The 2018-19 girls’ basketball season marked a transformation period for Nevada under new head coach Jordan Bentley.
Bentley became Nevada’s third coach in four years. He was taking over a highly successful program that went 18-6 and reached the regional finals in 2017-18, and prior to that had gone to state three years in a row, winning a state title in 2015.
But Nevada entered 2018-19 having to overcome not only a coaching change, but the loss of current Illinois State freshman Lexy Koudelka, a four-time all-state selection, and other key contributors — Hattie Rhodes, Grace Francis and Elizabeth Wessels — off last year’s squad.
It took some time for Nevada to gel as a group and get used to Bentley’s system. Along the way, the Cubs struggled to find consistent scoring options to fill in the void left by Koudelka’s departure.
As a result, the season was a bit of a roller coaster. Nevada finished 8-14, but did well in the Heart of Iowa Conference, placing fourth with a 7-7 conference record.
“I really enjoyed the energy, excitement and focus these kids brought to practice everyday,” Bentley said. “They wanted to continue to learn and worked hard to get better throughout the entire season. I thought we went into every game ready to compete, and as a team, we never gave up until the final buzzer sounded. The program as a whole had 28 girls wanting to play basketball, which is great for our team.”
The Cubs dropped their first five games, but three of those came against powerhouse programs — in Class 2A state runner-up Grundy Center, Class 3A state participant Roland-Story and an Iowa Falls-Alden team that went 19-3. Nevada fell by a 51-29 score to Grundy Center, 42-26 to Roland-Story and 62-19 to IFA.
In their first two games ,the Cubs suffered close losses to bigger schools in Carlisle (55-53) and Boone (47-44).
Nevada picked up its first win Dec. 4 by hammering Saydel, 63-14, and followed it up by winning a 45-44 squeaker over South Hamilton. Eventual HOIC champion and 3A state runner-up North Polk took down the Cubs on Dec. 11, 60-19, but they came back to down Prairie City-Monroe by a 41-29 score.
Non-conference rival Ballard — the eventual Raccoon River Conference champs — defeated Nevada by a 34-19 score on Dec. 15. The Cubs whipped Greene County three days later, 47-10, then suffered a 49-20 loss to eventual 3A state qualifier West Marshall in their final game before Christmas.
After the break, the Cubs fell to ranked 4A power Gilbert, 56-32, but then won three straight. Nevada took down Newton (42-39), Saydel (44-23) and Greene County (40-25).
A rough three-game stretch against rated powers North Polk, Roland-Story and Gilbert followed. Nevada suffered a 56-22 loss to the Comets, a 36-21 setback to the Norse and a 51-29 defeat by the Tigers.
PCM handed Nevada its fourth loss in a row, 37-33, on Feb. 4. But the Cubs came back strong to close out the regular season, winning at South Hamilton by a 39-34 score.
Nevada faced off against Clarion-Goldfield-Dows in the 3A regional quarterfinals on Feb. 9 at Clarion. The Cubs were dealt a 50-36 setback to finish the season.
“I think some of the biggest highlights for me were our ability to let mistakes go and move on to the next game or play,” Bentley said of the season. “I think a great example of this would be after our game at Iowa Falls-Alden, when we didn’t play particularly well, we came out the next night and scored over 60 points and held our opponent to under 20. I also think our ability to win close games towards the end of the season also showed a lot about how we had gotten better over the season.”
Nevada averaged 34.7 points, shooting 31 percent from the field, 20 percent from 3-point range and 51 percent from the line as a team. The Cubs made 61 3-pointers and averaged 7.5 assists.
The Cubs averaged 27.0 rebounds and gave up 41.3 points per game. They averaged 17.9 turnovers on the season.
The Cubs had eight players play at least 17 games or more. Freshman guard Elie Tuhn became a major contributor over the second half of the season.
“The depth of our team grew throughout the entire season,” Bentley said. “We got to a point where we were playing nine kids every night. We developed a lot of confidence in our younger players, which will help going into next year and even the seasons after that.”
The only issue was finding consistent scoring options every night.
“We had many different leading scorers throughout the season, but it was the consistency that we couldn’t seem to grasp at the same time,” Bentley said. “I thought defensively we always put ourselves in position to win games, but scoring was our biggest challenge.”
Junior forward Kacie Rewerts and sophomore forward Addi Vorm were Nevada’s most reliable scoring options. Rewerts made the all-HOIC first team and Vorm was named honorable mention.
Rewerts averaged 10.5 points, shooting 52 percent from the field. She also led the team in rebounding at 7.1 per game and put up 2.1 steals and 1.3 assists per game.
Vorm delivered 8.9 points, 3.7 rebounds and 1.7 assists per game. She led the team in 3-pointers with 31 and shot 71 percent from the line.
Senior point guard Amanda Fortmann also was named all-HOIC honorable mention. Fortmann produced 3.0 points, 2.5 steals, 1.7 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game.
Tuhn averaged 4.2 points, 1.1 rebounds and 1.0 steal per game. She made nine 3-pointers and was a perfect 9 of 9 from the line on the season.
Sophomore post Sydney Mosinski averaged 3.1 points and senior guard Riley Mailey 3.0 per game. Mosinski also pulled down 4.5 rebounds per game and Mailey averaged 1.9 rebounds, 1.1 assists and 1.0 steals.
Senior Mikayla Long, junior Amelea Jones and sophomore Aubrey Gibson all helped out Nevada in the post.
Long averaged 2.5 points and 3.7 rebounds and she led the team in blocks with 16. Jones put up 1.8 points and 2.6 rebounds per game and Gibson 1.6 points and 2.1 boards.
Juniors Megan Wessels, Meredith Harter and Erica Sporrer; sophomore Gabby Sampson and freshman Madelynn Dunham also saw some varsity action during the season.
Next year, Nevada will need to rebuild in the back court with the loss of Fortmann and Mailey, and the Cubs also have to find a way to make up for the defensive talents of Long in the post.
“I want to take the opportunity to thank our three senior players and two senior managers (Kelby Rewerts and Caroline Ausman),” Bentley said. “These five girls have made some amazing memories with the Nevada girls basketball program over the last four years. Girls’ basketball is a very demanding sport to be a part of, and to stay dedicated to it all four years of high school is not as common any more.”
But with six players back with quality experience, including their top two offensive threats, the Cubs have the potential to make some big improvements in 2019-20.
“We have a great combination of older girls who have played a lot of basketball over the last two season with some very athletic underclassman,” Bentley said. “I believe we will have a team that will be competing in the top half of the conference and looking to make a much deeper postseason run. In order for us to achieve the goals we set for next season, we will have to put in the work this offseason.”