LA PORTE CITY — One of the leaders for Class 3A’s No. 3-ranked Union Community girls’ basketball team is certainly a chip off the block.
Robert Driscol served as Thatcher Block’s high school coach on the baseball diamond in La Porte City before coaching his daughter, Kaeli Block, on the basketball court. They each embraced competition with a continued desire to improve.
“Whether it’s something academically or fine arts or sports, it’s always a joy to see kids that do have a passion about some activity and they do whatever they can to get better,” Driscol said. “Both are very hard-working and naturally talented. Her dad had a passion for baseball and she’s got a passion for basketball. Their work ethic and passion for their favorite sport is definitely something they have in common.”
Kaeli Block’s first basketball memories come from playing on a half court with her dad in the family’s backyard. He served as a youth club coach and she can recall learning about the game from her father since third grade.
“He’s been the person to go to when I have questions,” Kaeli Block said. “It’s made us closer as a family, just having someone to go to after a game. He can tell me what I need to work on and it definitely has brought us closer.”
By the time Block entered high school, she was ready to make an immediate impact. The 5-foot-10 forward averaged 10.7 points a game and led her team in rebounding while also making over 40 percent of her 3-point attempts for a Dunkerton squad that finished 20-4. She transferred to Union as a sophomore, blending into a large class of basketball players that has made the Knights a continued force in the North Iowa Cedar League.
Block has been the leading rebounder and among the leading and most efficient scoring options on teams that have accumulated a combined 62-12 record through her high school years. She’s averaging 13.5 points and six rebounds a game for 4-0 Union this season, and sat at 882 career points entering Tuesday night’s game.
While Block is among the leaders on offense, it’s Union’s team approach to defense that she feels could result in the program’s first trip to state since 2001.
“We are a big defensive group and our defense has changed into our offense,” Block said. “I think that’s a big thing in basketball. It’s changed every year. Sophomore year to junior year to now senior year. I think we realize now that we’re seniors we have one last year, and we’ve taken that to heart.”
Union’s top eight scorers are part of a senior class that has worked together to become a dynamic basketball team. While Block’s top sport is basketball, she shares the court with athletes who helped Union earn state runner-up finishes in track and volleyball within the past year.
It’s a competitive group that knows how to win. As a veteran coach, Driscol realizes how rare it is to have a class like this year’s seniors stick together.
“Knowing they all stuck with it, that’s a special thing,” Driscol said. “I think this group has meshed pretty well.
“We have several talented girls that have put their own needs and wants aside, and they’re competitive kids and they just want to win and play their best every night regardless of who is scoring the most points or who the leading rebounder is that night. They all have the common interest of we just want to win no matter what it takes.”
After finishing 20-3 last year with two of those losses coming by two points, Union has already avenged one of those narrow setbacks this season. The Knights recently used their defense to defeat a Waverly-Shell Rock team that opened the season ranked No. 3 in Class 4A, 35-29.
“We continue to get better each and every night,” said Block, who planned to sign a letter of intent today to play basketball at Waldorf University next season. “I think that’s what we’ll get the most out of and hopefully we’ll make it to the state tournament in March.”