GRUNDY CENTER — Hailey Wallis was a third grader who quickly found friends when her family made the move from Reinbeck to Grundy Center.
With her mom, Laurie, running the town’s youth basketball program, close bonds were quickly formed through athletics.
Beginning with Tuesday’s home opener against Hudson, a complete class of seniors are set to create one more season of lasting memories inside Grundy Center’s high school gymnasium. The Spartans’ 10 seniors are part of a basketball program that accumulated a 65-7 record over the past three seasons, including a run into the 2018 Class 2A state championship game.
Many of those seniors have been leaders on the volleyball court, as well, where Grundy Center is 130-37 over the past four years with two trips to state.
“It’s really awesome,” Wallis said. “Not only are they my teammates, but they’re also my best friends. We’ve been together for so long. I think that brings us closer on the court having that bond.”
Wallis can reflect on plenty of weekend trips alongside classmates over the years. They grew up competing in everything from volleyball to basketball to soccer. Reaching last year’s basketball championship game brought everything full circle.
“We went down every single year, third grade on, as a team and we would watch the championships,” Wallis recalled. “When they do the player introductions and those lights are all turned off, that’s something that we’ve yearned for, for years. To make that finally become a reality was really awesome and very special for us.”
After finishing just four points shy of Cascade in the championship game, Grundy Center opens this season No. 1 in the 2A preseason rankings with the top 10 scorers back from last year’s team.
Coach Matt Lindeman says finding more consistent offense will be a key to success for a program that has excelled defensively in recent years. Wallis is the leading scorer within her class, averaging at least 10 points a game since her freshman season, and scoring 29 of her team’s 37 points during the 2018 final.
The Spartans’ run to the final included state tournament wins by one and three points.
“We had a lot of close games that could have gone either way,” Lindeman said. “I think it shows the resiliency of this group, just never giving up always believing in each other and just doing what they need to do to be successful.
“For each girl, they’ve got to take steps forward in the offensive game. We need to score more points than we did last year. ... I’m a firm believer that you can do great things and put yourself in position to win championships by playing defense, but offense is going to ultimately win you a championship.”
Skilled, intelligent and dedicated are all words Lindeman associates with his senior class entering their final season together.
“This is a unique class,” the Spartans’ coach added. “They’re just very talented in everything they do. They’re really good students. You ask them to do something and they’ll step in and do it. Top-notch kids.”
Prior to continuing her basketball career at Minnesota State, Wallis is determined to leave a lasting impact at Grundy Center.
“We’ve played with each other so long, it’s going to be weird next year not being able to do that same thing,” Wallis said. “We’re going to try to relish every moment that we have together because it goes by really fast. As a senior class we want to set a good example for future years.”
Around the area
CLASS 2A: Elsewhere in Grundy County, Dike-New Hartford’s basketball team opens the season ranked No. 6 following a state tournament run. Ellie Foster, Katie Knock and Morgan Weber all return after averaging more than 11 points a game as sophomores on the varsity team.
Sumner-Fredericksburg returns four of its top five scorers from last season’s 20-3 team and is ranked No. 11.
CLASS 1A: Briana Baker-Bruce is back to lead the attack within an athletic Janesville senior class. The Wildcats will open the year No. 11 in 1A. AGWSR is No. 5 in 1A’s preseason rankings despite the graduation of leading scorer Mandy Willems.
CLASS 3A: Osage’s only loss a year ago came to Monticello in the regional finals. The Green Devils are ranked No. 6 with Rylie Olson returning after leading last year’s team in points, rebounds and steals.
While Crestwood graduated the core of last year’s undefeated championship team, University of Iowa recruit and 6-foot-2 center Sharon Goodman is back to lead a Cadets team ranked No. 11.
CLASS 4A: Waverly-Shell Rock is no stranger to winning seasons. The No. 12 Go-Hawks begin another season in the state’s rankings with last year’s leading scorer and 3-point shooter Olivia Phillips back for her senior campaign.