Even last year, Brian O’Donnell had competitors on the Marion High School girls’ basketball team.
Throw in a year of seasoning, and the competitors have become winners.
“I know them better and they know me better,” O’Donnell said. “That year of maturity, it has helped the kids find ways to win games.”
After a 6-16 bummer in O’Donnell’s first season, the Indians have parlayed a nice mix of speed and size, youth and experience to start Season 2 at 5-0.
Marion entered the Class 3A rankings last week at No. 13; the Indians (2-0 Wamac West Division) face a stiff divisional challenge Tuesday at home against No. 4 Williamsburg (7-1, 1-1).
“I don’t really know what 5-0 means at this point,” O’Donnell said. “I’m not sure where we’re at. We’ll have a better idea Tuesday. Williamsburg will show us where we are and where we need to go.”
This much is clear: Marion is much improved over last year. The Indians rallied from a 10-point third-quarter deficit to win at Solon on Nov. 29, their most impressive win to date.
Marion is averaging a healthy 59.2 points per game while allowing 41.6.
Eight players are averaging at least 4.4 points per game. Seniors Dani Peyton (10.8 points per game) and Jessie Kramer (8.8 ppg) are the top two scorers, followed by a pair of freshmen — Michalyn Mohr (8.6 ppg) and Amanda Sahm (7.0 ppg).
“We’re having different kids step up from game to game,” O’Donnell said. “The thing I like best is the fact that they’re competitors.”
O’Donnell coached Springville to the Class 1A championship in 2008, then led the Orioles to a runner-up finish the following year. He still teaches at Springville.
“I just think everybody’s a little more comfortable with everything this year,” he said.
Nine still perfect
The list of area unbeatens has dwindled into single digits.
Nine teams still haven’t been scratched, led by Class 4A top-ranked Iowa City West (6-0) and 3A No. 1 South Tama (6-0).
West has throttled its opponents by an average of 50.2 points per game.
Three unbeatens hail from the Tri-Rivers Conference. North Linn (7-0), Maquoketa Valley (6-0) and Monticello (6-0) all are 4-0 in league play. Monticello plays at North Linn on Dec. 20.
Other perfect teams are Benton Community (6-0), Iowa City Regina (5-0), Marion (5-0) and Cedar Rapids Washington (3-0).
Eagles off the ground
Midland broke a 24-game losing streak by defeating Calamus-Wheatland, 38-26, on Friday.
The Eagles finished 17-7 two seasons ago, dropping their final game in the Class 1A regional semifinals. They bottomed out at 0-20 last season and dropped their first three before breaking the ice Friday at home.
Jen Dammann, Briana Schurbon and Casey Pestka scored eight points apiece.
Amanda Sahm, Benton Community, Brian O'Donnell, Cedar Rapids Washington, Dani Peyton, girls basketball, Iowa City Regina, Iowa City West, Jessie Kramer, Maquoketa Valley, Marion, Michalyn Mohr, Midland, Monticello, North Linn, South Tama