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Garner-Hayfield-Ventura's James Betz gets the ball up under the basket against Kuemper-Catholic's Matt Dentlinger during a Class 2A State Basketball tournament game last season at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.

Kevin E. Schmidt, For The Globe Gazette

At the beginning of the season, there’s not much to say.

But here’s where last season left off: the Garner-Hayfield-Ventura boys basketball team defeated Osage to advance to the state quarterfinal, where they lost to Kuemper Catholic 51-31.

Four senior starters graduated, and now there’s eight total seniors, including top-performers Nick Joynt and Ryan Meyers, and junior James Betz, who is returning for his third year on varsity.

“That big group of seniors has... I don’t want to say chemistry, I want to say cohesion,” head coach Joe Albertson said. “They all like each other, that wouldn’t be a difference, though. Just a new group and every year you get a new group and they tell different jokes and they’re different around each other. Talk to me in a couple of months I might be able to tell you how they’re different from last year.”

Eight seniors is substantial, but with the rotating rosters every year, it’s still a new flavor to a team. Albertson is still putting new guys with each other on the court, seeing which equation will optimize his team’s goals.

But the players are all about the senior-advantage and the chemistry they know they gain from it.

“The chemistry is a lot better this year since we’ve got eight seniors and we’ve all been playing together since sixth grade,” senior Nick Joynt said. “And we’ve got James who’s been here for three already. It’s almost nine.”

Senior Ryan Meyers, a multi-sport athlete for GHV, says that part of that retention is success on the court.

“It’s fun to win. It’s the winningest sport at GHV,” Meyers said.

But that success is from what Albertson has built: a foundational emphasis on team chemistry. With Albertson’s help, Betz, a Northern Iowa commit, has taken the extra step to improve himself in that facet.

“I get competitive; I wasn’t as good of a teammate as I could be [last year],” Betz said. “Coach A and I have had a few long talks about how I need to be a better teammate. That’s the one goal this year. Encouraging, it’s a big thing he talked about ‘Train Ugly.’ It’s a website that talks about you can be a better teammate through encouraging one another. That puts them in a higher place where they trust themselves some more.”

The website talks about the growth mindset, and the importance in learning from mistakes and how to embrace that through a series of TED talks and interviews with professional coaches.

As far as basketball-specific improvement, the Cardinals look to build a stronger defense, able to hold teams when their shooting isn’t as “hot.” Betz describes a weight-lifting and plyometric program this summer the group did to work on their verticals. He hopes it improves his individual contributions on the court.

“I want to get more rebounds than I did last year,” Betz said. “I didn’t get enough last year.”

The Top of Iowa Conference boasts a strong group of teams, and GHV is one of those in contention for a title. This week it’s Forest City and next week it’s Osage. All within the first two weeks of the season. It’s that growth from competition that the Cardinals need to embrace.

“I think it’s the only way that we were successful last year is we’re playing top-level competition,” Albertson said. “Because the coaches are all good in our conference as well. Even coaches that maybe have with less guys coming back are such good coaches that every night you’ve got something to worry about, their scheme against you, the better competition we have, the better it makes your team. We’re fortunate in that way.”

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