Spartan girls turn in best season in program history: C-M shares ISC South title
A veteran group of players led the Collins-Maxwell girls’ basketball team to a memorable 2020-2021 season.
Led by seniors Reagan Franzen, Brooke Christie and Elise Robertson and juniors Alexis Houge and Kenzi Wierson Collins-Maxwell shared the Iowa Star Conference South Division championship with Baxter – ending Colo-NESCO's eight-year reign as the top team in the conference. The Spartans also came within one game of make the state tournament for the first time in the history of the program.
“I think we had a great season and have a lot to be proud of,” Collins-Maxwell head coach Justin Flaws said. “Any time you win 22 games I think it's okay to be proud of what you were able to accomplish.”
Collins-Maxwell ended up 22-2 overall. The Spartans went 11-1 in the ISC South Division.
“We had a good feeling about what we could accomplish this season,” Flaws said. “The conference championship is something we wanted the previous two years and we were finally able to play well enough to earn it. It was the school's first conference championship in the five-on-five era.”
The only Spartan loss of the regular season came during the first meeting with Baxter. Collins-Maxwell suffered a 57-48 loss at Baxter on Feb. 2.
Four days later Collins-Maxwell atoned for that loss in a big way, thumping the Bolts by a 64-42 score in Maxwell. The two teams played one more time – in the Class 1A regional semifinals.
Collins-Maxwell trounced GMG (55-22) and Belle Plaine (73-27) in its first two regional games to set up the rubber match with the Bolts. The Spartans traveled to Baxter and used a strong finish to pull off a 57-47 victory and advance to the regional finals for the first time.
Collins-Maxwell, ranked 12th in the final 1A poll, took on sixth-ranked Montezuma at Pleasantville Feb. 24 for the right to go to state. The Spartans had to play without an injured Alexis Houge and ended up falling by a 62-44 score.
“We fell short of the one goal that we had this season so that stings, but that's the way sports go,” Flaws said. “Not the result we wanted, but we were in the position we wanted to be in - we gave ourselves a chance.”
The Spartans were a dominant force all season. They won their first 17 games and 21 of their 22 total wins came by double digits.
During the regular season Collins-Maxwell swept Colo-NESCO (59-31 and 48-14), GMG (58-26 and 76-21), North Tama (74-25 and 63-24), Valley Lutheran (71-8 and 69-4) and Meskwaki (69-32 and 66-30). The Spartans also defeated Woodward-Granger (56-23), South Hamilton (59-34), Janesville (50-18), Riceville (39-28), Dunkerton (60-10), Webster City (40-28) and BCLUW (59-38).
Paton-Churdan was the only team to stay within single digits of the Spartans. Collins-Maxwell beat the Rockets by a 62-55 score Jan. 28.
“We just kept getting more and more confident,” Flaws said. “We were able to do more things defensively that really caused some teams to struggle. Some of our young girls really stepped up and played well. Our shooting really kept progressing, we spent so much time in practice shooting that I think sometimes we forgot to go over other things. But the name of the game is shooting. If you can't put the ball in the hoop you can't win.”
The Spartans also showed great mental toughness and resolve. COVID-19 forced the program to miss nearly two weeks of action right after Christmas break – resulting in nearly a month off between its final game before the break and first contest after play resumed.
“No one wrote a chapter for ‘how to coach in a pandemic’ in the coaching classes we take,” Flaws said. “We did the best we could to navigate the situation and hoped that the rules weren't going to change or be misinterpreted. I'm happy for the girls especially the seniors because they took this opportunity and ran with it. We were still able to have a special season.”
Collins-Maxwell averaged 59.1 points and only gave up 29.4 - the third fewest in the entire state. The Spartans shot 44 % from the field, 28 % from 3-point range with a total of 110 3-pointers and 69 % from the line.
“A few years back they were in the bottom half of the state in shooting,” Flaws said. “This season we had the fifth-best shooting percentage in the state and second-best free-throw shooting percentage. We lead (1A) in defense as well. Hard work pays off.”
The Spartans also averaged 34 rebounds, 15 assists and 13 steals.
Reagan Franzen was the go-to source for Collins-Maxwell. The multi-talented senior forward was named second-team all-state in 1A by the Iowa Print Writers Association and she made the Iowa Girls Coaches Association third team.
Franzen, the ISC South Division Player of the Year, averaged 18.8 points, 9.9 rebounds, 5.2 assists and 3.0 steals. She shot 51.4 % from the field and 85.3 % from the line and made 25 3-pointers.
Brooke Christie and Elise Robertson were Franzen’s senior companions.
Christie made all-ISC South Division honorable mention. She averaged 7.1 points, 1.8 assists and 1.3 steals and led Collins-Maxwell in 3-pointers with 46.
Robertson was a valuable role player off the bench. She produced 2.7 points, 2.9 rebounds and 1.2 steals per game.
“These seniors were a special group to me because they stuck with it and got to see all of their hard work pay off,” Flaws said. “I really pushed this group of seniors and I'll never apologize for that because I knew what they could be and it paid off.”
“Reagan and Brooke are two kids that I respect the heck out of because they worked so hard, they earned everything they got,” Flaws said. “Elise was a great addition this year and I wish more than anything she would have played all four years. She's another kid that will be incredibly successful. She's already in the National Guard - talk about being tough.”
Houge teamed up with her younger sister Erica – a freshman in the backcourt.
Alexis made the all-ISC South Division first team after averaging 11.0 points, 3.2 assists and steals apiece and 3.0 rebounds. Erica landed on the second team after putting up 12.7 points, 5.0 rebounds, 2.4 steals and 1.8 assists.
“The Houge sisters had a great year,” Flaws said. “Lexi running that point guard position was like putting an airplane on auto-pilot. She always knew what needed to be done and when it needed to be done. Erica discovered varsity basketball and rose to the occasion. She also learned how to play as a forward and not just a guard which is huge for her development.”
Junior Kenzi Wierson was the team’s other starter. She averaged 3.5 points and 4.0 rebounds.
“Kenzi Wierson is a coach's dream,” Flaws said. “She's so instinctive and smart. She can guard absolutely anyone. She holds people accountable. I think she's a great leader.”
Avery Fricke (18 total rebounds and 16 points), Marissa Boege (1.5 points per game) and Chloe Wierson (2.2 points and 2.3 rebounds per game) were contributors off the bench behind Robertson. Emma Pasquariello (1.2 points per game), Mary Staudt (12 rebounds, 11 points), Isabelle Hill (21 points, nine rebounds), Jane’e Jones (four points and three assists) and Vivian Kahler (six points) also helped out.
Next year will be a transition period for Collins-Maxwell. In addition to having to replace the talented senior trio, Flaws is also stepping down as head coach after accepting a teaching position in his home town of Carlisle last summer.
"I had a meeting this summer to tell the girls this would be my last season because when I took over three years ago I told them I'd always be open and honest with them," Flaws said. "At the time my daughter had just been born and she's our first child, so the timing just happened to be right for my family. I grew up a coach's kid and coaching is in my blood, but I've got to be a dad first. The girls understood why I had to leave."
Collins-Maxwell went 56-13 over Flaws' three seasons.
"I'm incredibly proud of what we did in the three years I was head coach," Flaws said. "I'm going to miss the girls and the team. But I find comfort knowing that I'm leaving the team in good shape."
With the Houge sisters back to lead the way the Spartans still figure to be a big factor in the ISC South race for 2021-2022.
“There's plenty of experience coming back - 12 girls on our team averaged at least five minutes a game this year, so that is a big help,” Flaws said. “Plus you return Erica, Kenzi and Lexi who all started. Avery, Boege, Izzy, and Chloe all played in the sixth and seventh person roles this year and did a great job. There are girls who are definitely capable of jumping into that starting role.”