A look back at the best of basketball season

By Jeff Yoder
Posted 3/2/21

In terms of wins and losses, this wasn’t the most successful season for the seven area high school basketball teams. The Highland, Hillcrest, Lone Tree, and Mid-Prairie boys and girls combined …

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A look back at the best of basketball season

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In terms of wins and losses, this wasn’t the most successful season for the seven area high school basketball teams. The Highland, Hillcrest, Lone Tree, and Mid-Prairie boys and girls combined to win just 50 out of 130 games.

But they did play 130 games. As coronavirus cases spiked in the state, some area teams dealt with a delayed start to the season, two week pauses in practice, postponed and rescheduled games, and last-minute changes to lineups. But in the end, every area team played at least 14 games. Young players got better, teams came together, and seniors and parents were recognized on senior nights.

The area kids who deserve credit for having great games, great practices, and being great teammates are too numerous to list, but here are a few of the best performances from those 130 games during a unique 2020-21 season.

Best overall game: Carter Harmsen in the district final against Camanche. The Mid-Prairie junior scored 32 points on 11-18 shooting against a tough defense that led the RVC North in steals and blocked shots. Harmsen also had six rebounds and three steals in the Golden Hawks’ biggest game of the season.

Best overall game: Kasey Chown in a 65-44 win at HLV. The Lady Lion junior grabbed a career-high 18 rebounds in the road win on February 9. She also scored 17 points, had three assists, two steals, and two blocks in Lone Tree’s regular season finale.

Most clutch performance: Maddie Nonnenmann at Monticello. The Mid-Prairie junior had 19 points and 11 rebounds in a 44-42 win over a Monticello team that finished the season 16-6. Nonnenmann was 3-9 from the 3-point line, helping the Golden Hawks build an early double-digit lead and hang on for the win on December 19.

Most clutch performance: Chase Schultz in a 56-55 overtime win over Lone Tree. The Huskie junior scored all but four of Highland’s first-half points and finished with 25 points and 13 rebounds, including an offensive rebound that sealed a win in the rivalry game on February 3.

Best from behind the arc: Eli Ours at Louisa-Muscatine. Ours was 7-10 from the 3-point line as Hillcrest avenged an earlier loss with a 54-24 win at L-M. The Raven senior finished with 29 points on 11-15 shooting.

Honorable mention: Carter Harmsen was 6-11 from behind the arc in Mid-Prairie’s 71-55 win over North Cedar on Dec. 11; Alex Bean was 5-8 in the Golden Hawks’ 53-46 win over Northeast on Jan 4; Aiden Forbes went 5-10 for Lone Tree in a 56-46 loss to WACO on Feb. 1.

Best from behind the arc: Dani Laughlin in a first-round Regional at WACO. The Huskie sophomore went 6-8 from deep in a 56-50 loss to the Warriors. Laughlin finished with 22 points as Highland’s season ended on February 11.

Honorable mention: Maddie Jacque opened the season hitting five of her ten attempts from long range in Lone Tree’s 49-17 win over Tri-County.

Best offensive game: Myah Lugar at Tipton. Lugar needed just nine shot attempts to put up 24 points as the Golden Hawks bounced back from their first loss of the season with a 58-30 win at Tipton on December 4. Lugar was 4-7 from the 3-point line and 6-9 overall. She also made all eight of her free throw attempts in the RVC road victory.

Honorable mention: Dani Laughlin was 8-11 from the free throw line and 5-17 from long range for 37 points in Highland’s 68-34 win at Tri-County. 

Best offensive game: John Hughes against Winfield-Mt. Union. There were higher scoring efforts than Hughes’ 23 points in the 57-30 February 9 blowout of WMU. But the Raven senior was incredibly efficient, hitting 11-15 against Abram Edwards and the Wolves, who led the SESIC North in blocked shots.

Honorable mention: Carter Harmsen scored 29 points on 11-17 shooting at West Liberty on Feb. 6; Aidan Rath was 8-9 from the field for 16 points in a 44-41 loss at West Branch on Jan. 8.

Best passing: Jack Pennington at West Liberty. Pennington did not score a point, but with 11 assists, he was still one of the top playmakers in Mid-Prairie’s win over West Liberty on February 6. The junior point guard helped Mid-Prairie turn a tight three-point game at the half into a 68-45 blowout.

Honorable mention: Noah Miller with 8 assists in Hillcrest’s 60-33 win over Mediapolis in the season opener; Eli Ours with eight assists in a 51-49 Hillcrest win over Danville on Jan. 9

Best passing: Amara Jones at Anamosa. Jones had eight assists as Mid-Prairie bounced back from its only back-to-back losses of the regular season with a 55-37 win on the road. The sophomore had half of the Golden Hawks’ 16 assists on 19 field goals as Mid-Prairie came back from an early 17-8 hole for the comfortable win. 

Honorable mention: Abbi Stransky had seven assists (along with 16 points and 14 rebounds) in a 68-34 win at Tri-County on Dec. 18.

Best defensive effort: Kasey Chown against Highland. Chown’s defense helped the Lady Lions hold Highland to 32 percent shooting with 25 turnovers on January 12. She finished with seven steals, four blocks, and 12 rebounds in Lone Tree’s 48-37 victory.

Honorable mention: Phelan Hostetler blocked six shots in Mid-Prairie’s 40-36 win over Durant on Nov. 24; Dani Laughlin had eight steals in a 62-39 loss at Danville on Jan. 17; Nora Pennington had eight steals in Mid-Prairie’s 64-8 win over North Cedar Dec. 11; Ellen Carow had four blocks and nine rebounds during Lone Tree’s 43-36 loss to Iowa Valley on Jan. 4.

Best defensive effort: Alex Viner against Louisa-Muscatine. The Lone Tree senior had seven steals and seven rebounds as Lone Tree forced 18 turnovers on January 29. Unfortunately, while Viner shot 6-12 from the floor, the rest of the Lions were cold that night – shooting 4-35 and 0-12 from the 3-point line in the eight-point loss.

Honorable mention: Aidan Rath with six blocks and eight rebounds in a 53-46 Mid-Prairie win over Northeast Jan. 4; Tristan Stokes with eight steals in Highland’s 67-34 win over Columbus on Jan. 4; Tyler Bell with 12 rebounds, three blocks, and two steals 58-54 loss to Highland Jan. 12

Game of the year: West Branch 50, Mid-Prairie 48. A boys RVC South championship was on the line when the Bears traveled to Wellman on February 11. Neither team led by more than six points in the second half, which ended with Thomas Gould’s off-balance game winner. Aidan Rath scored 10 points in the second half to finish with 14 points and eight rebounds.

Coach of the year: Daren Lambert led the Golden Hawks to the district final, ending the season with a record of 15-8. It was Mid-Prairie’s best finish and first winning season since 2010-11. The Golden Hawks averaged 56 points per game and allowed 45. Mid-Prairie lost just twice on its home court all season.

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