DURANT, Iowa — With a week off between games, the Wilton girls basketball team spent Wednesday afternoon bowling at Durant's Idle Hour Lanes.
"It's a nice break," senior Emily Lange said. "Since we have a few days off it's nice to do something as a team and create that team bonding."
Though it took the day off, the team has put in plenty of work so far this season, and so far it's paid off as the Beavers are 13-1 and ranked 15th in Class 2A.
There were high expectations coming into the season, thanks to four senior starters, three of whom have been fixtures in the lineup since their freshmen year in Lange, Kortney Drake and Aubrey Putman.
Lange is the top scorer in Class 2A, averaging 24.3 points per game. She and Drake both reached the 1,000-point mark in their careers this year, while Putman — a Western Illinois commit in volleyball — has scored more than 800 points and grabbed close to 600 rebounds in her career.
"I knew they were going to be something special as they got older because they're three, not just good basketball players, but good athletes overall," head coach Jeremy Putman said. "They all have a common goal, and that's to win."
They've done just that. After a 5-19 freshman season, that trio has helped lead the Beavers to 13 wins each of the last two seasons and likely more to come this year.
"Individually we've shot the ball better," said Drake, who is averaging 16.4 points this year. "We've worked on it in the summer, and I think because we're older, we know how it works in high school."
The only blemish on Wilton's season is a two-point road loss to West Branch on Dec. 11, scoring a season-low 38 points.
"We had trouble offensively in that game," Jeremy Putman said. "We shot the ball terribly, but we also did not get good shots, we did not get good post touches, we were shooting a lot of perimeter jump shots. Defensively, we were there, it was a low-scoring game, but we couldn't figure out anything on offense."
The Beavers seem to have fixed any offensive issues that plagued them, averaging 10 more points per game since the loss than before it. Defense continues to be the strength of the team as the Beavers are holding teams to 39 points per game.
"We have been scoring a lot, but I think that's because of our defensive stops," Lange said. "We've been getting that press out, getting touches on the balls, and that leads to us having those fast break opportunities and putting up points."
Wilton will be tested with three ranked opponents to close out the season — including a rematch against West Branch on Jan. 25 — that hopefully will prepare it for the postseason.
"Those games show what type of players we are, what type of team we're going to be," Lange said. "It's exciting, just to know there are those good teams that are going to push us and hopefully show us, if we get past them, what state would be like. ... From here on out it's not going to be a cakewalk, we're going to have to earn everything that we do."
The end goal for the team is one the Beavers haven't reached in some time, a trip to state. Wilton has only made three state tournaments in its history, the last coming in 2001, but it's been a year of magical runs for the girls athletic programs. The volleyball team made its first trip to state since 2004, and the softball team made its first trip to state since 2009.
The basketball team is hoping to join them and, for the seniors, put a fitting cap on something they started back in second grade.
"That's the goal, to get to state and not only to get to state but to perform well there," Lange said. "I think we have a chance to do something there because of that team chemistry, that team bond that we have, the closeness of performing with each other throughout the years."
Pairings schedule: According to a memo sent by the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union, Iowa regional pairings for Classes 1A, 2A and 3A will be posted in the latter part of the week of Jan. 21. Pairings for Classes 4A and 5A and will be posted in the latter part of the week of Jan. 28.