(The front end of Friday’s girls’ basketball notes package)
MARION — The Linn-Mar Lions are unbeaten.
And, some say, unbeatable.
“When they’re all ready to play, they’re unstoppable,” said Dennis Roloff, coach at Cedar Rapids Kennedy. “They have so many talented kids, and they all know their roles.
“I really think the only team that can stop them is themselves.”
Don’t hold your breath. The Lions, 16-0 and rated No. 1 in Class 4A, appear to be immune to letdown. Only two teams — Davenport Assumption and Iowa City West — have stayed within 10 points of them.
In a showdown last Saturday with 3A top-ranked Ballard at the U.S. Cellular Center, the Lions built a 29-point lead and romped, 59-41.
Linn-Mar is averaging 67.8 points per game, allowing 34.4. For a team playing in a strong, balanced league like the Mississippi Valley Conference, that’s remarkable.
For lack of a better desription, the Lions have it, whatever it is.
For starters, it’s a got-your-back mentality.
“My teammates, I love ‘em, each and every one of them,” said all-state guard Jaime Printy. “We’re a true team. People don’t care who scores, as long as we get the W.”
Printy is a talent and the indisputable leader of the team, but doesn’t have to carry the load. Last week at Cedar Rapids Washington, she suffered through a 2-for-20 shooting mess. Linn-Mar still won by 19.
“Personally, I’d rather make a sweet pass than a sweet shot,” said Printy, who averages 6.5 assists along with her team-high 17.4 points per game. “Everyone else is unselfish.”
The Lions average more than 17 assists per game, and that unselfishness leads to open shots, reflected in the team’s 47-percent shooting, 35 percent from 3-point range.
In a 68-39 win over Dubuque Wahlert on Tuesday, the Lions made their first nine 3-point tries.
“The girls definitely have skills, things you can’t teach on the court,” Lions Coach Mike Brandt said.
Kiah Stokes, a 6-foot-3 sophomore post, is blossoming into a superstar. The daughter of former University of Iowa standout Greg Stokes, Kiah averages 15.3 points and 12.6 rebounds per game and shoots 69 percent from the field.
(SIDE NOTE NOT IN THE STORY… After Linn-Mar’s win over Ballard Saturday, Greg and Kiah embraced for a moment. He said, “Great game … you know there’s still room for improvement, right?”)
Stokes’ 6.6 blocks per game leads the state. Her development and presence at the back of the defense allows her teammates to take chances most teams couldn’t risk.
“You’ve got to have the desire and the drive to want to stop somebody,” and our kids have that,” Brandt said.
Guards Kayla Klopfenstein and D.J. Norman average 8.4 points per game, Rachel Kearney adds 5.6 per game, and four reserves add at least 2 points per contest.
In short, it’s a team that attacks, on both ends of the court, with ferocity.
“If you’ve seen our posters, you would see our motto is ‘Make it Happen,’ ” Brandt said. “You’ve got to go get it, because nobody’s going to give it to you.”
The Lions (12-0 MVC) have wrapped up a share of the Valley Division championship, and can clinch the title outright with a win tonight at Cedar Rapids Xavier.