Coming into the 2022-23 season, there were more questions than answers in regards to the Springville girls’ basketball team.
For those outside of the program.
The Orioles lost Lauren Wilson, Morgan Nachazel, Grace Matus and Savannah Nealman as four-year starters off a state tournament qualifying 2021-22 team that not only tied for a Tri-Rivers Conference West division championship, but posted a phenomenal 23-2 overall record.
At most schools, a once in a generation type of run.
At Springville however, business as usual.
So then why would anyone be surprised when the Orioles rolled to a 19-5 overall record and outstanding 12-2 league record this past winter with almost an entirely new starting-five?
Oriole head coach Christina Zaruba and her staff certainly weren’t.
“This season was special knowing that everyone except us coaches knew that after losing over 70-percent of our scoring that we were going to be okay,” said Zaruba, who returned only Molly Stamp as a starter from last season though Ashlynne Zaruba, Hannah March, Kennady Breitfelder and Isabel Guerrero all played roles off the bench in the success the team had.
“We weren’t 100-percent sure who was going to pick up that scoring, but we knew we would be okay with how well we were able to play defense. Our defense is what created our offense and on any given night we could have a different high scorer.”
The 2022-23 season came to an end in a class 1A regional semifinal heartbreaker at Montezuma last month, short of the state tournament goal that has become a staple of the program for almost a decade making it all the way to Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines seven of the last eight years.
“Although our season did not end up where we wanted it to, you cannot take away the tremendous year these girls had,” Zaruba said. “Many of them waiting their turn for their opportunity to show that they deserve to be out there, too. To be honest, we were dangerous because of the amount of different leading scorers we had. We didn’t have just one key player that opposing defense would target to stop. We had five leading scorers throughout the season.”
Seniors Stamp, Guerrero and Ashlynne Zaruba, along with junior Hannah March and freshman Rowan Jacobi all took turns leading the Springville offense this season, one that averaged a solid 55.0 points per game. Teammates in seniors Breitfelder and Alivia Hoyt and junior Kennedy Moore also added to the team’s massive depth.
“Molly and Rowan led the team each averaging over 12 points per game,” said Zaruba, as Jacobi topped the team with her 13.0 points and 8.3 rebounds every night shooting 52-percent from the field overall and 40-percent from the 3-point arc. Stamp also played another major role tallying 12.1 points, 5.0 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 3.1 steals and 1.6 blocks a game while also shooting a sizzling 39-percent from the 3-point line.
“Both Molly and Rowan could go inside and outside, whatever was best for our lineup. Isabel was a little firecracker who could be crafty around the hoop and sometimes score at will. Ashlynne was hard to stop when left open from the outside and was dangerous when she got hot (which happened a lot). Hannah was dangerous from the baseline which I feel is one of the hardest shots to shoot, but was golden from the baseline. Alivia Hoyt came in and got us some crucial points when needed and Kennedy Moore could be dangerous from behind the arc, too. We just knew that someone was going to pick up the scoring and it was exciting watching them all lead one game or another.”
Guerrero had a breakthrough campaign scoring 9.8 points per game while her 3.6 steals a night topped the team with March (7.8 points) and Ashlynne Zaruba (7.5) rounding out the main-five scorers with Jacobi and Stamp.
Ashlynne Zaruba became more than just a 3-point specialist connecting for a team-high 39 of them while adding 3.3 steals and 2.3 assists for the team.
While the offense came from a myriad of different players, Zaruba knew right who to look to for defensive tenacity and leadership.
“We were led by Kennady Breitfelder,” she said. “She did so much for us in our press and running the ball down. Tag-teamed with Ashlynne and Isabel, they had a ton of steals and just disrupted so many passes. Rowan, with her length at the front of our press, was tough to pass over leading to many lobs allowing others to get the steal. Throw in Kennedy Moore who was just a gnat that wouldn’t leave you alone.”
Another amazingly talented senior class graduates in Stamp, Guerrero, Ashlynne Zaruba, Breitfelder and Hoyt along with role player classmates Lily Clark, Morgan Schwiebert and Emmie Ripple.
“Where do I even start with this senior class,” Zaruba said. “They have been playing together since the third grade and boy could you tell. To have eight seniors is a rarity, especially at a small school, but I wouldn’t trade this class for anything. They all had great personalities and made practices fun adding bits of humor in at times and knowing how to handle Coach Beau, who they have had since the third grade yelling at them when they weren’t in the right places in our press.”
Jacobi, March and Moore return with the bulk of the experience heading into the 2023-24 campaign. Could Springville overcome the graduation of yet another sensational senior class and maintain their amazing winning ways next winter, too?
“You know, it will be interesting to find out,” Zaruba said. “I have confidence that these kids will be ready and contend in the TRC, which is always very strong.
“We definitely have some work to do, but I would never count our team out. We have some key players returning and are used to winning and working hard to keep the success strong at Springville. I don’t see that changing anytime soon either. Building these kids up and working as a team is what will allow us to continue to show our success, and we are definitely hungry to end up in Des Moines.”