Cub boys overcome obstacles to post winning season: Nevada finishes 11-10
The Nevada boys’ basketball team battled through the loss of its top two scorers from the previous season, COVID restrictions and a tough schedule to produce a winning record.
The Cubs entered the season needing to figure out how to overcome the loss elite scorers Tyler Sansgaard (18.2 points) and Kody Kruschwitz (12.8 points) off last year’s team that made the Class 3A substate semifinals. They had to do while dealing with uncertainty due to rising COVID-19 cases in the state as the season was getting underway.
But despite the challenging adjustment period the Cubs nearly found a way to improve on last year’s record.
“I was very happy with the season, mostly just getting to have a season with everything going on,” Nevada head coach Tyler Struck said. “We were able to play all but one of our games this year and we lost that because of (weather) and they were not able to reschedule before districts.
They ended up second in the Heart of Iowa Conference with a 9-3 record and went 11-10 overall after finishing 12-12 a year ago.
“The best part of the season to me is how much the team improved, both physically and mentally, at the end of the year,” Struck said. “After some tough times through January we decided we could be better, went to work and bought in and ended up coming together and having great end of the season.”
The COVID situation did cause some headaches. The Cubs didn’t have a student section until the very end of the season, a couple of players were quarantined at different times and Struck himself had to quarantine and missed three games.
Nevada started off the season putting up a good fight against eventual 3A state qualifier Clear Lake before falling, 61-54. The Cubs came back to win a 64-62 thriller over Prairie City-Monroe, but they suffered tough losses Iowa Falls-Alden (71-60) and eventual HOIC champion Roland-Story (60-56) in their next two games.
The Cubs regrouped to win their next four games. They defeated West Marshall (60-28) and traditional HOIC power South Hamilton (61-55) in their final games before Christmas and Saydel (72-31) and Hampton-Dumont (69-59) in their first games after the break.
The rest of the month was a tough stretch for Nevada. Struck just started his quarantine prior to the Saydel win and the team had other health issues that ended up affecting the team’s chemistry.
Nevada lost to Grundy Center (60-50) and was blown out by Bondurant-Farrar (66-30). The Cubs defeated Greene County (60-52), but then suffered setbacks against Roland-Story (74-58) and Grinnell (63-56).
The busy month ended with Nevada beating PCM (65-52) and West Marshall (50-32) and losing to South Hamilton (52-44).
The Cubs opened February with three consecutive victories. They defeated Saydel (59-33), Greene County (70-48) and Newton (58-52).
The season ended with Nevada playing two top-notch teams.
The Cubs finished the regular season against eventual 2A state qualifier Des Moines Christian. They hung tough with the Lions before falling, 64-55.
In the opening round of 3A substate play they went up against Bondurant-Farrar. Nevada came up short, but showed vast improvement from their first meeting with the Bluejays in losing a competitive 72-63 affair.
“Our team grew so much as players, but more importantly as people throughout the year,” Struck said. “We really started to buy in to the mental part of the game. It was so rewarding as a coach to see our team improve mentally, which then led to us improving as a team on the court!”
Struck said the biggest highlights of the season were the improvement shown at the end of the year, beating South Hamilton for the first time since he took over and the victory over Newton.
Nevada averaged 57.8 points per game shooting 39 % from the field, 31 % from 3-point range and 58 % from the line. The Cubs made 158 3-pointers and averaged 16 turnovers per game.
“We struggled with some mental and physical things early in the year, but even after those things got much better we still had some issues with turning the ball over and missing some shots and free throws,” Struck said. “We worked to get ourselves some really good shots at times and just struggled to make them. Same with free throws. We would do everything right to get to the line and then couldn’t capitalize. Our turnovers got better late in the year, but we still had some unforced ones and some that were more our fault than the defense making a play.”
On defense Nevada gave up 54.6 points and opposing teams shot 41 % from the field. The Cubs were great at forcing turnovers (17.5 per game) and they outrebounded their opponents by a 32-26 average.
Nevada ended up with eight players averaging at least 3.0 points per game.
“Our biggest strength was our depth,” Struck said. “Not only were we able to play eight or nine players consistently, we also had a great group of JV players who constantly were able to push us in practice and make us better. I was confident putting anyone on our bench into a varsity game at any time, which is a great feeling for a coach.”
Juniors Colin Memmer and Ty Dittmer were first-team all-HOIC players for Nevada.
Memmer averaged 13.4 points and 2.3 rebounds. He made 63 3-pointers on 35 % accuracy and shot 70 % from the line.
Dittmer put up 11.4 points, 5.1 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game. He nailed 39 3-pointers and shot 39 % from the field and 68 % from the line.
Junior James Edwards was a second-team all-conference performer. Edwards put up 8.7 points, 5.0 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game and shot 43 % from the field.
Seniors Ayden Rhodes and Cooper Bovee were all-HOIC honorable mention performers for the Cubs.
Rhodes averaged 5.9 points, 3.8 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 2.3 steals. Bovee put up 5.9 points, 2.9 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game.
Junior Spencer Grant averaged 6.4 points, 4.5 rebounds and 1.8 assists. Sophomore center Carson Rhodes came on late in the year to average 3.4 points and 4.4 rebounds and defensive specialist Jacob Joe averaged 3.1 points in his senior year.
Freshman Jacob Khounsourath saw increased playing time the second half of the season and averaged 1.1 points. Freshman Treshaun Brooks (1.4) and senior Max Hoffman (1.1) also averaged better than one point per game.
Struck said it will be tough to lose Ayden Rhodes, Bovee and the rest of the senior class.
“This senior group was truly a joy to coach,” Struck said. “They were great kids who worked hard and brought a ton to our program, both on and off the court. I will miss having them in practice and seeing them every day after school, but I know that they will keep in touch and be cheering us on for years to come.”
But with such a strong junior class returning for next year the future for Nevada looks very bright.
“I am very optimistic about our team next year,” Struck said. “We will bring back five players that started between eight and 18 games and some talented JV players. We have a chance to accomplish a lot things next year if everyone works hard and works together. If we continue to grow and basketball players, as a team, and most importantly as people it could really be a special season for us next year!”