Questions to Be Answered, Games to Circle and Stories to Watch Over the Rest of the Boys Basketball Season
Your Prep Sports
After a short holiday break prep basketball is back in the Your Prep Sports area and around the state of Iowa.
With area teams set to return to the court on Tuesday for the first time in 2022 we take a look at what to watch during the rest of the 2021-2022 boys basketball season in the Your Prep Sports area.
Here are three lists of seven questions to be answered, players to watch and games to circle for the rest of the season.
Questions to Be Answered
Can West High Win a State Title?
Short answer – yes.
It was easy to see that the four-win season from the Trojans a year ago was an anomaly.
West High has already eclipsed that total this season during a 6-0 start in which it has won every game by double digits.
The Trojans have a go-to guy in senior Pete Moe, balanced scoring with four players averaging double figures, a blossoming star in 6-foot-8 freshman Jack McCaffery and haven’t even had the services of senior, two-year starting point guard Christian Barnes yet due to injury.
West High also has an elite coaching staff with a history of postseason success.
That staff led by Steve Bergman will be the first to tell you the Trojans have a long way to go before being considered a title contender especially in the defensive and rebounding areas but the talent is there for a title run.
Will Solon have a player average double figures?
I think senior Kinnick Pustesoka pushes his scoring average into double figures after scoring 9.3 points per game in eight outings in 2021 but that’s sort of the beauty of this Solon squad – it’s not a big deal if he doesn’t.
Solon had six different leading scorers in eight games before break with Pusteoska (twice), Oaken Foster (twice), Grant Gerdin, Brady Mullen, Jacob Timmons and Jake Benzing all taking turns as high scorer.
Sophomore Gehrig Turner also scored in double figures giving the Spartans six players to reach double digits in a game.
At the end of the year Solon may not have a bunch of guys averaging 10+ but that type of balance with pay dividends late.
Add that offensive balance to the defensive intensity the Spartans play with and the athleticism on its roster and its easy to envision Solon rattling off a winning streak in 2022.
What is the ceiling for Clear Creek Amana?
Another good question.
Clear Creek Amana has been a bit of surprise to me.
Not that the Clippers are 6-1, Brandon Clubb has built the Clippers into a winner, but how quickly things have clicked in Tiffin.
Clear Creek Amana returned just two players in its rotation from a year ago, in seniors Ben Swails and Kyle Schrepfer, and both have been excellent averaging 15.6 and 13.7 points per game respectively.
Others have stepped up alongside Swails and Schrepfer namely seniors Grant Kruse (10.4 ppg) and Harrison Rosenberg (7.4 ppg).
Clear Creek Amana has plenty of tests remaining but the Clippers have already shown they are capable of once again contending for a WAMAC West Division title and a state tournament appearance.
Can West Branch get into the RVC South Division Race?
It is going to be an uphill battle for the Bears who enter 2022 4-4 in RVC play and trailing conference unbeatens Mid-Prairie (6-0) and Wilton (4-0) in the South Division.
West Branch does have a few things going in its favor.
First, it has three games left with those two leaders, starting on Friday at Mid-Prairie, with gives the Bears an opportunity to gain ground quickly.
Second, West Branch has played well against Mid-Prairie in the past sweeping the Golden Hawks last season and winning, get this, 12 of the last 13 in the series.
Finally, the Bears may have the best backcourt in the South Division with Holden Arnaman, Brady Knoop and Peyton Miller and guard play wins tight games.
Call Mid-Prairie the favorite entering 2022 with Caden Kirkman-led Wilton the top contender but don’t count out West Branch just yet.
Is there a favorite in Class 4A?
This is as wide open as the Class 4A race has been in recent memory.
Ames (5-1) and Council Bluffs Lincoln (6-0) lead the 4A rankings entering 2022, are both unbeaten against in-state foes and are led by dynamic Division I guard recruits.
West High (6-0) is a title contender as previous discussed. No. 10 Cedar Rapids Prairie (6-1) has a win over defending runner-up Johnston (7-1) but lost to unranked Cedar Rapids Kennedy (4-2).
Led by Pryce Sandford Waukee Northwest (6-1) is impressive, Sioux City East (7-1) is good, Cedar Falls (4-1) will be in the hunt and West Des Moines Valley (5-2) already beat Waukee Northwest.
Got all that? Probably not but the point is anyone can pretty much beat anyone else on a given night at Wells Fargo Arena in March.
Will Pete Moe Lead 4A in scoring?
This is tough but I’m going to go out on a limb and say yes.
Look, Moe is going to be in the mix.
His 26.5 points per game currently rank second in 4A behind only the 26.8 Cedar Falls senior guard Trey Campbell is going.
Waukee Northwest junior Pryce Sandford (25.4) will be in the mix along with Johnston senior Trey Lewis (24.1) and Notre Dame football recruit Eli Raridon (23) of West Des Moines Valley.
Iowa-bound Josh Dix (20.3) of Council Bluffs Lincoln is certainly explosive enough of a scorer to make a run at the 4A scoring crown, too.
Moe has been incredible efficient early shooting 64 percent from the floor but it his ability to score from all three levels, (33% 3-point, 85% free throw) that makes him a slight favorite in my mind.
Is Liberty the best 1-win team in the state?
Most likely, yes.
Truthfully, I didn’t research every one-win team in the state but of the 13 Class 4A teams with one (or zero) wins I think it’s safe to say the Lightning have the best resume.
This isn’t a slight of first-year head coach Ryan Kelly’s group. It’s the opposite.
Liberty High went 1-4 before break against teams with a combined 27-5 record, three of those losses were to ranked teams, two to unbeaten teams and two by six or fewer points.
The win for the Liberty High was on the road over a solid 5-2 Cedar Rapids Jefferson squad.
Add that all up and its easy to predict Liberty High won’t sit at one win very long into 2022.
Games to Circle
- January 4 City High at Liberty High – The Lightning will attempt to carry the momentum from a win over Cedar Rapids Jefferson in the 2021 finale over to 2022 when it returns to action against cross-town rival City High.
- January 7 Dyersville Beckman at Solon – If the Spartans are going to be players in the WAMAC East Division race a win over East Division leader Dyersville Beckman (6-1, 5-1) would be a great way to start.
- January 14 Cedar Falls at West High – Eastern Iowa powers and perennial 4A title contenders square off in what is always one of the best games between MVC squads.
- January 18 Clear Creek Amana at Williamsburg – The Clippers get another shot at the rival Raiders after Williamsburg stopped a six-game Clear Creek Amana winning streak with a 68-64 in the 2021 finale for both teams.
- January 21 City High at West High – The rematch of the two long-time rivals is at West High after the Trojans won round one 75-62 at City High in December.
- February 4 Mid-Prairie at West Branch – The Bears won both meetings between the RVC South Division rivals last season by a combine five points and the last four meetings and five of the last six have been decided by six points or fewer.
- February 8 West Branch at Regina – The regular season finale for the Regals comes at home against perhaps their biggest rival.
Players to Watch
- West High senior Pete Moe – One of only four players in Class 4A averaging a double-double on the season Moe has been almost unguardable putting up 26.5 points, 10 rebounds, 3.2 assists and one block per game while shooting 64 percent from the floor.
- City High senior Jamari Newson – The unquestioned leader for the Little Hawks Newson has been sensational leading City High in points (18.3) rebounds (6), assists (2.8 assists) and steals (3).
- Liberty High junior Da’Shon Fisher – A healthy Fisher will be key for the Lightning after break as the junior guard is averaging 15.7 points, 3.7 rebounds and 2.3 assists and has scored in double figures in all three games in which he has played.
- Regina senior Coltrae Kerschen – Getting Kerschen rolling offensively would be a big boost for the Regals and the sharpshooting guard is trending that way averaging 18.5 points over the final two games of 2021 to push his season average to 11.1 per game.
- Solon senior Kinnick Pusteoska – Solon has had moving parts early but Pustesoka has been steady throughout averaging 9.3 points, 7.6 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game while shooting 53 percent from the field.
- West Branch sophomore Holden Arnaman – The sophomore point guard has been excellent to open the season averaging 14.9 points, 5.5 assists, 3.1 rebounds and 1.9 steals per game.
- Clear Creek Amana senior Kyle Schrepfer – For the Clippers to reach their potential they needed their senior returning starting point guard to be at his best and that is what Schrepfer has done averaging 13.7 points, 3.4 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game.