Even though the Creston girls basketball team finished with a record of 6-17 overall and 3-10 in the Hawkeye 10 Conference this year, the message head coach Larry McNutt gave at the team’s postseason awards banquet Tuesday in the CHS commons was one of hope.
The Panthers lose two seniors in Brianna Maitlen and Emma Johnson, but return some key pieces for next year.
“We’re really excited about our underclassmen,” McNutt said. “We’re going to miss Bri and Emma a lot, but I think we’ve got a great group of underclassmen. I think with some hard work, some commitment in the offseason, and from talking with them, it’s just so much different than it was a year ago. They really want to do it, I believe. We’re looking forward to a great offseason. I appreciate them wanting to put the time in to get better.”
Among those underclassmen coming back next year are juniors Chelcee Downing and Zaidy Frank, along with sophomores Natalie Mostek and Brenna Baker.
Add to that a group of junior varsity players who went 12-9 this past year, and a freshman group that finished 9-8.
Baker and Downing both showed glimpses of providing another scoring attack from the perimeter this year, which is something McNutt said he hopes they can do more consistently next year.
Mostek led the Panthers in scoring and rebounding this season, while often guarding the opposing team’s best perimeter player.
Frank provides a matchup problem in the post with her quickness despite being undersized.
The Panther team also showed glimpses throughout the year, winning the Mount Ayr tournament at the beginning of the year, giving state qualifier Red Oak all it could handle, beating a tough Clarke team and defeating Shenandoah by 20 points.
Creston also stayed close to state runner-up Harlan in the first half of the regular season finale before playing Glenwood tough in the regional opener.
But even with all the pieces coming back for next year, there’s no hiding the fact McNutt will miss his two seniors.
Johnson earned academic all-conference honors, while Maitlen earned honorable mention all-conference.
“Emma did a really good job this year,” McNutt said. “She was usually our first guard off the bench. She worked really hard since last year. I told the girls after the regional at Glenwood, she’s somebody you need to model yourself after, because she works hard. I know she’s going to be really successful at whatever she does.”
Maitlen, meanwhile, finished second on the team in scoring and rebounding this year.
“A year ago, Bri was scared to death to shoot a jump hook,” McNutt said. “This year, she came out and decided that was going to be her best shot, and it really was. The best thing about Bri was defensively. She guarded the other team’s best post player. It didn’t matter if she was 6-2 or 5-1. She came so far from a year ago where she was in the post. I appreciate everything she’s done for the two years I’ve been here and her four years in the program.”
McNutt also thanked the media for coverage throughout the season, the administration, Jeff Mostek and Brad Baker for keeping the scorebook, his assistant coaches Mendy McCreight and Mallory Peterson and the parents.
Seniors — Brianna Maitlen, Emma Johnson.
Juniors — Chelcee Downing, Zaidy Frank.
Sophomores — Natalie Mostek, Brenna Baker.
Juniors — Olivia Nielsen, Sadie Jones.
Sophomores — Maria Mostek, Brooke Thelen.
Freshmen — Camryn Somers, Taylor Briley, Jess Beatty, Gracie Russell, Caitlin McIlravy, Sydney Dunphy, Alli Thomsen, Jenna Taylor, Becca Ross.
Hawkeye 10 Awards
Academic all-conference — Emma Johnson.
Honorable mention all-conference — Brianna Maitlen.