MANLY — Where there is a sport to be played at Central Springs, chances are Kaylee Parks’ name is going to pop up more than a few times.
Parks, a senior, is an all-conference volleyball and softball star for the Panthers, a big piece of the girls track and field team, and is not too bad on the basketball floor either as she was an all-state selection a year ago. It’s on the court, though, where Parks finds herself most at home, only it took her a little bit to figure that out.
“I’ve finally chosen basketball. I just always find myself on the court so…,” Parks said.
There’s good reason Parks has settled on basketball: she’s pretty good.
Her breakout year came last season when she poured in 21.5 points per game, which was third in Class 2A. This year, the eyes of every opposing team are glued to her and slowing her down is the top priority. It hasn’t worked out so well, though.
Through six games, Parks is averaging 24 points per game, and her Panthers hold a 5-1 record after Monday night’s 52-38 win over Lake Mills in which Parks went off for a game-high 27 points.
The scoring is not so much what she cares about, though.
“I just want to make our team the best we can be, share the ball and get the W, honestly,” Parks said.
Her coach, B.J. Fessler, who is in his first season as girls basketball coach at Central Springs, knew how blessed he was when he stepped into the situation.
He gave thanks to her previous coach Bob Axdahl and assistants Shannon Dykstra and Randy Hoffman in getting her to where she is, he’s been able to just step in and watch her work. But it’s nothing new as Fessler, an assistant softball coach and head boys track coach, has been able to watch this for years.
“She’s an unbelievable player,” Fessler said. “She’s maybe once-in-a-career type girl and I’m glad to have her in my first year. It makes me look a lot better. She’s a great basketball player and she’s surrounded by some really, really great kids who are great role players and hard workers.”
Parks and the Panthers will be chasing down Osage this season for the Top of Iowa Conference East Division crown, and the Green Devils already have a leg up in the standings with a head-to-head win over the Panthers.
Central Springs said they’ve learned from that loss, and the growth since is something they’re proud of.
“We’ve really meshed really well lately,” Parks said. “We’ve all been playing since third grade together so we know each other really well.”
This was evident Monday night as the Panthers used a strong second half to work their way around Lake Mills.
In the first half, Central Springs struggled finding offense against the Bulldogs’ zone defense, but Parks and the Panthers were finally able to break through in the second half. Helped by 20 second-half points from Parks, plus a 17-2 run in the third, Central Springs ran away with the win.
“We changed a few things at half, but (it was) quality possessions and getting some looks on offense, and it kind of helps when you knock shots down because it tends to open things up and the kids are more relaxed,” Fessler said.
Jadyn Shonka added 11 points for the Panthers and Morgan Kelley tossed in eight.
Jade Gasteiger led the Bulldogs with 22.
For Central Springs, it was another stepping stone to where they want to be by the season's end.
"I think we could be really good," Parks said. "Once we get another shot at Osage, with how far we’ve come, I think we could get them next time."