Titans off to strong start
ROCKWELL CITY — As we head into 2018, 27 girls teams in the state can boast unbeaten records.
South Central Calhoun is one of those select few, as the Titans have reeled off 11 consecutive wins to start the season under the guidance of first-year head coach Eric Francis.
Francis replaced long-time leader Dave Birks this winter, as Birks announced his retirement following 34 years on the sidelines.
Having served under Birks for two seasons, the move from assistant to head coach was one made easier by three returning starters from a 17-7 team, including all-state candidate Maddie Jones.
“It was great working with Coach Birks for the previous two seasons,” said Francis, a 2006 graduate of Pocahontas Area. “He knows a lot about the game of basketball, and the preparation process for games and practices. A couple of aspects Coach Birks and I talked about moving into the offseason were practice preparation and flow. We discussed the importance of developed practice plans and the importance for the girls to have familiarity with practice, which will help with practice flow.
“In addition, to working with Coach Birks, I have two great assistants in Kari Musselman and Curt Batta that have helped tremendously in this first year.”
Jones, a 5-5 junior guard, is one of the top scorers in the state, averaging 20 points per game. While that number, along with her 4.5 assists are impressive, what stands out is the fact that she leads the Titans at 6.7 rebounds per game.
Last year, Jones posted 13 points, six rebounds and almost five assists a night. This year, she’s scored a high of 26 points in a win over Graettinger-Terril/Ruthven-Ayrshire, setting season-bests in rebounds (11) and assists (seven) vs. Emmetsburg.
“Maddie has played a bigger role each year,” Francis said of his two-year captain point guard. “Her last couple of years in the conference she has gotten the opportunity to play against some good players from other teams in the Twin Lakes Conference. Playing against these girls has made our team work harder in the offense, so that it would be our turn moving forward. Maddie has picked up her scoring from each of her previous seasons.
“A lot of the credit goes to her work ethic, by putting in time with team workouts, going to individual camps and playing AAU ball. The increase in Maddie’s scoring has also opened up some shots for other girls on the floor.”
South Central Calhoun, though, is far from a one-player show. Heidi Hammen, a returning starter, is averaging 11.5 points and almost five boards a night, with Emma McKinney adding just under 10 points and leads the team in 3-pointers (17) and blocked shots (20).
Hannah Seil, the third returning starter, is sitting at six points and five rebounds a night for the Titans, who average over 56 points per game.
“When I began looking into the offseason, I knew we had some pieces returning from that team and would have a good group to build off of,” he said. “When we approached this offseason, I knew we would need some younger, less experienced girls to work hard during the summer. All the girls came in over the summer ready to work and improve as a team. In all, I am impressed with the girls so far this season in that they have met expectations by improving different areas of their game every day.”
While SCC has picked up eight wins by at least 10 points, they have also been put to the test in close wins over Webster City and Emmetsburg.
Down by three entering the fourth vs. the Lynx, the Titans scored 20 points over the final eight minutes to pick up a 48-40 victory. The E-Hawks, newcomers to the Twin Lakes Conference, pushed them to double overtime earlier this month.
Jones and Hammen combined for 40 points and 17 rebounds vs. Emmetsburg.
“In the off-season our team went to a couple of team camps to play some other teams from around the state. In these camps we gave girls plenty of opportunities to show the coaching staff what they could do, as well as putting the girls into different situations that can’t always be simulated with our own team. In addition, to our team camps,” Francis said. “Maddie, Heidi and Brielle (Korleski) played on AAU teams throughout the summer to improve their individual skills. We worked around their AAU schedules as much as we could when planning our summer events to allow these girls to put their individual skills and knowledge from AAU and apply those skills and concepts back with their Titan teammates.”
Jones, McKinney, Hammen, Seil, Haley Stauter and Anna McChesney were all part of the Titan volleyball team that reached a regional final and won 35 matches this past fall.
South Central Calhoun and Newell-Fonda remain on a collision course for the TLC title, as they will meet Jan. 26 in Lake City. The Mustangs, ranked fifth in Class 1A, are 9-0 this year and 3-0 in the conference like the Titans.
Two road games await South Central Calhoun in the new year, as they travel to Storm Lake to face St. Mary’s on Friday, Jan. 5 before taking on Humboldt on Jan. 9.
“We are looking to improve our areas of execution on both the offensive and defensive end,” Francis said. “We want our girls to know our plays inside and out, all the while communicating on the floor. We will be working on those aspects over break and beginning to prepare for our second half of the season, beginning with Storm Lake St. Mary’s.”
SOUTH CENTRAL CALHOUN LEADERS
(Per Game Leaders)
Points Maddie Jones, 20.0
Rebounds Maddie Jones 6.7
Assists Maddie Jones 4.5
Steals Maddie Jones 6.0
Blocked shots Emma McKinney 1.9
3-pointers Emma McKinney 1.5