The hustle of Wayne’s Tori Freeman led to this short range jump shot for 2 points by teammate Haylee Fortune. Wayne moved to 2-0 to start the season with a 57-16 win over Twin Cedars on Nov. 29. Photo by Jason Selby
SEVEN OF 12 PRIDE OF IOWA CONFERENCE TEAMS WILL BE 2A SCHOOLS, WITH THREE RANKED IN THE TOP TEN
The 2016-17 Lady Falcons’ basketball team will face an uphill battle during the regular season, one they hope will help toughen them up for a Class 1A playoff run.
Of the other 11 teams in the Pride of Iowa Conference, seven of them are Class 2A, with three of those schools—Central Decatur, Interstate 35 and Mount Ayr—ranked in the Top Ten. Nodaway Valley returns two six-foot tall post players.
“You look at our schedule top to bottom, on a routine night, us having to play those schools twice, it’s going to be pretty salty,” fourth year head coach Stacy Snyder said. “My ultimate goal is to get a couple upsets, and win a couple of ballgames we’re not supposed to on any given night. I’m realistic playing a 2A schedule. I guarantee you the kids won’t fault on effort.”
Wayne started the season 2-0—blowout wins at Melcher-Dallas and at home against Twin Cedars, in which they did not allow over 10 points in any quarter.
“Defensively, the kids are working really hard,” Snyder said. “I do feel like we have improved defensively.”
Two major obstacles the Lady Falcons must overcome to improve on last year’s record—8-16 after beginning the season 6-3—are a lack of post height and a lack of depth. Even with athletic guards that can push the tempo, senior Demi Austin and junior Haylee Fortune can only dash up and down the court so long before wearing out.
This season, Wayne has 16 girls dressed for basketball, including 6 freshmen. Three seniors will lead them: Austin, Sarah Norris and Katie Gassman.
“Katie is probably our best leader by actions and verbally,” Snyder said. “She doesn’t get the playing time, but she’s an excellent role model, and has so many assets she provides us just by working hard and being a good example.
“Demi is one of our best defenders, ball handlers and scorers.”
Austin will be a fourth year starter for the Lady Falcons.
“It will be her fourth year playing a lot,” Snyder said. “She’s one of the top athletes in the conference. If I had to pick a kid to put on my all-star team, I would want her on my team out of the entire conference. She’s that kind of player, even though she might not be flashy.
“Sarah’s a quiet kid. She ends up leading in rebounds and assists on an everyday night. She’s so quiet and just does her job. She is so smart that she plays trajectories and puts herself in the right spot so many times because she knows the game so well. I look for her to be more consistent this year, and being able to step up when they try to shut someone else down. She has more confidence this year.”
Junior Macey Goretska is Wayne’s most talented post player, though she stands less than six feet tall. She led the team with 19 points and 10 rebounds against Twin Cedars on Nov. 29.
“Macey had some really good games last year, and she’s worked really hard this summer,” Snyder said. “She’s worked hard on her post game, and on her perimeter shot just so people have to come get her. Macey is a key for us this year.
“Top to bottom, you’re not going to find a better athlete,” Snyder said of Fortune, who is starting pitcher for the softball team and finished third at state in the long jump in 2016. Her mother Heather Fortune is assistant basketball coach. “She can run, jump, shoot, defend and handle the ball.”
Fortune is leading the team so far averaging 16 points per game.
“She’s trying to up her game, to be inside-outside,” Snyder said. “Short jumpers, being able to pull up. I have high hopes for Demi and Haylee on the perimeter.”
One of Snyder’s offseason programs is the 10,000 shot club. Fortune, Austin, Tori Freeman, and sophomores Karryn Nickell and Jessica Helseth each reached that goal. For Fortune, Austin and Nickell, it was the second year in a row reaching that summer benchmark.
Helseth recently became the first Lady Falcon to run at the state cross country meet, finishing in the top 50, and with experience she could add depth to the guard position.
“Tori has stepped into that other starting spot because of her consistency for me in practice, her work ethic and her positive attitude,” Snyder said. “She’s willing to play any position I put her in. She’ll guard anyone I ask her, and she’ll just work really hard. She’ll continue to be that blue-collar workhorse for us.
“With her being a junior, with us having those upperclassmen, those will be our core for varsity action.” Also returning are juniors Raeshel Andrews and Tylar Greene. “They know my system well enough, they know me well enough, they know each other well enough that I hope we start doing some things that don’t just come naturally, that’s more playing time and playing with each other, jelling and doing things we don’t expect to do.
“Our kids will try to bang and be physical.”
Freshman Lexi Brazeal has also seen varsity playing time.
Another interesting wrinkle for Snyder will be coaching her daughter, freshman Rayleigh.
“It’s fun to have the opportunity to do that together,” Snyder said. “But as a parent, it’s always tough to coach your own kid—you don’t want to be too hard on them, but you want to hold them accountable. I look forward to having that opportunity to see her grow as an individual, as a player and as a person.
“The kids are all so good to all of our freshmen. Our older kids are really stepping up and partnering up with those kids and trying to bring them along.
“I’m really looking forward to a fun season. I always talk to the kids about working hard today and being better tomorrow—making sure they commit to that, and they commit to their teammates.
“It’s a long season, and we have a lot ahead of us. We’ve got to do a little bit of forgetting—we can’t always harp on the last shot we missed or the last mistake we made. We’ve just got to move on and continue to prepare. We’re really focusing on that as a team.
“At the end of the season, the ultimate goal for every team is to make the state tournament. So I think sometimes we have to look past the [results of] 2A games, and some of the tough games we’re going to have throughout the season—those are making us better for later in the year. That’s the push I have for the girls right now.”
The Wayne Falcons and Lady Falcons’ next games will be Class 2A conference matchups at Pleasantville on Tues., Dec. 6 at 6:15 p.m. Their next home games are Fri., Dec. 9 at 6:15 p.m., another Class 2A conference tilt with Interstate 35.