four assists and four steals in a 67-20 win over Tipton.
City High junior Ashley Joens had 29 points and 10 rebounds in a 58-51 win over Pleasant Valley.
West High sophomore Cailyn Morgan had 14 points and eight rebounds in a 72-28 win over Dubuque Wahlert.
Solon senior Josie Durr had 27 points and eight steals in a 47-42 win over West Delaware.
West Branch junior Tatum Koenig had 22 points, five assists and five steals in a 58-37 win over Durant.