Photo by Jeff Yoder
Your Prep Sports
After taking more than a week off around the holidays the boys basketball season starts up again in full force across the state on Friday.
December offered a quick glance into the season as most teams completed around a third of their regular season schedule in 2018.
With the new year comes the busy part of the season as January brings the busiest stretch of the season.
In an effort to look at what to expect from area teams going forward we look back at six things that we were able to learn about area teams through the first month of the season.
In the first season with a new coach there can be some struggles early for any team, especially early in the season.
West Branch appears to have skipped any awkward transition phase under first-year head coach Jason Kern.
Kern led the Bears to seven straight wins to open the season and has West Branch 8-2 and leading the River Valley Conference South Division entering the new year.
Balance has been the name of the game for West Branch offensively as last year’s leading scoring in Class 2A Beau Cornwell has gotten plenty of assistance this season.
Four players are averaging nine points per game or better for West Branch led by Cornwell with 17.9 per game.
This definitely isn’t breaking news and it certainly didn’t take the first seven games of this season to see that McCaffery, a top-50 national recruit, is a game changer.
However, the 6-foot-9 McCaffery has elevated his game to another level so far this season.
An all-stater a year ago when he averaged 19.9 points and 6.3 rebounds per game, McCaffery has flashed moments of being unstoppable this season as a senior.
McCaffery ranks sixth in the state and is second in Class 4A in scoring at 27.6 points per game while shooting better than 60 percent from the field.
He scored a single game school record 42 points in a win over Cedar Rapids Washington and has four games with 26 or more points.
On top of the scoring McCaffery is averaging a career-best 7.7 rebounds per game.
Regina lost four starters and 6-foot-8 Even Brauns from a team that won 18 games and lost by four points to eventual 2A champion Cascade in the district title game last season.
Thanks to a breakthrough season from junior point guard Masen Miller and the emergence of Bryce Barnett the Regals haven’t skipped a beat.
Regina is off to a 6-2 start with losses to 2A fourth-ranked Camanche and Cascade.
Miller has been the biggest reason for the Regals early success, averaging a career-high 21.1 points per game while shooting 49 percent from 3-point range.
Barnett has stepped up as a senior, averaging 14.3 points while sophomore Ashton Cook is averaging 10 points and senior Luke Stein adds 8.6 points and a team-high five rebounds per game.
The season has yet to hit the halfway point and the River Valley Conference South Division is already a two-team race.
It just so happens those two teams are long-time rivals.
West Branch tops the RVC South Division standings at the holiday break with an 8-1 record while Regina is right behind at 6-2.
Tipton and Mid-Prairie are both 4-4 and the only other south division squads with more than two wins.
Regina and West Branch still have two head-to-head meetings on the schedule.
West Branch travels to Regina on January 8 and hosts the Regals on February 5.
After struggling through a two-win season in year number one under head coach Brandon Clubb Clear Creek Amana climbed to nine wins a year ago.
The Clippers are pace to cruise past that number in year three under Clubb.
Clear Creek Amana is off to a 5-3 start with its three losses coming by a combined 11 points.
After relying heavily on the production of one or two players in past seasons the Clippers have a balanced offensive attack this season with five players averaging 9.7 points per game or better.
JuniorTyler Schrepfer leads the way with 12.4 points per game while TJ Bollers (11.8), Christian Withrow (11.7), Nolan Schwarting (11.3) and Nick O’Connor (9.7) are all scoring at or near double-digits.
The Clippers open January with back-to-back games against sub-.500 opponents in South Tama (0-9) and Vinton-Shellsburg (3-4) before a road trip to Dyersville Beckman (6-3).
After winning eight games as an independent in its debut season the degree of difficulty took a sharp turn upward for Liberty High in year one in the Mississippi Valley Conference.
So far the Lightning have represented themselves well in the top conference in the state.
Liberty High brings a 4-4 record that includes a 2-3 MVC mark into the break after picking up wins over City High and Western Dubuque.
To start 2019 Liberty High hosts Waterloo West (5-2) and travels to Dubuque Wahlert (5-2) before a rematch with Waterloo East (5-2) which defeated the Lightning 63-53 in its MVC opener.