Rebels working to build team identity

Junior forward Megan Cooley runs a passing drill during a preseason practice for the Gladbrook-Reinbeck Rebels girls basketball team. Standing next to her is the Rebels new head coach Amber Gerringer who comes to the program after two years as an assistant with the Dike-New Hartford program. Photo by Darvin Graham

After finishing 9-11 and being ushered out of the 2020 Class 1A playoffs in the second round, the Gladbrook-Reinbeck Rebels girls basketball team are in search of some wins.

New head coach Amber Gerringer hopes she can help the team find what they’re looking for.

Gerringer is in her first season as a head coach but is coming in with two years experience as an assistant with one of the state’s premier small school programs.

Out of college Gerringer worked as an assistant under head coach Bruce Dall at Dike-New Hartford during the 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons where the team finished as a 3A semifinalist and last year as the 2A state champion.

“My hope is that we can develop a solid identity of what Gladbrook-Reinbeck girls basketball is now,” Gerringer said. “In the past, the program had that. You knew what you were going to get

Freshman Mallory Wrage goes up for a layup during a preseason practice for the Gladbrook-Reinbeck girls basketball team.

every year when you played them and that’s something that I want to bring back. I think that gives the girls something to buy into and gives consistency to the program.”

Gerringer is also in her first year working as a school counselor at the G-R high school. She said growing up not far up the road in Hubbard, Iowa, she’s felt comfortable and welcome coaching and counseling in a small community like Gladbrook-Reinbeck.

Gerringer was a 2016 South Hardin graduate and later played college basketball at Emmaus

Bible College in Dubuque. There she was part of two conference championships, a regional championship, a national runner-up team (ACCA division) and a nationals 5th place finishing team (NCCAA D2).

Though a core of varsity starters remain, the Rebels will be working with several newcomers to the roster this season, particularly at the guard position.

The Gladbrook-Reinbeck Rebels work on a three-point drill during a preseason practice in mid-November.

Last season G-R saw a rotating mix of guard action from Saari Kuehl, Belen Ellenberger, Mahayla Olsen and Emma McClintock. Kuehl, Olsen and Ellenberger did much of the ball handling while McClintock provided an outside shooting threat.

“Mahayla brings a lot of quickness to our team and experience as a ball handler,” Gerringer said. “She’s someone we count on to help make our offense run.”

This year with Kuehl and Ellenberger graduated and McClintock not on the roster, some of the guard minutes for the Rebels may be up for grabs.

Under the hoop, the Rebels return their 2020 leading scorer and all-conference 1st team selection, Katie Clark.

At 5’9 Clark can find herself undersized at the center position, however her nose for the ball underneath the hoop often led to hard-fought rebounds and points off the glass.

The G-R Rebels will return their NICL 1st team forward Katie Clark for her senior season. Last year Clark led the team with 186 points and 154 rebounds in tandem with fellow post players Saari Kuehl and Megan Cooley. Photo by Darvin Graham

Opposite Clark is junior Megan Cooley who was third for the team in scoring and rebounds last year and earned all-conference honorable mention.

“We are counting on Katie and Megan for big numbers on both ends of the floor this season, ” Gerringer said. “They are both athletic and do a good job of getting to the rim on offense. Defensively they are an intimidating presence in the lane and rebound the ball well.”

Further down the roster potential varsity contributors for the 2021-22 season could include freshman 5-8 forward Lily Dripps who was a starter on G-R’s state-qualifying volleyball team, sophomore combo guard Xandra Anderson who is a four-sport athlete and spent last summer as the starting pitcher for the Rebels varsity softball team and 5-9 freshman forward Mallory Wrage could provide some size depth in the lineup in the absence of Ava Wyatt who is not on the roster this season.

The Rebels, who’s returning starters are not long removed from a state playoff run on the volleyball court, will hit the ground running with a season opener this week at Meskwaki ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday.

Then on Nov. 30 the Rebels will have the unenviable task of traveling to Dike-New Hartford to take on the defending 2A champs who look to return 90 percent of their roster from last season.

For Gerringer she describes the feeling of heading back to the D-NH gym as an interesting one.

“I’m excited for the game and for our girls to opportunity to compete against one of

the best teams in the state,” Gerringer said. “Obviously the girls know it’s going to be a tough matchup, but our mindset going into that game has to be that we are going to compete hard and control what we can control on our end. At the end of the day my hope is that we take the opportunity to compete against a great team and use it as a chance to get better.”

Across the NICL West conference, the front runners again look to be the Grundy Center Spartans whose junior-led squad ended their 2020/21 run unbeaten in conference play with another state banner to hang in their gym. Behind them, the only other two conference teams to finish with winning records, AGWSR (14-8, 8-2) and BCLUW (15-10, 5-5), will have more to prove with less returning starters lacing up for the 2021/22 season.

Rebels fans will have to wait a little to get their first look at the team at home this season as G-R starts their schedule with four games on the road before opening at home on Friday, Dec. 10 against AGWSR.