No. 1 is a great place to be, and it’s exactly what the Easton Valley boys basketball team expected.
The River Hawks are used to winning. They saw it last year, rolling to an impressive four-loss season that ended in the district final. They saw it in football, where they rolled undefeated until bowing out in the state tournament.
Now, their prowess is undeniable. There are just eight undefeated teams left in all of Iowa, and Easton Valley is one of them.
“The mentality for us all year has been championship or bust,” senior Nate Trenkamp said. “We kind of set that in the fall for football and carried it over. We didn’t end up where we wanted to be last year and we want to carry our momentum into this year.”
Head coach Dan Beck said before the season started that he has one of the best rosters in his multi-decade coaching career from top to bottom. He has depth – both on his varsity bench all the way through to the junior varsity teams.
They certainly have some scoring standouts. Junior Kaleb Cornilsen averages 20 points per game, and senior Jessen Weber is around the same. But on any night, seniors Cade Jargo or Nate Trenkamp can put up numbers just as big. Then you have posts like Hunter Holdgrafer and Logan House who can score. Braydin Farrell’s speed has certainly come into play as well.
“We feel like we’re very deep at every position, not just shooting wise but in the post area too,” Weber said.
They’re all led by a talented and experienced group of seniors, and those seniors have some impressive guards leading the way.
Easton Valley is shooting an impressive 50.7 percent from the field as a team. As if that weren’t enough, they’re shooting nearly 40 percent from the three-point line collectively, giving them the third best three-point percentage in all of Class 1A.
That shooting confidence is something they’ve learned over time.
“We’ve all been playing together since we were really young and we’ve had a lot of success,” Jargo said. Jargo has put up 21 threes this year, shooting 38.9 percent. “We have a lot of chemistry and know that anyone of us can pick it up on any given night.”
Jargo, Weber and Trenkamp have combined for 77 threes this season alone. Part of their confidence on the perimeter also stems from the teammates they’re playing with.
“We go into a game with zero worries because if we have an off night, someone else will pick us up,” Trenkamp said. “There’s no huge pressure to always be of. We’ve had a lot of success and that’s where the confidence comes from.”
Threes aren’t the only part of their game. The perimeter players are all athletes at their core and often times can be found driving the lane and going up against the tallest in the conference, no matter their height.
They also have Cornilsen to look for in the paint. Cornilsen’s tall and athletic build has made him an integral part of the offense, although it was something they all had to get used to playing around.
“Last year was kind of a learning curve for us getting Kaleb [Cornilsen] incorporated with us,” Trenkamp said. “This year, we’re running our offense through him and get him involved first. When the ball goes into him all eyes go towards him and that opens up the shooting.”
They’ve adapted and flourished with the multi-faceted game they play. In fact, with so many pieces, one has to wonder if they can be stopped.
There’s still plenty of season to go, though. The River Hawks just took the top spot in the Class 1A rankings this week and look poised to run through the rest of the Tri-Rivers Conference with ease.
They watch those rankings and the conference constantly, keeping it in the back of their mind. Even though their confidence is a part of their gameplan, they stay motivated to keep pushing themselves to be the best they can be.
“It’s motivation,” Weber said. “We use it every day to push to be that No. 1 team and see what the rest of the state has to offer, what makes them better than us according to the rankings.”
Easton Valley welcomes Tri-Rivers Conference opponent Cedar Valley Christian to Preston on Friday night.