Kee girls basketball team records season of historical proportions for 2014-2015

The 2014-2015 Kee girls basketball season proved to be the best in the history of the Hawks’ five-on-five program, and there are plenty of numbers to back up that claim. First and foremost in those numbers is the 21-4 record the Hawks compiled this season, the most wins, by far, of any previous Kee five-on-five girls basketball season, according to head coach Danny Love.
Improving on that previous best single-season record of 13-8 from the 2007-2008 season on the way to advancing to the Class 1A Region 4 championship game and the brink of a State Tournament berth was just one of the many highlights Coach Love has drawn from this past season. But he sees this season as having a much bigger impact than just another entry in the school record books.
“Finishing in the top three in the conference was a definite highlight, and we are hoping to improve on that next season,” Coach Love relayed. “Of course, the regional final is a nice feather in our cap, but it left a bitter taste in our mouths, being so close to the State berth and falling short. We are hoping to use the success we had and the success softball and volleyball should have in the coming seasons to build up girls athletics at our youth levels, to get as many girls involved and experiencing all the great things that team sports have to give. Success begets success, and hopefully the girls are not satisfied and will look to improve their overall fitness and individual skills over the coming months.”
While that number of wins is what will remain in the record books, Coach Love says the way some of those wins were accumulated is also a highlight and something to build on as well. In 12 games decided by less than a 10-point margin, the Hawks posted 11 in the win column, including their final four wins of the season that involved a three-game postseason win streak by a combined 10 points.
“Our experience in close games this season should be an asset in the future,” Coach Love said. “In games within ten points, our only loss came against a senior-led, three-time State  qualifier in the regional final. Using that experience and our girls’ distaste for losing, we will look to improve our finishing abilities in all types of games.”
The 21-4 season that unfolded for the Hawks wasn’t something necessarily expected this season, as Coach Love says there were some obstacles to overcome. “Two of our biggest challenges this season were going to be trying to replace two multi-year starters (graduated senior guards Kaylee Darling and Ellie Heiderscheit) and find a way to replace all of our outside shooting from last year,” Coach Love explained. “To replace the two graduating seniors we were fortunate to have five returners with playing experience from last season, along with the addition of our freshman class. (Freshman) Ashley (Schwartzhoff) did her part to replace some of our outside shooting, and (junior) Ellie (Cooper) started looking for more opportunities. What helped even more was that we did not need to rely on the outside shot because our girls were able to do more of our scoring from the paint.”
Although the anticipated return of every member of the Lady Hawks’ starting five from this season alleviates that immediate concern, Coach Love says he hopes to avoid other issues that can be just as difficult to overcome. “Next season we don’t have to really worry about replacing starters, but we will have to make sure that complacency does not set in,” he reasoned. “The girls should look to push themselves and their teammates in the months between basketball seasons by staying competitive and working to improve their athleticism and individual skills.”
Although there will be just one senior lost to graduation from this season’s team, Coach Love sees the replacement of graduating Molly Walleser as going beyond just statistical numbers. “Molly was a great asset to our team this season, there is no way we could have done the things we did this season without her,” Coach Love said. “Her rebounding and scoring helped secure a number of wins for us. Her attitude and how much she shows others she cares will be greatly missed next year.”
Although not always necessarily within the starting five rotation, Walleser did end up as a top-five contributor in nearly every statistical category, actually leading the Hawks with 64 offensive rebounds on the year. Many of those same statistical categories were led by the twin tower one-two punch of junior Mikayla Gavin and freshman Kendra Cooper, who paced Kee’s offense with 281 and 247 points scored, respectively, as well as Kee’s rebounding effort with respective totals of 192 and 181 boards, and defensive denials with 60 and 14 blocked shots, respectively. In fact, Gavin set a new single-game record of 10 blocked shots in the Hawks’ first game of this season and continued to extend her career record to a current total of 152 swatted shot attempts.
The guard tandem of Ellie Cooper and Schwartzhoff also took their turn at leadership in their respective statistical specialties, Ellie Cooper dishing out a team-high 89 assists while Schwartzhoff helped out with 75, and those two reversing leadership roles on defense with 69 steals for Schwartzhoff and 44 for Ellie Cooper. That tandem also accounted for 39 of Kee’s 45 made three-point field goals on the season, with Schwartzhoff firing away for 32 of those distance dandies.
For their efforts this season, four Hawks were awarded All-Conference honors. Gavin was named First Team All-Conference, with Schwartzhoff being picked Second Team All-Conference. Kendra Cooper and Ellie Cooper each received Honorable Mention. Gavin was also named to the Iowa Girls Coaches Association All-Region Team for the Northeast Region.
This season’s statistical leadership helped pace the Hawks to new heights in a number of team statistical totals. One might expect that a new single-season record for wins would undoubtedly lead to other record-setting totals, but this season’s team also set many of those numbers while also being more efficient and effective in a variety of the game’s fundamental skills.
In addition to most wins in a single season, this year’s Lady Hawks also set the following new five-on-five standards this season:
• Most points scored in a season: 1,267; Previous - 1,086 in 2006-2007
• Most points scored per game: 50.7; Previous - 49.7 in 2004-2005
• Least points allowed in a game: 12 vs. De Soto, WI; Previous - 14 vs. Postville in 2014-2015, before that was 15 in 2002 vs. Houston, MN
• Least points allowed per game: 38.9; Previous - 42.0 in 2012-2013
• Most field goals made in a season: 495; Previous - 403 in 2006-2007
• Highest field goal percentage: 40.4%; Previous - 37.0% in 2007-2008
• Most rebounds in a season: 1,003; Previous - 795 in 2012-2013
• Most assists in a season: 341; Previous - 246 in 2010-2011
• Most blocks in a season: 105; Previous - 79 in 2013-2014.
Coach Love hopes that the success of this season is just the starting point of a strong cycle of moving the overall program forward. “We had a great JV season this winter, which elevated the overall level of our program. Next year, we bring in more freshmen, and the upperclassmen can push the younger ones, just like the varsity pushed the JV this season. Strong competition during practice is a big difference between ‘go do’ and mediocre teams.”
The coach knows full well that a team can’t simply rest on what’s already been accomplished in order to continue to be successful. But he also knows that the same core group of girls that helped make this 2014-2015 basketball season so successful also has similar plans for success in other sports as well.
“With so many of our girls playing softball five to six days a week - hopefully until late into July, we might have trouble doing a lot of team work over the summer,” Coach Love said. “But that should not stop any of the girls from working a couple days a week on their individual skills. A solid base of individual development will allow the team development to increase at a more rapid pace once we are able to get everyone together and playing.”
While basketball is his main focus in regard to the young ladies who hope to continue to take Kee athletics to a new overall level, Coach Love also knows how important being competitive in other sports can be in addition to off-season sport-specific work. “I’ve always been a proponent of playing multiple sports, so I’m happy to see over half our basketball program out for track,” he said. “Track is great for improving athleticism and speed, along with the mental strength developed by having to focus on improving yourself and dealing with the individual pressure of having all eyes on you as you compete. We also have great participation in our softball and volleyball programs.”
Coach Love also knows that to truly achieve the highest level of success with any extra time spent, whether it be competing in a different sport or participating in off-season work-outs, the greatest benefit will come from the reason behind those additional efforts. “Putting time in during the off-season is not something you do to appease a coach, but you do it as a commitment to yourself and your teammates, the ones who will have to rely on you during the season and when it matters most,” he remarked.
Ultimately, Coach Love also knows that this season’s success goes far beyond what took place on the court, something he is truly grateful for. “I’d like to thank the administration, my co-workers, the community, and all of the families and parents that provided such great support for our girls this season,” he credited. “It was great to share in so many memories with you all. I owe any success that I’ve had as a result of this season to the girls that made it happen. They were a pleasure to coach, and I love how much they care about basketball, their athletics, their academics, and their families.”