Editor’s Note: This is the last stop of an eight-day midseason tour around the area conferences in girls’ basketball, the Mississippi Valley Conference.
MVC MISSISSIPPI DIVISION
The frontrunners: It’s cluttered at the front, with five teams within one game of the lead. Dubuque Wahlert (5-1, 3-1), Cedar Rapids Xavier (5-2, 3-1) and Cedar Rapids Kennedy (5-2, 4-2) are in a virtual tie for the lead.
Other contenders: Defending 4A state champion Iowa City High (6-2, 3-2) stands a half-game back with Iowa City West (4-2, 2-2) still firmly in the hunt.
Potential spoilers: Waterloo West (4-3, 0-3) is bound to knock off somebody at some point.
Biggest surprise: Dubuque Wahlert is traditionally strong at home, and the Golden Eagles are 5-0 there this season.
Biggest disappointment: I had Waterloo West penciled in at 14-7 before the season. The Wahawks have some work to do to get there.
Leading scorer: Iowa City High sophomore Virginia Johnson is averaging 19.8 points per game.
What to watch for: The race hinges greatly on the knee of Jade Rogers. The standout from Cedar Rapids Kennedy posted 11 points in her season debut, an impressive 51-40 win over Iowa City High on Dec. 22. The Cougars preceded that with a win over Xavier, and those two wins propelled the Cougars back into the hunt. Xavier, City High and Iowa City West figure to stay in the race. Wahlert’s fate will be determined by its ability or inability to win away from Dubuque.
Who will win it: If Rogers continues to make progress, Kennedy has to rate as the favorite. The Cougars don’t play at City High this year. Their final three league games — at Xavier, at Waterloo West and at Cedar Rapids Washington — will reveal their fate. Xavier has a brutal schedule in its final six games.
C.R. Kennedy 12-4 16-5
Dubuque Wahlert 10-6 15-6
C.R. Xavier 10-6 14-7
Iowa City High 9-7 14-7
Iowa City West 9-7 14-7
Waterloo West 8-8 13-8
Dubuque Hempstead 2-14 4-17
MVC VALLEY DIVISION
The frontrunner: Linn-Mar (8-0, 5-0) has been breathtaking, winning its first five league games by an average of 34.4 points per game. Sophomore post Kiah Stokes (16.1 ppg, 13.0 rpg, 5.0 bpg, .725 FG%) has blossomed into a star, making life much easier for Jaime Printy.
Other contenders: Cedar Rapids Washington (5-1, 4-0) was dynamite until it ran into a buzzsaw at Ballard. If the Warriors can’t catch Linn-Mar, nobody can.
Potential spoiler: The break came at a good time for Cedar Rapids Jefferson (5-3, 2-2), which dropped five straight after a 5-0 start. Still, Jefferson is capable of spooking most anybody, particularly once the postseason starts.
Biggest surprise: Washington lost its “Three Amigos” — Katelin Oney, Kaitlin Armstrong and Micha Mims — the nucleus of a team that advanced to the state tournament four straight years. But Renesa Smith-Taylor has taken the pilot wheel, averaging 10 assists per game. Camille Marie-Lidd and Tia Dawson have blossomed to become a force inside.
Biggest disappointment: Cedar Falls and Cedar Rapids Prairie haven’t been as good as projected in the preseason, but Waterloo East has been downright awful. The Trojans have reverted back to what they were before the Greer-Sims years, dropping their seven games by an average of 52.7 points.
Leading scorer: Printy is averaging 18.1 points per game.
What to watch for: The most intriguing segment of the season is about three weeks away, when Linn-Mar travels to Washington (Jan. 22), then faces 3A No. 1 Ballard (Jan. 24) at Rivalry Saturday. If the Lions can navigate that double-dip, they could be the first Metro team to go unbeaten since Kennedy did it in 2004. Look for a hefty gap in the standings from second to third place.
Who will win it: If it keeps humming as it did in December, Linn-Mar ought to go 15-1 or 16-0 in the MVC and claim the division handily.
Linn-Mar 16-0 20-1
C.R. Washington 12-4 15-5
C.R. Jefferson 7-9 11-10
Dubuque Senior 6-10 9-11
Cedar Falls 6-10 7-14
C.R. Prairie 5-11 8-13
Waterloo East 0-16 0-21