SPRINGVILLE - There aren’t too many programs in the state of Iowa, regardless of class, who can boast the kind of basketball success the Springville girls have had over for the last decade and a half.
Coming into this season, the Orioles had reached the state tournament five times (2015-19), including making four trips to the class 1A state championship game (2015-18) and winning three titles (2016-18).
Add Springville’s appearances at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines back in 2008 and 2009 (both of which included trips to the 1A state championship game, including a title in 2008), the Orioles are in rare air when it comes to winning on the basketball court, and are one of the most successful small school programs to have ever graced the courts in Iowa.
Well, tradition never graduates in Springville, and the 2020-21 Orioles kept that state tournament tradition going this winter too, making it six Wells Fargo Arena appearances in seven years with yet another trip to Des Moines.
“It’s just what we do,” said Springville junior Lauren Wilson, who made her second state appearance when the eighth-ranked Orioles battled top-ranked Algona Bishop Garrigan in Des Moines March 3, and gave the talented Golden Bears all they could handle before succumbing to a heartbreaking 48-42 defeat.
“The girls before us showed what it takes to make it to the state tournament, and we’re just following in their footsteps. Hopefully when we’re gone, the girls behind us will know what it takes to get here and keep this thing going. It’s been a pretty amazing run, and we’re not close to being done yet.”
Wilson is most likely right too, as Springville returns their entire varsity roster for another shot at state and a Tri-Rivers Conference title next winter.
“We should be one of, if not the most experienced team in the conference next season,” said Oriole girls basketball coach Christina Zaruba, who guided the Springville girls through a COVID campaign that saw the program play every game on their 2020-21 schedule without a cancellation, going 21-5 overall and 10-4 in the Tri-Rivers Conference, placing third against West division foes.
“Every team in the conference loses at least one or two important seniors and we get everyone back. I know the girls are going to put the time in during the off-season to work on their game and make themselves even better basketball players than they already are, because no one was happy about walking off the floor with that loss to Bishop-Garrigan. We want to get back to Des Moines and win.”
Wilson was the architect for the Springville girls this winter, playing every position from the point to the post, and everything in between in earning not only unanimous first-team All-Conference honors, but was named a consensus first-team All-State pick as well by the Iowa Print Sports Writers Association and the Iowa Girls Coaches Association.
Wilson, who posted team-best numbers in scoring (17.6 points per game), rebounding (10.2), assists (3.8), blocked shots (3.6) and shooting (52-percent), was the first Oriole player to be named first-team All-State since legendary Oriole stars Mikayla Nachazel and Rylee Menster did it three years ago.
Wilson (Menster’s cousin) wasn’t a one-player show however, she had plenty of help from classmates Morgan Nachazel (yes, Mikayla’s sister), Grace Matus and Savannah Nealman. Sophomore Molly Stamp completed the Springville starting-5 all winter long while freshman Hannah March and sophomore Nia Howard added depth off the bench.
“We had a great season,” Zaruba said. “The kids were very flexible and took all the precautions to not have to get quarantined by wearing masks at practice and working hard at social distancing while also staying home if they weren’t feeling good to not pass it on to anyone else.
“We had 24 kids out for basketball in our small little school, and each one of them had a very successful season with improvements and a lot of wins.”
Isabel Guerrero, Abby Christiansen, Ashlynne Zaruba, Kennady Breitfelder, Liz Blakely, Alivia Hoyt and Kennedy Moore will also return after spending the 2020-21 season playing at the JV level and were role players for the varsity.
“Making it to the state floor is always such an accomplishment,” Zaruba said. “Knowing that we are one of the best eight teams in a very tough 1A class is very rewarding. Our defensive changes continued to improve throughout the season and I really wanted to continue to play because we had started to become even tougher.”
Matus was also proud the team was able to keep their state tradition going.
“Getting to state is something extremely special, something not a lot of programs get to experience,” said Matus, who was the Orioles’ top 3-point shooter drilling 35 of them this past season and at a 27-percent clip.
“We’ve been lucky enough to have been there twice in the last three years, but nothing is given. We’re going to have to work hard to be able to get back there again next year and keep doing what we do.”
What these Orioles do is win, and a 2021-22 state championship is not out of the realm of possibility for this group of girls.
“With this group of kids, and we could be up to 30 next year, the possibilities for the future are endless,” Zaruba said. “Putting in summer time and figuring out some ball handling, I am hoping to be able to run, and run fast next year.
“I just want everyone to get on board. I’m excited to see what the future holds for us.”
Tradition never graduates in Springville, and neither did anyone on this 2020-21 team.