Admit it, you expected Mount Vernon to plummet in girls’ basketball this season, didn’t you?
All that height from two straight state finalists: Gone. More than three-fourths of their scoring: Vanished.
But as we head down the stretch of the regular season, the first area team to clinch a league title will likely be …
With the pendulum shifted toward perimeter play, the Mustangs are poised to repeat as Wamac Conference East Division champions. Mount Vernon (10-4 overall, 9-0 division) holds a three-game lead over second-place Western Dubuque with five games to play.
“Everybody else has been beating up on each other, and we’ve been taking care of business,” said Mustangs Coach Bob Kintzel.
Four starters graduated from a team that won a Class 2A state championship in 2010 and finished second in 3A last year. And a tough early schedule that included Linn-Mar, Benton Community and Williamsburg had the Mustangs spinning at 1-3.
“We knew we were going to have kids that had no starting experience,” Kintzel said. ”But we also knew that if we could get through that early stretch, good things would come.
“The kids kept their heads up. They’re young, they show up every day and they’re willing to learn.”
The Mustangs can’t dominate the boards like they used to. On the other hand, Kintzel said, they commit about half as many turnovers as they did last year.
It’s now a guard-oriented team. Senior Liz Skotowski, a Western Illinois University signee, is averaging 14.8 points per game and is shooting 91 percent from the free throw line. Sophomore Miranda Chapman adds 10.2 points per game.
“I can’t say enough about Liz’s leadership,” Kintzel said. “She lets the game come to her. She doesn’t try to force everything.”
Mount Vernon hosts Marion in an interdivisional game Friday.
Rivalry Saturday, Chapter VIII
It’s an abbreviated schedule and the venue has changed, but the docket of games for the eighth installment of Rivalry Saturday is as good as ever.
“We’ll have great basketball, great athletes, great coaches,” said Maquoketa Valley Coach Scot Moenck, the event organizer. “I’m a basketball junkie, and I’m excited about the teams we have.”
Due to renovations at the U.S. Cellular Center, this year’s event will be at Cedar Rapids Washington. It’s a five-game set, down from the usual six.
Eight of the 10 teams are ranked, including Class 3A No. 1 Benton Community. The 10 teams have a combined record of 114-20.
Marion (10-3) and Center Point-Urbana (7-5) kick it off at 1 p.m., followed by Union (11-1) and South Tama (13-1) at 2:45, Southeast Polk (13-1) and Washington (8-3) at 4:30, North Linn (15-1) and Monticello (11-3) at 6:15, with Benton (13-0) and Williamsburg (13-2) concluding it at 8.
Benton Community, Bob Kintzel, Cedar Rapids Washington, Center Point-Urbana, girls basketball, Liz Skotowski, Marion, Miranda Chapman, Monticello, Mount Vernon, North Linn, Rivalry Saturday, Scot Moenck, South Tama, Southeast Polk, Union, Williamsburg