Much lost – but much to be gained next hoops season

It doesn’t take long to start looking ahead after the prep basketball season ends.
There is always transition, of course, and that will be the case next year for the boys and girls teams at Fort Madison, Holy Trinity and Central Lee.
A look at some of the story lines heading into next season:
• Points lost. There is a lot of scoring that is going with the departing seniors.
Central Lee’s Mya Merschman scored 607 points this season, second-best in the state. Central Lee’s boys team loses five players that scored in triple digits. Holy Trinity’s boys team loses 899 combined points in the departures of Jason and Vasin Thurman and Chandler Rung.
And it’s not just within the local teams. The SEI Superconference South Division girls basketball race loses Van Buren’s Isabel Manning, the state’s leading scorer at 665 points. West Burlington loses three of its top five scorers. Notre Dame loses its top scorer in Karli Artman (263 points).
• But there’s plenty coming back. Fort Madison’s girls basketball team won the Southeast Conference title and finished 17-3 after a loss to Fairfield in the Class 4A regional semifinal. The Bloodhounds will miss center Brandy Walker, but bring back Malarie Ross (405 points) and Camille Kruse (166 points, 109 rebounds), along with Irelynd Sargent (115 rebounds) and Molly Knipe (110 rebounds).
Fort Madison’s boys team has everyone back. The Bloodhounds went 8-12, but that record should improve behind a team that has been together for a long time. Forward Dayton Davis and guard Miles Dear make a good inside-outside combination.
Central Lee’s girls team loses Merschman, but has a solid group coming back, led by Makayla Morrison (197 points).
The interesting team may be the Holy Trinity girls. The Crusaders were 5-17, but bring back their top five scorers, and it’s a group that will be around for a while. Raquel Schneider (126 points) and Kassi Randolph (119 points) will be seniors, but Mary Kate Bendlage (148 points) and Natalie Randolph (106 points) will be sophomores, and Brooke Mueller (131 points) and Kayla Box (46 points, 84 rebounds) will be juniors.
• A normal season? Holy Trinity girls coach Tony Johnson was talking about his team that is coming back after the loss to Winfield-Mount Union in the Class 1A regional tournament.
But he also mentioned something that he hopes won’t be coming back next season.
“Get the shot, and then get rid of these,” Johnson said, pointing to his face mask.
This season was played during the COVID-19 pandemic. Masks for spectators were the rule (which wasn’t always followed), and players and coaches were wearing them on the bench. Attendance at many gyms was limited.
The COVID-19 vaccine is being distributed now, and the number of cases around the state is falling. It’s a good sign that next season might have a semblance of normalcy again.
John Bohnenkamp is an award-winning sports reporter and editor, and is a contributor to Pen City Current.

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