Resilient was the word used by coach Tony Neubauer to describe the Creston girls basketball team at the team awards program Tuesday night.
The Panthers had a rugged nonconference schedule, starting the season 0-6 on the way to finishing 6-15 overall and 3-7 in official Hawkeye Ten play, tied for seventh place with Shenandoah and Denison-Schleswig. Creston fell to state tournament qualifier Glenwood in the Class 4A regional opener, 60-52.
It was a varsity team made up of five seniors, including all-stater Doryn Paup, one junior and several freshmen and sophomores who took on new roles in 2022-23. There were some growing pains against some of the top teams in the state. Creston was 6-9 against conference teams. Of the losses, the team with the worst record was Shenandoah, which finished 10-11.
“6-15 is what it is,” Neubauer said. “You want to win more games, but the kids never gave up and it never got ugly to the point we weren’t playing hard. We had a four-game stretch where we played really well and didn’t win any of them — against Atlantic (18-5 team) we were down by three in the fourth quarter; we took Harlan (14-8) to double overtime; Glenwood (16-9) beat us by seven; and we lost to Clarke (16-7) in a real close game. We played some really good teams close.”
Of the nonconference foes, Neubauer noted that Carlisle won 15 games and played in a regional final, Des Moines Christian won 22 games and played in the state tournament, Winterset won 12 games but played without all-state guard Jena Young after early January from a knee injury, and Nodaway Valley with all-state guard Lindsey Davis won 18 games and played in a regional semifinal.
“We were 0-6 at one point but the kids never quit,” Neubauer said. “The second half of the season we played really well. Jacy Kralik got hurt and missed six games, we lost Nevaeh (Randall) for five games. We had a lot of moving parts during the season. Ella Turner started 10 games as a freshman and the jump from eighth grade ball is huge. At the end of the day, these seniors ended up with 46 five-on-five wins which is the third most of any class. They were a part of four regional tournament wins.”
Seniors on the team were Keely Coen, Aleah Calvin, Kralik, Randall and Paup.
“All of the seniors contributed in different ways and they were so important in helping those younger kids,” Neubauer said. “Nevaeh became a solid post player after we lost Bri (Fields) from last year. Aleah did a lot of the dirty work, just a hard-working lunch pail kid who earned our Panther Pride award. Keely got the most improved player award. She and Jacy took on bigger roles this year. Jacy had some huge games. She had 16 and 20-point games, had 10 assists against Clarke, five 3-pointers against Shenandoah and was third all-time in free throw percentage (74.2%).”
Paup’s value to the team was demonstrated in earning three major team awards — Team MVP, Offensive MVP and Defensive MVP. Her per-game scoring average of 21.7 points is first all-time in Creston five-player basketball. Named all-state first team by the Iowa Girls Coaches Association and third team by the Iowa Print Sports Writers Association, Paup finished third all-time in Creston history in scoring (1,054) behind Kelsey Fields and Brielle Baker, second in steals (181) behind Brielle Baker’s 184 and sixth in rebounds (476).
Twice in her career Paup scored 39 points in a game, once last year and once this season, to surpass the previous mark of 35 points shared by Jenna Taylor and Kelsey Fields. Her 73 steals this season matches the 1999-2000 record held by Amanda Parker, and her 10 steals in one game is a school record, which she did twice. The only player to top her 55.3% shooting from 2-point range this season was Kelsey Fields at 56.7%.
“Doryn really evolved as a player over her career,” Neubauer said of the Simpson College prospect. “She became a scorer in a variety of ways, really a pure shooter from the 12 to 15-foot range. She did what she did against double and triple teams. She had 14 points and 14 rebounds in the KMA all-star game.”
Also Tuesday, assistant coach Ryan Kissell talked about the JV2 team, made up of freshmen and sophomores, which went 4-6-1 in showing steady improvement. Assistant coach Bryant McCabe talked about the JV squad that went 10-8, winning its last three games while also performing scout team duties to prepare the varsity for games.
Junior Lydia Goins, sophomore Alyssa Gerdes and freshman Ella Turner were named captains of the 2023-24 team. With the graduation of five seniors including an all-state center from this year’s varsity, the team will take on a new identity.
“We’ll be young but not necessarily inexperienced with the kids who saw varsity time this year,” Neubauer said. “We are always looking to be up tempo, but this will be a different type of up tempo. We have to knock down shots. We finished 331st out of 350 teams in the state in 3-point percentage (18.6%). We have to put the time in on our shooting this summer. That has to happen. Defensively, I think we can pressure more. We have to get stronger and faster and put the time in.”
The outgoing veterans were good role models, he added.
“This was one of my most improved teams, regardless of the record,” Neubauer said. “They had tremendous resiliency when things weren’t going our way.”
(Number of letters)
Seniors — Doryn Paup (4), Keely Coen (3), Jacy Kralik (3), Nevaeh Randall (3), Aleah Calvin (3).
Juniors — Lydia Goins (2).
Sophomores — Ava Adamson (2), Alyssa Gerdes (2), Adyson Morrison (1), Averi Culbertson (1).
Freshmen — Ella Turner (1), Kadley Bailey (1), Brynn Tussey (1), Hollyn Rieck (1), Jaycee Hanson (1), Braylee Pokorny (1).
Participation awards — Taylor Smith, Carley Sheil, Emily Engdahl, Kaylnn Smolk, Ale Villanueva, Abby Freeman.
Team MVP — Doryn Paup. Offensive MVP — Doryn Paup. Defensive MVP — Doryn Paup. Panther Pride — Aleah Calvin. Scout Team MVP — Braylee Pokorny. Most Improved Player — Keely Coen. Captain awards — Keely Coen, Doryn Paup, Jacy Kralik, Aleah Calvin. 2023-24 captain awards — Lydia Goins, Alyssa Gerdes, Ella Turner.
Scoring — 1. Doryn Paup 21.7; 2. Nevaeh Randall 5.9; 3. Jacy Kralik 5.0.
Rebounding — 1. Paup 11.7; 2. Randall 5.6; 3. Kralik 4.8.
Steals — 1. Paup 2.6; 2. Ella Turner 1.5; 3. Kralik and Randall 1.4.
Assists — 1. Kralik 3.6; 2. Randall 2.4; 3. Keely Coen 2.3.