Washington’s Long named All-GTNS Large School Coach of the Year for the fourth straight season
Although only one girls’ basketball team in the Golden Triangle News Service area made the state tournament this postseason, several area teams and the individuals who led them saved their best for last.
Mid-Prairie was the lone team to reach Wells Fargo Arena, but both Fairfield and Washington were on the tourney’s doorstep with deep runs through their respective regional brackets. The Demons made the regional final round for the fourth time in the past five seasons, and Fairfield went just as far as its rival to the north. The Trojans made the regional championship for the first time since 2006, and they snapped a six-year drought without a postseason win in the process.
Sidney Baumann had the biggest hand in Fairfield’s stunning postseason run, and her emergence on the basketball court lands her the large school team’s captain spot. Although Baumann is no stranger to All-GTNS teams — she has been a fixture on the volleyball team for the past two seasons — the senior guard makes her first appearance on the basketball team and the first as its captain.
Baumann led not only the Trojans but the entire Southeast Conference in multiple categories this winter. Her 17.6 points, 2.7 assists and 2.6 steals per game were all high marks in the league. She finished third in all of Class 4A with 423 points, and she reached double-figures in scoring in 20 of 24 games. She also set new school records for both 3-pointers in a game, hitting eight against Pella, and in a season with 54. Perhaps Baumann’s most impressive feat, though, was the way she wrapped her season up. Baumann eclipsed the 30-point mark in three of her final five regular season games, and she scored a combined 51 points in a pair of regional upset wins over Mt. Pleasant and Oskaloosa, respectively.
Baumann was also the only area player on a large-school roster to earn all-state accolades, making the Iowa Girls’ Coaches Association Class 4A All-State Third Team. To no one’s surprise, she was voted Fairfield’s Most Valuable Player at the team’s season-ending banquet.
Baumann’s teammate, junior forward Hanna Greiner, makes her first All-GTNS team. According to Trojan head coach Mick Flattery, the 5-foot-11 forward was among the best defenders in the Southeast Conference this winter, and her final statistics would seem to substantiate that claim. Greiner ended up with a conference-leading 56 blocks and 212 rebounds, and her 10 blocked shots in a Dec. 7 game against Washington set a single-game school record at Fairfield. The second team All-SEC selection also had a much-improved offensive game, going from 1.4 points per game as a sophomore to an 8.8 average this season.
Washington’s Phil Long was named the large-school team’s Coach of the Year for the fourth straight time after leading his team to its third SEC title in four years. In Long’s eight seasons as head coach, Washington has made the regional final game four times.
Tasked with replacing the team’s top three scorers the year before, Long was still able to have a successful season by emphasizing the same things his teams have always been known for: defense and fast breaks. Washington struggled to score at times this season, averaging just 44.1 points per game, but the Demons were outstanding on defense, limiting opponents to just 41.8 points per contest. Long was diagnosed with cancer of the esophagus just before Christmas, and he began chemotherapy and radiation in early February, but he never missed a beat. Long picked up his 100th career victory in early January, and he currently has a career record of 108-72.
Joining Long on the All-GTNS squad are a pair of Washington players in Lauren Kimball, a senior, and junior Stephanie Fishback.
Kimball was the catalyst for the balanced Demon offense, leading the way with 8.4 points per game and dishing out 42 assists on the season. The senior point guard started the season as a shaky free-throw shooter, making just 51.5 percent of her foul shots before the holiday break, but she became solid from the line in the second half of the season, hitting 74 percent of her free throws after Christmas.
Kimball’s two biggest games of the season came against SEC rival Mt. Pleasant. She scored a career-high 24 points in Washington’s 60-57 overtime win in Mt. Pleasant on Jan. 4 and then scored 21 as the Demons defeated the Panthers 54-42 at home on Feb. 8 to seal the conference championship. Those two performances likely earned her a share of the conference Most Valuable Player award.
Fishback led the Demons, who ranked seventh in Class 4A in total steals, with 57 thefts this season. The lightning-quick junior guard was often assigned the opposing team’s best player, and she was usually up to the challenge of locking them down. Fishback, a second team all-conference selection and Washington’s Defensive Most Valuable Player, also was her team’s second-leading scorer, averaging 7.5 points per game, and she also blocked a team-high 14 shots.
Rounding out the All-GTNS large school team are Mt. Pleasant junior Taryne Shull and sophomore teammate Kelsi Phipps.
Shull, the sister of former All-GTNS captain Taylor, makes her first appearance on the All-GTNS team after leading her Panthers with 11.6 points per game and 29 3-pointers this winter. The 6-foot-1 junior also led Mt. Pleasant with 13 blocks and tallied 35 steals, and she was one of the conference’s best shooters from the free throw line, where she went 72-for-101. However, Shull’s biggest asset might have been her leadership. On a team devoid of seniors, Shull provided needed direction for the young squad and will continue to do so as she heads into her final year as a Panther.
Phipps makes her second appearance on the All-GTNS team in as many years. The 6-foot-1 Panther earned the honor as a freshman last year after being the team’s top rebounder and second-leading scorer, and that stayed consistent this season. Phipps averaged a team-high 6.1 rebounds per game and scored 10.5 points per game, and her 56.8 field goal percentage led the SEC.
Six teams are represented on this year’s small-school squad, and state-qualifying Mid-Prairie leads the way with a pair of selections: Coach of the Year Marc Pennington and senior Mariah Swartzentruber.
After four years of teaching and nurturing his group of nine seniors — they went 5-16 as freshmen four years ago — Pennington’s Golden Hawks finally got to the state tournament this season. It was Mid-Prairie’s first trip to the girls’ state basketball tournament since 2004, and the Golden Hawks finished 18-8 this season.
Pennington emphasizes the same things that Long does with the Demons — defense and pushing the ball down the floor — so it’s no surprise that when Mid-Prairie defeated Washington in late November — the first time the Golden Hawks had defeated the Demons in Pennington’s eight-year career — the final score was a paltry 30-22. Pennington’s Golden Hawks played stifling defense this season, limiting opponents to just 36.9 points per game, which ranked 10th in Class 3A.
There were nine seniors on Mid-Prairie’s squad this season, and many of them led the Golden Hawks at times, but Swartzentruber ended the season as the team’s leading scorer with 10.2 points per game. The 5-foot-8 forward also led the Golden Hawks in rebounding (6.2 per game), blocked shots (25) and made 3-point goals (33). She was a first team All-Cedar Valley Conference selection this season.
Van Buren senior Hanna Haynes was named captain of the All-GTNS small-school team this year, taking over the honor previously held by former teammate Makenzie Zeitler. Haynes, a 6-foot-3 center, was as dominant as they come in southeast Iowa and ranked atop Class 2A in several statistical categories. The Warrior averaged the fifth-most points in the class, at 19.4 per game, and her 273 rebounds and 131 blocked shots also placed her in the top five of Class 2A in both categories.
Her efforts helped Van Buren to a 17-6 record and landed her conference, region and state awards. Haynes was named second team all-state by both the Iowa Girls’ Coaches Associations and the Des Moines Register, and she makes the All-GTNS team for the second straight season.
Both Winfield-Mt. Union’s Cassie Kingery and Cardinal’s Lindsay Moore are also no strangers to the All-GTNS small-school team. And like Haynes, both area seniors land on the team for the second straight year.
Last year, Kingery led the Wolves to an 18-6 season while averaging 12.3 points per game. This season, the senior point guard picked up right where she left off, upping her average to 13.1 points per game and helping the Wolves to another 18-win season. Kingery, who sank 28 3-pointers on the season, another team high, was also a key contributor in other categories: she dished 59 assists and had 62 steals on the season.
Meanwhile, Moore led Cardinal to an 8-14 record as the young team’s leader both on and off the court. The Comet guard was one of the top scorers in the area with 18 points per contest, and she broke the school’s — and her own — single-season scoring record with 395 points. A first team All-Southeast Iowa Super Conference South Division choice, Moore led her team with 76 steals and 51 assists, and her 5.6 rebounds per contest were second best on Cardinal.
The All-GTNS team also includes first-time selections Megan Pretz of Columbus and Morgan Christner of New London.
Pretz, a senior center, helped lead a surprising turnaround at Columbus this season. The Wildcats went 14-9 and finished third in the SEISC North Division, at one point rattling off eight straight wins. Despite being undersized as a 5-foot-9 post player, Pretz averaged a double-double, scoring 11.6 points and grabbing 12 rebounds per game. The first team all-conference selection also blocked a team-high 20 shots this season and came up with 33 steals.
Christner completes the small-school team in her first-ever high school basketball season. The freshman, already a proven weapon on the New London softball and volleyball teams, ranked third among all girls’ basketball players in the state in rebounding. Her 13.1 rebounds-per-game average ranked her second in Class 1A, and the number led the Southeast Iowa Super Conference. The rookie also averaged a team-high 12.3 points per game, and she had 51 steals and 14 blocks for the Tigers.
The Golden Triangle News Service teams are selected by sports editors Travis J. Brown (The Washington Evening Journal), Ashlee De Wit (Mt. Pleasant News) and Michael Leach (The Fairfield Ledger).