The championship drought is 22 years and counting.
The Mississippi Athletic Conference has not had a girls basketball team play for a state championship in Iowa’s largest classification since Muscatine in 2003. You need to rewind the tape nine more years to find a state champion in Bettendorf.
Yes, Davenport Assumption has had plenty of state tournament success. The Knights won titles in 2008, 2011, 2012 and 2013. Some of those teams likely could have competed with the best of the large class, but all their titles came in Class 2A or 3A.
The Central Iowa Metropolitan League has had a stranglehold on the largest enrollment class recently. The league has won four of the last five championships — Waukee, Dowling Catholic, Southeast Polk and Des Moines East — and will make it five of six when Ankeny Centennial and Johnston play for the crown Saturday.
If it hasn’t been the CIML hoisting the gold trophy, it is the Mississippi Valley Conference with Iowa City West (2012), Linn-Mar (2010) and Iowa City High (2008).
Sioux City North pocketed a couple championships in the past 10 years, as well.
So, how does the MAC get into this conversation? Sure, there are more schools in the CIML and MVC. The population bases are larger, too, with the Des Moines and Cedar Rapids areas.
Still, the MAC needs to be better.
With the level of young talent returning next season (12 of the 14 players recognized on the top two all-conference teams are non-seniors), I believe we could start to see the conference be more competitive at the state level.
Davenport North is the obvious front-runner for next season. Coach Ron O’Brien’s team played Ankeny Centennial down to the wire in Wednesday’s Class 5A quarterfinal. The Wildcats have all but one player returning next season.
Nothing is ever a guarantee because of injuries and matchups, but North has enough talent to vie for a championship next season. I expect North to be ranked in the state’s preseason top 5 next winter. This week’s state experience should serve them well going into next year. Jinaya Houston and Jacionna Stowers, the backbone of the program for the past three years, will be seniors. They’ll want to leave a lasting impression.
Pleasant Valley has been in the regional final each of the past four years, but has lost to Muscatine, Iowa City High, Iowa City West and Cedar Falls. At some point, the Spartans need to get over that threshold.
With Ellie and Carli Spelhaug, Kira Arthofer, Grace Budde and Rory Donahue returning, there is a solid nucleus. PV will need to shore up its front court and graduates the school's all-time rebounding leader in Lana Lindstrom. Coach Jennifer Goetz’s team needs to find more of a consistent inside scoring presence to ease the pressure off its 3-point shooting. Still, the pieces are in place for PV to make a run at the state tournament next winter.
Davenport West was 15-4 going into the final week of the regular season, but lost its final three games. Chrislyn Carr is just a sophomore and approaching 1,000 career points. Mariah Mayfield, Jayme Finn, Rachel Stewart and Sydney Mayes are non-seniors. If all those players return, West should put itself in a position to possibly reach Des Moines.
Bettendorf won only eight games this winter, but coach Pat Finn’s team started three sophomores in its regional semifinal and two other underclassmen saw time off the bench. Emily Ivory is an all-conference guard who has two more years in the program. The Bulldogs should be in the upper half of the league next season.
Muscatine has four starters and arguably six of its top seven players back from a nine-win squad.
In Class 4A, North Scott has the Rucker sisters returning along with Hannah Moeller, Erica Loussaert and Savannah Bogner. T.J. Case has a promising group of eighth graders he’s excited about for the next four years.
There is some uncertainty with Assumption. Besides whether the Knights will be 3A or 4A, they’ll have a new head coach after Rachael Milliman stepped down to move back to Michigan recently. Assumption does return first team all-conference guard Jasmine Harris and prolific outside shooter Bailey Brown. Also, the Knights’ non-varsity teams were very good this past season.
Regardless of classification, the MAC has not won a state tournament game since Assumption’s 2013 championship.
North Scott and Assumption lost quarterfinal games in 2014. Nobody made it in 2015. And North fell this week.
The talent is in place for that trend to end in 2016-17.