Waukon girls basketball team plays to 7-15 record under first-year head coach

The 2014-2015 Waukon girls basketball team played to a 7-15 season record under first-year head coach Andy Sires. That season mark included a 4-8 result that placed the Lady Indians in fifth place in the final Northeast Iowa Conference team standings.
Half of this season’s Northeast Iowa Conference losses came to teams that were both ranked within this season’s top 10 in their respective classes and made their way to every team’s ultimate destination, as Class 4A Waverly-Shell Rock and Class 3A Crestwood topped this season’s final Northeast Iowa Conference standings and played their way to State Tournament berths. Within those four losses, however, Coach Sires said he saw some of the best basketball his charges played this season.
“The girls always played hard, and never really seemed to give up,” Coach Sires said. “We had that one game that we lost pretty big to Decorah early in the season, but even with that, we came back and beat them on their home court. We were also the only team to hold a halftime lead against Waverly in over a year - we played really well against them, and our second game against Crestwood we gave them a really good first half, and I think we kept their big girl (Upper Iowa University signee Karlee Grabau) to just three or four points after she had scored 25 against us in our first game.”
Those results highlighted by the first-year head coach proved to also involve one of the most consistent challenges faced by this season’s squad, as the Tribe’s first half efforts in those two contests were eroded away by at least one troublesome quarter that allowed those games to get away. “We seemed to have difficulty putting complete games together,” Coach Sires said. “We’d get off to pretty good starts in a lot of games, but we always seemed to have at least one quarter that seemed to take the game away from us. We would end up giving up too many points in situations like that, and I thought we were a much better defensive team than that.”
Coach Sires saw some of that difficulty experienced by his team as being attributed to the size difference the Indians experienced, as they typically gave up at least a couple of inches in height to nearly every team they played this season. “Every team we played was bigger than we were,” Coach Sires said. “One thing I’ve been taught is that you can’t coach height. We had to try and adjust our offense and defense to help make up for that lack of height.”
This year’s team was led by a strong senior presence, making up four of this year’s starting five and five of this season’s top six performers in this season’s final statistics. Lyvia Bulman, Melissa Hammel, Thea Meyer, Allie Schwartz, Jackie Welch and Destiny Winters each played their final seasons in a Waukon girls basketball uniform.
“These seniors were great kids,” Coach Sires said. “For my first year as a head coach, this was a great group to work with, and I feel bad that I couldn’t help them achieve more success in their final seasons. These girls always worked hard, and I looked forward to going to practice every day. Once the season ended, I really didn’t know what to do with myself.”
Three seniors led their respective statistical specialties, as Welch grabbed a team-high 114 rebounds, Meyer dished out 56 assists for team honors from her point guard position and Schwartz swiped 57 steals for defensive honors. Meyer was next in line with 87 rebounds, with Schwartz distributing 51 helps for runner-up honors there and Welch scoring 221 points as the team’s second-leading scorer.
Amid that senior leadership, junior Nicole Behrend also made her presence felt as the lone underclassmen in this season’s starting line-up. She fired away for a team-high 25 three-point field goals this season to lead the Indians with 230 points on the year while also finishing second on the team with 51 steals.
For their efforts on the court this season, Welch and Schwartz were bestowed All-Conference honors, Welch being tabbed as a Second Team selection and Schwartz receiving Honorable Mention. Schwartz and Bulman also combined their efforts on the court with success in the classroom, both being named to the Iowa Girls Coaches Association Academic All-State Team, with Schwartz also being named as an Academic All-State selection by the Iowa Basketball Coaches Association.
In addition to those honors, the team also distributed its own awards for this season. Meyer and Schwartz were named co-recipients of the James Moody Memorial Award, given to the most dedicated players on the team, according to Coach Sires. “It was hard to decide between the two of them, they were both at more open gyms and the off-season work we did than anyone else; they were great leaders that way,” he said.
Their respective statistical leadership garnered Behrend this year’s Offensive Player Award and Welch the Rebounding Award, with Hammel winning the team’s Utility Award. “Melissa played so many different roles for us,” Coach Sires said. Bulman was given this year’s Defense Award. “Lyvia was always tasked with guarding the other team’s best player, so she deserved the Defense Award,” Sires explained.
With Sires’ first head coaching season now in the books, his focus is now switching to taking what he learned from his inaugural season and building on it for the future of the program. Those building blocks involve an off-season program that Coach Sires said will include open gym sessions and summer camps, as well as three to four team shoot-outs the team will be attending, including one hosted by the Indians in late July.
“We’ll continue to focus more on shooting and other fundamentals,” Coach Sires said. “Anymore, if you don’t do anything extra, you’re going to have a very tough time being competitive. We’re going to incorporate a lot more strength training to get our players stronger, a lot of teams do that.”