Warrior girls basketball team will lean on experience, defense

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Members of the Central varsity girls basketball team include (front, left to right) Hannah Asche, Grace Kuehl; (middle) Carly Kluesner, Lexi Loan, Delaney Scherf, Gracie Cummer; (back) coach Molly Scherf, Aly Feickert, Haley Frieden, Kaitlyn Wiley, Ashlyn Scherf, Eva Embretson and coach Mark Wiley.

By Willis Patenaude, Times-Register


This year, the Central girls basketball program looks to overcome last season’s inefficiency—which led to struggles late in the schedule—by returning to the fundamentals. That was evidenced by a recent practice, which focused on making the extra pass, understanding defensive rotations and responsibilities and decision making on both offense and defense. 


Coach Mark Wiley, who admitted to the team’s previous struggles as the season progressed, looks to rely heavily on the experience that returns to the lineup. That includes juniors and offensive juggernauts Haley Frieden and Delaney Scherf, defensive leader Carly Kluesner and the Warriors’ lone senior, Kaitlyn Wiley. 


This season, Wiley expects more players will be involved in the offense, stating many athletes have “worked hard to build their offensive abilities in the off-season.” 


“Haley and Delaney will definitely provide a good one-two punch for us, but everybody’s game has improved from a season ago,” Wiley said.


On the defensive side of the ball, with the loss of the rebounding prowess of Abby Cummer, it will be up to sophomores Gracie Cummer, Ashlyn Scherf and Grace Kuehl to step up and carry more of the burden, as Wiley expects their minutes to increase. 


“Everyone has to pitch in on the rebounding category. Abby’s leadership on the defensive end will be missed, but we have a lot of kids stepping up and working to fill the void,” Wiley said. 


Wiley hopes this experience will allow the starting lineup to improve in the subtle nuances of the game, enabling them to compete on the court every night, especially in efficiency, something Wiley was particularly adamant about during practice. That includes efficiency in managing in-game situations, increasing the number of rebounds on the defensive end and offensive shooting, especially as it relates to the free throw line, where the Warriors struggled last season, shooting just 60 percent. 


The concerns for rebounding led this year’s squad to make that one of the goals for the season, which Wiley stated “is exciting because they see the importance of this for our team to be successful.” 


As for the problems from the free throw line, Wiley expects the experience gained by the juniors will result in more levelheadedness.


“We need to focus on the process and not just the outcome. Our goal would be to get to the free throw line more often and I would hope we can easily achieve this goal,” Wiley said. 


Wiley also looks to correct the late season struggles with a team that has improved, gained experience and knows what success feels like, because last season Central got off to a hot start before fading down the stretch. It allowed Wiley to see there was always room for growth, from both the players and the coaches. 


One of those areas for growth is improving how the team executes on both ends of the floor. It’s something he believes will be aided by this year’s ability to hold open gyms and go to basketball camps, allowing him to “equip the team to be successful with more options on the offensive and defensive sides of the basketball.” 


This also highlights a coaching shift and a renewed focus on the defensive side of the ball, something that will help the Warriors remain competitive when the offense is having an off night from the field. 


“We should always be able to rely on our ability to play defense,” Wiley said. 


This season will also test the Warriors with the toughest non-conference schedule the team has faced since Wiley took over the program 15 years ago. There will be games against the runner-up in class 2A from a season ago, Maquoketa Valley, state qualifier Springville, two rising programs from the Tri-Rivers Conference, Ed-Co and Central City, and 3A Crestwood in late January. According to Wiley, this schedule means the players “will be pushed to perform at a high level every night of the week.” 


The new season started Nov. 23, with a 54-28 win over Postville. Then, the team had a real test Nov. 27, against Maquoketa Valley, a game the Warriors won 48-43. 


While the team is off to another hot start, Wiley stated wins and losses are only half the story. The real measuring stick for success will be whether or not the team can improve throughout the season. 


“We had some lulls with younger kids a season ago. This year, we look to start with more knowledge and build on our ability to compete at a high level,” Wiley said.

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