The first-ever season of Collins-Maxwell girls’ basketball was a successful one as the Spartans placed second in the Iowa Star Conference South Division.

Collins-Maxwell turned in an impressive 18-5 overall record. The Spartans finished 8-2 in the ISC South Division and earned a postseason victory in their first attempt as a program.

“Our first year, I would say, was a success!” Collins-Maxwell assistant girls’ basketball coach Joel Kahler said. “Coming into the season, we had just one player returning with any measurable varsity time or experience. The inaugural season brought plenty of unknowns. But the newness of everything encouraged positivity throughout the team.”

“All the players bought in early and worked really hard in practices, which in turn transferred to consistent effort in our games,” Kahler said. “Finishing 18-5 has really set the bar high for next season. It will be a great motivator heading into next year!”

Defense was the key to Collins-Maxwell’s success. The Spartans only allowed 34.5 points per game and they averaged an impressive 15.2 steals per game.

Collins-Maxwell also did well on the boards, pulling down 37.4 boards per game, including an incredible 15.1 average on the offensive glass.

“Many of our points came from our pressure defense, as well as many offensive rebounds,” Kahler said. “We quickly accepted our brand of basketball as being a defensive, fast scrappy team.”

This helped Collins-Maxwell overcome inconsistency on offense. The Spartans averaged 44.9 points, shooting 31.8 percent from the field, 54.1 percent from the line and 26.3 percent from 3-point range, and connecting on 90 3-pointers.

“The girls were learning completely new offensive plays, as well as new inbound plays and press break schemes,” Kahler said. “As the coaching staff tried to figure out what we were seeing in each player, and where they might fit the best, the girls were figuring out the same kinds of things about themselves and each other.”

The adjustment period took a small toll on Collins-Maxwell early. The Spartans dropped three of their first five games, defeating South Hamilton (46-43) and Meskwaki (43-36) and losing to Woodward-Granger (47-39), Colo-NESCO (63-50) and Janesville (43-34).

Colo-NESCO eventually won the South Division and Janesville claimed the North Division title in the Iowa Star Conference, giving Collins-Maxwell confidence going forward after playing both teams tough. The Spartans built on that confidence night after night, winning 16 of their last 18 games.

“As the girls continued to execute the defense and rebounding, they began to realize that as long as they took care of those two things, the rest would eventually take care of itself,” Kahler said. “Watching them work through those frustrating situations and then end up with a victory — I think the girls also started to communicate a lot better in the games, and became more comfortable adding input and ideas at practices.”

Collins-Maxwell took down GMG (51-32), Baxter (34-26), CAL (59-6), North Tama (44-22) and Tripoli (47-36) before Christmas. The Spartans edged Colfax-Mingo (54-53) and downed Don Bosco (41-22) in their first games back from break, and then suffered their only other loss of the regular season, a 39-37 heartbreaker to Colo-NESCO.

The Spartans rebounded from the loss by winning another close battle, topping Meskwaki by a 48-46 score. Collins-Maxwell followed that up with wins over GMG (51-35), Grand View Christian (46-30), Baxter (28-22), Paton-Churdan (34-27) and Waterloo Christian (57-16) to close out the regular season.

Collins-Maxwell opened 1A regional competition with a 59-24 rout of Ankeny Christian Academy to earn its first-ever postseason triumph. The Spartans gave a strong Lynnville-Sully team a good fight in the quarterfinals before sputtering late in a 58-34 loss to end the season.

Individually, the Spartans had good balance. With opposing teams focusing on senior forward/center Brianda Bane — the top player for Collins-Maxwell-Baxter in its final season as a program last year — several other Collins-Maxwell players were able to make them pay.”

“The fun thing to see was which player it might be on any given night,” Kahler said. “ We were pretty confident that Brianda was going to get her points and rebounds, but the big unknown was who would be the other contributors to step up.”

Bane was a force in the middle and as an outside shooter, earning unanimous first-team all-ISC honors and making the all-ISC elite team.

Bane averaged a double-double at 14.3 points and 11.6 rebounds per game and also put up 2.5 steals, 2.1 blocks and 1.5 assists. She shot 41.3 percent from the field, 69.6 percent from the line and led the team with 37 3-pointers, shooting 39.4 percent from behind the arc.

“Coming into the season our team was very happy to have Brianda in a Spartan uniform,” Kahler said. “Knowing what kind of a player she was as a (CMB) Raider, we were confident that she’d be an important part of our success. She definitely was.”

“Almost every game, I’d be in her ear in huddles, pushing her to drive more, shoot more, stay aggressive!” Kahler said. “The funny thing is — by the final buzzer, I’d look at the scorer’s book and realize Brianda had once again quietly put up another double-double.”

Kayla McCormick was the team’s only other senior and she was voted the team’s newcomer of the year by her teammates. McCormick averaged 1.5 points, 2.7 rebounds and 1.1 steals.

“Kayla had played basketball before, but not her junior year,” Kahler said. “I could tell from the beginning practices that this wasn’t the first time Kayla had played basketball. Kayla accepted her role as one of our post players.”

“Whether she was coming off the bench or starting, you knew what you were going to get out of her,” Kahler said. “She was a quiet warrior, always one of the players you’d see going to the floor fighting for the ball.”

Sophomore point guard Mikayla Houge was a unanimous second-team all-ISC pick in the South Division.

Houge averaged 9.0 points, 4.9 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 2.6 steals. She made eight 3-pointers and shot 31.5 percent from the field.

Juniors Josie Wierson and Gracie Cheville were big contributors for the Spartans.

Wierson made all-ISC South Division honorable mention after putting up 3.8 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.0 steals per game. She shot 34.9 percent from the field.

Cheville produced 7.4 points, 3.3 rebounds, 2.3 steals and 2.1 assists per game. She shot 31.7 percent from the field and converted on 13 3-pointers.

Junior Mikayla Markley was a pleasant surprise for Collins-Maxwell.

Markley averaged 4.9 points, 2.5 rebounds and 1.1 steals. She was second on the team in 3-pointers with 20.

Shasta Moody was another junior to see time in all 23 games. Moody averaged 1.9 rebounds and 1.2 assists.

The twin tandem of Emma and Ella Kahler were also quality varsity contributors.

Emma started the last half of the season and averaged 2.5 points, 2.1 steals and 1.3 assists and rebounds apiece. Ella averaged 1.8 points and 1.3 rebounds and she made 10 3-pointers.

Olivia Pasquariello and Trinity Stover also competed as sophomores.

Pasquariello totaled 17 rebounds, 11 steals, eight points and six assists in 15 games. Stover delivered six rebounds, five points and five steals in 10 games.

Brooke Christie was the lone freshman on the varsity roster. Christie compiled 16 points and seven steals in 18 games.

Next season, Collins-Maxwell still figures to be a force, even without Bane and McCormick. The Spartans must adjust to a new coach after head coach Mack Van Zante left the program, but with strong junior and sophomore classes coming back, they could be one of the top teams in the ISC South Division again.

“We played about nine deep this past year and we will have seven players back that started at some point for us this year, along with a few new faces that we’ll add to the team,” Joel Kahler said. “The girls are ready to carry the energy gained from our first year as Spartans into the offseason of the summer months. They plan to get as much shooting and other fundamentals work in that they can fit in over the summer. Next year, we’ll have solid group of girls, ready to work hard and push each other to compete for time on the floor.”