Your Prep Sports
DES MOINES – The girls basketball season comes to an end on Saturday with the final three championship games concluding the 2023 state tournament.
The 2022-2023 season was an exciting one in the Your Prep Sports area.
Five area teams reached regional title games with Clear Creek Amana, Solon and Regina securing spots at the state tournament.
Could the 2023-2024 season be even better for area teams?
It certainly seems possible.
Solon, Clear Creek Amana and Regina all return multiple starters from their state tournament teams while other area teams look to take steps forward next season as well.
Solon returns four starters from a team that won 23 games and lost to eventual champion Sioux Center in the 3A semifinals.
“I think this is really going to help us for next year,” Solon junior Mia Stahle said. “This is going to be really helpful just getting this under our belt. We have a lot of us coming back next year and this is just going to push us to be that much better next year.”
Clear Creek Amana brings back four starters from a squad that went 18-5 and lost to North Polk in the 4A quarterfinals.
The Clippers bring back three players that averaged double figures in Ava Locklear, Bliss Beck and Averie Lower.
“We return a lot so hopefully we can use this as a learning experience,” Clear Creek Amana coach PJ Sweeney said. “Maybe next year hopefully we can get here and take that next step.”
Regina also returns three starters from a squad that reached the 2A state tournament for the second year in a row, falling to Sibley-Ocheyedan in the 2A quarterfinals.
The Regals return their top two scorers in Morgan Miller and Alli Clark.
“I’m so excited for next year already,” Miller said. “We are losing four amazing seniors who put their all into this sport this season but we are returning so much talent and I am really excited for what we can do next year.”
Here is a look at what returns for all the teams in the Your Prep Sports assuming that all the non-seniors on area rosters would be back next year.
The Trojans graduate four starters from a squad that went 16-7 and advanced to the regional title game for the ninth consecutive season.
Included in the list of departing seniors is leading scorer Meena Tate and leading rebounder Anna Prouty.
The cupboard will be far from bare at West High with multi-year starter Melae’ Lacy (6.5 points, 5.8 rebounds, 1.1 blocks) returning along with Lucy Wolf (7 points) and Grace Fincham who average 8.8 points, 4.3 rebounds and 1.9 assists as a freshman.
Fincham flashed star potential late in a stellar freshman season averaging 10.9 points and 4.9 boards per game over the final 15 games.
It was a building year for City High as the Little Hawks went 6-16 under first-year head coach Lyndsey Barnard.
With the three most productive players in the lineup set to return next season the City High rebuild has the potential to show major progress next season.
August Palmer, Emmy McComas and Tessa Driscoll all return after leading the Little Hawks in nearly every statistical category as underclassmen.
Palmer averaged 18.5 points and 4.1 rebounds per game in her first season at City High while McComas averaged 8.3 points and a team-high 7.9 rebounds per game.
Driscoll averaged 10.4 points, 2.8 rebounds and a team-high 2.7 assists per game as a freshman.
Watch for Halle Larew (3 points, 2.6 rebounds) to take a big step forward next season after showing potential in limited minutes as a freshman.
For the second consecutive year the Lighting are coming off the best season in program history.
Liberty High set program records for wins and conference wins for the second consecutive season finishing 14-8, earning a share of the Mississippi Valley Conference Mississippi Division title and advancing to a regional final for the first time.
There is a lot of production to replace from that record-setting team with four senior starters gone including all-state point guard Jasmine Barney.
However, Jamie Brandt has the Liberty High program in the best spot it has been and returns enough talent to keep things rolling.
Madeline Casey (8.3 points, 48 3-pointers) is a returning starter that earned MVC all-divisional honors last season as a sophomore.
Haley Schroeder (4.9 points), Bella Tafolla (4.7 points) and Janessa Mosley (4.6 points) all played key minutes last season for the Lightning.
Clear Creek Amana
An impressive season for Clear Creek Amana came to an abrupt end with a 61-30 loss to North Polk in the 4A state semifinals.
The Clippers have the talent returning to make a serious run at an extended state tournament stay next season.
Ava Locklear is one of the best overall players and toughest matchups in 4A and is coming off a junior season in which she averaged a double-double with 13.8 points and 10.1 rebounds per game while leading the Clippers with 3.3 assists.
Bliss Beck (10.3 points, 6.7 rebounds, 1.7 blocks) returns alongside Locklear in the paint to give the Clippers one of the state’s best front courts.
Averie Lower is a future star.
Lower averaged 11.2 points and 3.1 rebounds per game as a freshman while shooting better than 41 percent from 3-point range.
That’s not all that returns. The Clippers bring back guards Kaylee and Kennedy Stratton and Reese Stockman and versatile Sam Schrage.
The Spartans were a bucket away from advancing to the state title game, falling to eventual state champ Sioux Center 46-44 in the 3A semifinals in its first trip to state since 2006.
Solon very well may enter next season as the favorite to win the 3A title.
The Spartans return four starters and their top five scorers from this year’s team that finished 23-3 and won the program’s first state tournament game in 25 years.
All-state point guard Callie Levin (18.6 points, 5.8 rebounds, 4.2 assists) is one of the state’s best and Hailey Miller emerged as a potential star averaging 19 points, 3.5 rebounds, 1.5 steals and 1 blocked shot per game at the state tournament on her way to being named to the 3A all-tournament team.
Kobi Lietz (8.3 points), Mia Stahle (6.6 points) and Anna Quillin (5 points, 6.1 rebounds) all return next season for Solon.
Mary Rogers has it rolling at Regina and there is no reason to expect the recent success to slow next season.
Regina is 41-10 over the past two seasons with back-to-back River Valley Conference South Division titles and 2A state tournament appearances.
With three starters returning including the top two scorers and rebounders Regina expects to pick up right where it left off next season after falling in the 2A quarterfinals for the second straight season.
Morgan Miller emerged as one of the best players in 2A this season with a breakthrough sophomore season in which she averaged 17 points, 4.7 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 steals and is only going to get better.
Alli Clark had a similar breakthrough averaging 14.6 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3 assists per game.
Regina must replace four-year point guard Grace Gaarde but also returns Ella McLaughlin (6 points, 3.7 rebounds), Morgan Squiers (5.3 points, 2.4 rebounds) and Caitlin Martin.
An uncharacteristic seven-win season for a traditionally strong West Branch program ended with the Bears playing their best basketball over the final few weeks.
West Branch won four of its final six games highlighted by a 57-53 upset of East Buchanan in the regional quarterfinals.
West Branch graduates three starters from a team that went 7-17 last season but brings back a pair of experienced and talented backcourt players in Alyse Klinkkammer and Kylie Pickett.
Pickett led the Bears in scoring at 10.8 points per game to go with 4 rebounds and 3 steals per game.
Klinkkammer averaged 4.7 points 2.1 rebounds and a team-leading 2.8 assists per game.
Olivia Naber and Kya Montgomery also return after seeing action as juniors.