The Pleasant Valley girls basketball team enters the new year with an unblemished record, thanks in part to some of the Spartan staples.
Under head coach Jennifer Goetz, a smothering defense, good ball movement and 3-point shooting have all become key parts of Pleasant Valley's game but this year, the Spartans have also rebounded the ball well, adding another weapon to their arsenal.
Rebounding is something PV has struggled with in recent history.
Without a distinct height advantage, the Spartans averaged 27.3 rebounds per game over the past two seasons and were outrebounded in their last two regional final losses.
"I think a lot of it goes back to the program and a lot of these kids have seen how we've struggled against bigger programs, and how are we going to figure this out?" Goetz said. "That's just something you continue to learn the more you do this."
This season, the Spartans' average height is 5-foot-7, which ranks in the middle of the MAC, and they don't have a starter above 5-10. However, that hasn't stopped Pleasant Valley on the boards this year as they lead the conference with 32.8 rebounds per game.
Despite giving up a distinct size advantage against Davenport North and Bettendorf, Pleasant Valley outrebounded both teams, helping lead the Spartans to wins.
"Defense is a lot of timing so it's just being in the right place at the right time and having that leverage," senior Adrea Arthofer said. "So no matter how much taller or stronger a person is, if you're in the right place and you have that good, strong leverage, you're going to get rewarded."
Arthofer leads the Spartans with 7.1 rebounds per game, but PV gets contributions up and down the lineup, with five different players averaging at least three rebounds per game. That includes senior Macy Beinborn, who not only is second on the team in scoring in her first year as a starter but is also second on the team with five rebounds per game.
"I think we're more balanced on the rebounding end. I think Adrea's done a really nice job, but I think our guards have rebounded a little better," Goetz said. "Macy is a great basketball mind so she can get some boards, and I think it's a little more evenly distributed."
The Spartans are also doing a better job getting second-chance opportunities, averaging about three more offensive rebounds per game than the last two seasons. Those second chance opportunities can prove key if the Spartans find themselves in close games in the second half of the season.
"I think it's just how hard we work," senior Carli Spelhaug said. "Our middles and forwards don't want to give up the boards, and coach Goetz preaches that."
Surging Knights: After a rough 1-5 start to the season, Davenport Assumption appears to be settling in as the Knights have won their last four games to enter the break at .500.
A newfound offensive efficiency has been a big factor as the Knights are averaging 68 points per game during this winning streak, up from 45 points per game during their first six contests.
The Knights have also been better defensively, holding their last four opponents to a 25.5 point average after allowing over 60 points per game in their first six games.
Olivia Wardlow leads the team with 11.4 points per game, but Assumption also has found some balance with five other players averaging at least five points per game.
Thirty rock: So far this season, three Iowa area basketball players have scored at least 30 points in a game. The high of the season was set by Wilton senior Emily Lange, who scored 38 in a game against Durant on Dec. 4.
Last week, two other athletes joined Lange as Easton Valley's Sadie Zaruba scored 30 against Fulton on Dec. 17, then Tipton senior Amanda Smith matched that number against Durant the next night.
Lange leads all Iowa area girls basketball players with a 22.2 point-per-game average.