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home : sports : sports Thursday, November 23, 2017

11/11/2017 Email this articlePrint this article 
Snow or not; winter sports are coming
The signs are everywhere.

The leaves are falling in bunches and the sun is setting earlier and earlier every day.

One of the local radio stations is playing Christmas music.

And there is a slight possibility of snow Sunday.

To steal a phrase from "Game of Thrones" - winter is coming.

And so are winter sports.

The area's girls basketball and bowling teams started practice Monday, and after a two-week break, "The Week Ahead" is back on the Sports pages, thanks to a pair of basketball scrimmages late next week.

This coming Monday, the boys basketball and wrestling teams will start their own practices. And the Monday after that, the Central DeWitt girls basketball will kick off the longest prep season of the year with a postseason rematch against Clinton.

By the first week of December, 10 different winter sports teams will be in action, the leaves will be gone, and the Christmas music will be everywhere.

I could do without the snow, though.

It promises to be an intriguing winter for area basketball teams.

I started doing research on the hoops squads this week with a simple question:

What is gone?

The answer, it turns out, is a whole lot.

Seniors dominated the rosters of almost all of the area's six boys and girls teams.

As such, teams will have to look for new faces to provide some scoring punch.

Of the six squads, only the Central DeWitt girls basketball team returns more than half of its scoring, and even the Sabers' returning output - 56.7 percent - is not huge.

The team hit hardest by graduation on offense is the Northeast girls squad.

The Rebels attempted 1,003 shots a year ago, and seniors took 697 of them. In other words, for every five shots Northeast put up in 2016-17, more than three of them came from seniors.

The result is that the Rebels return just under 30 percent of its scoring from the year before.

The Northeast boys and both Calamus-Wheatland teams face similar voids on offense.

The Warriors girls return just over one-third (33.8 percent) of their offensive output from the season before, while the Cal-Wheat boys (35.2 percent) and Northeast boys (37.1) will also have to replace more than 60 percent of their scoring.

The good news for area teams is that the players they have returning are unselfish with the basketball.

Each of the Cal-Wheat and Central DeWitt boys and girls basketball teams bring back their leader in assists, and return players responsible for at least half of their assists from the year before.

In fact, assists is the only statistical category in which either Warriors squad returns at least 50 percent of its output.

The Central DeWitt girls, meanwhile, return eight players who accounted for a whopping 74 percent of their assists last season - the highest rate of any team in any category.

The wrestling season might officially begin Monday, but future and present Sabers grapplers have made sure to stay plenty busy this fall.

A handful of Central high school and middle school wrestlers have taken part in some wonderfully named tournaments ahead of the Iowa prep season.

Freshmen Keaton Zeimet and Robert Howard, along with eighth-grader Cael Grell, competed at the Conflict at Carver in Iowa City, where Zeimet finished fifth and Howard sixth.

A week later, Zeimet competed against Vincient Robinson of Illinois in the junior dual at the Agony in Ames - an invitation-only event that matched some of the best junior and prep wrestlers across the country.

Meanwhile, a pair of Sabers seniors - Isaac Payne and Nick Smith - competed at the USA Wrestling Preseason Nationals at Cedar Falls at the end of October.

On Saturday, Howard finished second at the Rumble by the River in Dubuque, while eighth-grader Ethan Forker was sixth.

The selection of the Iowa Newspaper Association all-state football team will have a new process this year.

In years past, sports editors and reporters from across the state - myself included - traveled to Des Moines on a Sunday in November to meet, discuss, and pick all-state teams for the state's five classes and 8-man.

This year, all of the balloting for the teams will be done online during a three-day period next week.

I am divided about the change.

It will certainly be easier to pick teams in the comfort of The Observer office without a nearly three-hour drive to Des Moines to worry about.

Plus, the move to online voting should, hopefully, get more sports reporters across the far reaches of Iowa involved, and give a fair representation of the entire state.

On the other hand, there is a definite benefit of meeting and discussing all-state candidates in person.

I can provide a well-informed opinion about a lot of the players on this side of the state because I have seen them in person or read in other publications about their play.

It is much tougher to gauge how well a Sergeant Bluff-Luton or Denison-Schleswig or Clear Lake player did this fall, other than to review the numbers that are available to me.

I am anxious to see how this will work and how things turn out. Maybe it will be the way the INA does its all-state selections in the future, or maybe sports reporters will be flocking to Des Moines again next November.

We will soon find out.

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