TROY MILLS — Small-school athletics are generally a cycle of waxing and waning, ebbs and flows, high tides and low tides.
When Brian Wheatley took the girls’ basketball job at North Linn nearly nine years ago, the program was at rock bottom. The Lynx had endured a 0-22 campaign in 2003-04.
Incrementally, the tides have gotten higher, lapping against the shore a bit more forcefully each year.
By Wheatley’s second year (2005-06), the Lynx were above .500. They won 20 games in 2010-11, then 22 victories and a spot in the regional finals last year.
The climax — so far — came Tuesday, when the Lynx defeated Monticello to clinch their first Tri-Rivers Conference championship since 1999 (and the first outright crown since 1998).
“This was a big goal for us,” sophomore guard Nicole Miller said. “It’s icing on the cake to win the conference.”
North Linn (20-0 overall, 15-0 Tri-Rivers) is ranked No. 3 in Class 2A and has an opportunity to wrap up a perfect regular season Friday at Maquoketa Valley.
Seasons like this don’t come around often; North Linn is one of only three remaining unbeatens in the state.
Miller has been a constant for the Lynx, averaging 20.9 points per game. But she’s far from the whole show.
“Nicole has been awfully good, but the big key is that we’ve had other kids step up in other games,” said Wheatley, who has compiled a 140-63 record. “Every night, it’s somebody else.”
Maddie Boer, another sophomore, added 13 points Tuesday. Her freshman sister, Morgan, added nine. Brenna Winn pulled down 14 rebounds.
When the Lynx beat Cascade in a battle of unbeatens in early January, that was Haley Dudley’s night. Dudley is second on the team in scoring, at 9.8 points per game. Libby Falconer is the leading rebounder.
Different days, different contributors. And, Maddie Boer said, it doesn’t matter who.
“We’re having a lot of fun together, whether it’s at practice or before school or whatever,” she said. “That makes us a good team.”
WASHINGTON: THANKS, SAINTS
Thanks to some help, Cedar Rapids Washington has the inside track in the MVC Valley Division race. For now.
Cedar Rapids Xavier rallied from a 14-point halftime deficit to edge Waterloo West on Tuesday.
That gave Washington (14-4, 8-2) sole possession of the division lead with three games to play. The Warriors host Cedar Rapids Prairie (12-6, 7-3) on Friday, then conclude MVC play next week against Cedar Rapids Kennedy and Cedar Rapids Jefferson.
Xavier (11-7, 8-3) moved within a half-game and now is hoping for a little help of its own. So is West (13-5, 7-3). The Wahawks conclude the regular season with a potential biggie with Prairie on Feb. 8.
DISTERHOFT LEADS SCORING RACE
University of Iowa recruit Ally Disterhoft has vaulted to the top of the state’s scoring derby.
A senior at Iowa City West, Disterhoft is averaging 25.7 points per game. Waukon’s Daneshia Snitker is next at 24.7.
West (14-4, 8-2) is a game behind Iowa City High (16-2, 9-1) in the Mississippi Division race. The teams collide Monday at City High.