The 2017-18 season saw the Collins-Maxwell boys’ basketball team take a lot of lumps in its first season as a program, but the Spartans gained valuable learning experiences that will help them become more competitive in the future.
Collins-Maxwell went 2-19 overall and 0-9 in the Iowa Star Conference South Division. The Spartans were usually overpowered by more experienced and deeper teams on a nightly basis, as they averaged 34.4 points and allowed 68.0 points per game.
“These kids have had so much to go through and overcome this year,” Collins-Maxwell head boys’ basketball coach Wes Stover said. “The slogan for this year in all sports at Collins-Maxwell can be diversity. No longer being CMB Raiders has been a lot to deal with and overcome. This season was the start of a new adventure, and it is an uphill climb.”
The Spartans picked up the first victory in program history on Dec. 12 with a 49-44 road win over CAL at Latimer.
“Getting our first victory at CAL back in December was a great highlight,” Stover said. “We had to battle from a seven-point deficit in the fourth (quarter) to get the win. After a tough football season that these boys went through, it was nice to see them go get that first-ever Spartan victory.”
Collins-Maxwell’s other win came in its first postseason game. The Spartans earned a 57-42 triumph over Iowa Christian Academy in the first round of Class 1A districts Feb. 12 at Maxwell.
Defending 1A state champion and eventual state qualifier Grand View Christian ended the Spartans’ season on Feb. 15 by handing them an 83-26 loss at Ankeny. But Stover said the conclusion of that game showed the potential for a brighter future for his program.
“The other highlight would be how these kids walked off the court for the last time at the end of the season,” Stover said. “They were very upbeat and positive, actually had smiles on their faces.”
Not one of Collins-Maxwell’s starters saw quality varsity time at Collins-Maxwell-Baxter last season. The Spartans only had two senior starters, and seven players in the program that had never played basketball prior to this season.
“We didn’t have any shortages of challenges this season,” Stover said. “Usually with a team that finishes with two wins and suffers through some large beatings week after week, you see kids starting to drop their heads on the court or on the sideline when they come out of the game, or what we call ‘check out’ for the season. Not one of these kids on this team did that.”
“They didn’t drop their head after a single game, they approached every game with the opportunity to get to go on the court and play a game of basketball,” Stover said. “Losing can take its toll on you. But these kids’ attitude and approach every week made the season so much better.”
There were some positive surprises during the season.
“We had a freshman, Mason Markley, who showed us some true potential once he got used to being thrown into the fire,” Stover said. “Ben Hofer showed his shooting abilities in a game versus North Tama, when out of nowhere he dropped 21 points. When healthy, Brett Livesay could be one of the top rebounders of our league - he had 148 rebounds and missed several games with an injury. Livesay had a slam dunk in one of our games — we had never seen that out of him — that was a surprise. I look forward to more of that in the next two seasons.”
Guard Carter Fricke and forward Mike Hartgers were the senior leaders for Collins-Maxwell.
Fricke averaged 10.0 points, 3.3 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 2.0 steals as the Spartans’ most consistent performer.
“Carter Fricke was our point guard and our general on the court,” Stover said. “Thankfully, cross country helped his endurance, because this kid was rarely not on the court. I don’t think anybody keeps a stat of minutes played, but Carter would be right at the top if they did. He is a level-headed kid that leads by his example.”
Hartgers averaged 4.7 points and 4.1 rebounds per game.
“Michael could be like having a third coach,” Stover said. “He often would make good suggestions and see things that needed adjusting on the court. Michael missed a couple games with an injury and sat right next me on the bench and kept me informed with everything he was seeing on the court.”
Reserves Noah Rhoades and Frank Sposeto IV were the other seniors on the roster. Rhoades had never played basketball prior to this season.
Rhoades averaged 1.6 points and 1.8 rebounds. Sposeto IV pulled down 1.2 rebounds per game.
Livesay, Hofer and guard John Kasper gave Collins-Maxwell a solid sophomore trio that the Spartans can build around in the future.
Before an an ankle injury cost him most of the second half of the season, Livesay was a force inside at center. He finished the season averaging 7.6 points, 9.9 rebounds and 1.0 blocks per game, and he shot 50.5 percent from the field.
Kasper averaged 5.7 points, 2.8 rebounds and 1.1 assists and he led the team with 16 3-pointers. Hofer put up 4.1 points and 4.0 rebounds per game.
Markley came on late in the season as a freshman to make seven 3-pointers and average 2.1 points and 1.9 rebounds.
Sophomores Austin Snoody and Kadin Bennett also saw varsity time. Snoody averaged 1.0 points and totaled 10 assists and Bennett finished with 11 rebounds.
Even with the return of solid young talent, there will still be big hurdles for Collins-Maxwell to clear entering the 2018-19 season.
“Next season looks to be another tough year, to be honest,” Stover said. “We didn’t have any juniors that dressed varsity this season, and we will still be a young team next year led by juniors.”
But the Spartan coach is hopeful his program will be able to take a big step in the right direction next season.
“We will be making the biggest focus of basketball in the off-season than ever before here at Collins-Maxwell,” Stover said. “The expectations of improvement when these boys step on the court next November will be much higher. Hopefully, if we focus on improving the little things everyday, then that can lead to more wins on the court. I’m mostly excited to see the improvement to start next season after an off-season with basketball.”