Nevada girls post second winning season in a row: Cubs go 14-10, take third in the HOIC

Joe Randleman
Ames Tribune
Maddie Dunham was an invaluable contribtor to Nevada's third-place finish in the HOIC during the 2021-2022 girls basketball season.

The Nevada girls basketball team turned in its second-straight winning season under head coach Jordan Bentley.

The Cubs went 14-10 in 2021-2022 after finishing 12-10 a year ago. The Cubs took third in the Heart of Iowa Conference, going 10-4 to trailing only two top-10 Class 3A teams in West Marshall (13-1) and state qualifier Roland-Story (12-2).

"This team had some pretty high expectations at the beginning of the season," Bentley said. "As a group, they achieved many of their goals and they continued to raise the bar for the future of the Nevada Basketball Program."

Nevada started the season by blasting Boone, 63-38. The Cubs fell to another 4A school the next week in Carlisle, 59-46, but they came back to pound Prairie City-Monroe, 58-20, and edge Iowa Falls-Alden in a 42-41 battle.

Roland-Story handed Nevada its first conference loss by a 62-25 score Dec. 7 in Story City. Nevada put up a much better fight against eventual HOIC champ West Marshall three days later in State Center, but still fell by a 49-35 margin.

The Cubs rebounded to win three of their final four games before Christmas. They edged South Hamilton, 52-44, lost to top-10 4A power North Polk, 50-21, and hammered both Saydel (68-23) and Greene County (53-22).

Nevada won its first game back from break with a 43-35 victory over Perry. The Cubs gave top-10 2A power Grundy Center a good fight Jan. 6, but they suffered a 55-42 setback.

The next two games saw the Cubs defeat Newton (38-25) and PCM (45-24). Nevada then entered its roughest stretch of the season.

The Cubs had to face four consecutive ranked teams from Jan. 18-25. They lost all four, falling to Roland-Story (44-30), Grinnell (57-27), Gilbert (77-55) and West Marshall (57-38).

"Our biggest struggle this season was being consistent throughout the entire game," Bentley said. "We need to start and finish games and I would say many of the games that we lost we can find some point in one of the four quarters that we were not playing at a consistent level."

The losing streak was broken with a tough 42-40 victory over South Hamilton Jan. 28 at Nevada. The Cubs opened February with a 62-26 win over Saydel and followed that with victories over Greene County (48-10) and Perry (51-36) to close out the regular season.

Nevada ran its winning streak to five in the 3A regional quarterfinals with a 61-16 victory over Saydel in Nevada.

"We had many great individual performances this season, but one win that stands out was our victory at home against South Hamilton," Bentley said. " That victory sent us on a five-game winning streak and really showed the level of experience and play-making ability that we had." 

The Cubs season came to a close three days later with a 67-45 loss to 14th-ranked Cherokee in the regional semifinals.

"Our biggest strength this season was our senior leadership," Bentley said. "We had a total of eight seniors this season and they have done a tremendous job of representing our program over the last four years."

The eight seniors contributing for Nevada were all-conference performers Maddie Dunham, Shelbi Hazlitt and Alexandria Arnaud along with Tessa Borwick, Mayzi Weig, Savannah Skaggs, Hannah Waldera and Jessica Myers. 

"These eight seniors have been a tremendous group," Bentley said. "Many of them have been starters since they were sophomores. They have multiple all-conference awards, and a few of them have even been named to all-district and all-region teams. They will be tough to replace on the court and in the locker room, but I know they have done a great job of showing our young kids the expectations within the girls basketball program."

Dunham made the all-HOIC first team and averaged 9.1 points, 6.6 rebounds, 1.2 assists and 1.1 steals. She shot 45.1 % from the field.

Hazlitt and Arnaud both made the all-HOIC second team. 

Shelbi Hazlitt was the leading scorer for Nevada's 14-10 team in 2021-2022.

Hazlitt put up 10.3 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.7 steals and she hit 24 3-pointers and shot 67.2 % from the line. Arnaud averaged 6.2 points, 2.4 assists and 2.3 rebounds.

Borwick tallied 4.8 points, 3 rebounds 2.2 steals and 1.5 assists per game. Weig averaged 2.3 points and 2.2 rebounds, Skaggs 1.3 points and 1.6 rebounds, Waldera 1.3 points and Myers totaled 3 rebounds.

The top underclassmen for Nevada were junior guard Bridget Cahill and sophomore forward Emma Strottman. Both players made all-HOIC honorable mention.

Cahill averaged 6.1 points and 2.9 rebounds. She shot 37.6 % from 3-point range and led the team in baskets from behind the arc with 39.

Strottman put up 3.8 points and 4.1 rebounds per game. She shot 47.1 % from the field.

Junior Avery Hinson averaged 1.4 points and sophomore Isabelle Nelson 1.3 rebounds. Sophomores Cinamon Hazlitt and Reagan Davis also saw limited varsity action during the season.

As a team Nevada averaged 45.4 points and allowed 40.7 per game on the season. The Cubs shot 33.9 % from the field and 54.2 % from the line and they made 124 3-pointers at a 25.6 % clip.

Nevada also 29.5 rebounds and 10.3 steals per game. On offense the Cubs averaged 9.1 assists against 16.3 turnovers.

"The key improvements for us this season were to take better care of the basketball and provide a more balanced scoring attack," Bentley said. "Our overall turnover percentage was much lower than in past seasons and we had multiple different leading scorers throughout the season."

It will be tough for Bentley to replace such a large senior class next season. But he is optimistic the Cubs can contend for another winning season in 2022-2023. 

"We have a couple of starters returning along with a few kids who gained varsity experience this past season," Bentley said. "We have some kids in our lower levels that I believe will be ready to compete for varsity playing and others that are eagerly excited to showcase their own abilities. The kids we have coming up will definitely be motivated to continue to raise the bar of the program, and like teams of the past will set high expectations for themselves."