TOTALLY ‘WAUGH’SOME' : How Jefferson-Scranton cemented itself in school lore 30 years ago
By BRANDON HURLEY
Keith Vander Wilt had never seen a six-on-six girls’ basketball game when he took a teaching job at Rolfe High School.
The former Jefferson-Scranton girls’ coach was called into duty to referee a junior varsity game fresh out of college – the scheduled officials were no-shows – and he might as well have been settling into the cockpit of a rocket ship.
Incredibly, that particular game, though sloppy and a bit-mismanaged thanks to Vander Wilt’s doing, would spark a life-long love for the sport, a passion that eventually produced Jefferson’s only two state tournament appearances in school history and more than 200 wins.
This winter marks the 30th anniversary of the greatest season in Jefferson-Scranton girls’ basketball history. The stretch run from November 1987 through March 1988 was a journey of pure and utter dominance. The Jeffettes won 26 games, tallied a 20-game win streak, went undefeated in conference play for the school’s first Midwest Conference title and averaged 81 points per game. Oh yeah, they also placed third in the entire state, reached as high as No. 2 in the Register rankings, broke 10 school records, lost just once in the regular season and produced three Division I athletes.
Jefferson-Scranton became a powerhouse that winter, a year that is forever etched into the school history books.
–– • ––
The always even keeled Vander WIlt had a hunch a special season could be in store. He compiled a strong starting five which included Trisha (Waugh) Pipkins, who’d play at Iowa, and Cathy (Proctor) Krieger, who played at Kentucky. The duo provided a formidable and veteran punch on both ends of the floor. Vander Wilt also had Cindy Most and Lana Drake returning, with Most providing a solid third scoring option and Drake locking down opposing players on the defensive end.
A new secret weapon would set this squad apart, though. Eventual J-S all-time leading scorer, Kristi (Kinne) Hayes, who quietly snuck her way into the starting lineup as an untested freshman, was the piece that wrapped it all together.
As the weather turned and basketball season arrived, the communities of Jefferson and Scranton were in for a special year, just how great was the remaining mystery.
“We knew we had a good team,” Vander Wilt said, who spent 17 years at the helm. “We had a lot of depth.”
As a freshman, Hayes was just trying to fit in and not make too much noise.
She had no idea where the team would go, she just didn’t want to screw up.
Her freshman year, while tremendously successful in context (19 PPG, 8.1 APG, 65 FG %), was her least productive of her career. She’d go on to break several school records by her senior year, including the single-game scoring mark of 79. She still played a key role in that initial state tournament.
Hayes does admit, even 30 years later, there was an aura of animosity when she first cracked the starting lineup in 1987.
“It was a difficult year for me, but it was fun,” Hayes said. “It was kind of a blur. I was put in situations that made me tough, there weren’t a lot of people that enjoyed having a freshman start.
Those D-I athletes (Trisha and Cathy) helped make that transition easy. It really made me a better player. I paid my dues.”
Krieger vividly recalls Pipkins (Waugh) openly exuding confidence in that year’s squad.
“She had ‘State in 88’ written on all her notebooks before we even went,” Krieger said. The goal was to become the first team in school history to play in Veteran’s Auditorium in downtown Des Moines.
“It was such a big deal, we knew it was the first (state tournament) because (the local media) shared that information with us,” Krieger said. “I remember the way the entire community rallied behind us. We had the towels, big ads in the paper, it was such a big deal. It was very special being apart of that.”
J-S trounced 10 ranked teams on their march to the school’s first state tourney.
The winter started with a bang as Pipkins cemented herself as one of the state’s best scorers.
–– • ––
The 6’1” University of Iowa commit scored a school-record 66 points in an early season win over Coon Rapids-Bayard, proving she deserved the preseason All-American accolades. She dominated, draining a then-record 32 shots while snaring 10 boards.
Pipkins produced one of the best careers in school history from 1984-88, scoring 2,880 career points for a 38.9 PPG average while shooting 70.6 percent with 346 rebounds, including a school-record 73.4 percent in 1985.
Pipkins would later play at the University of Iowa under C. Vivian Stringer.
Hayes marveled at Pipkins’ talent from the moment she shared the court with the future Hall-of-Famer. Though she didn’t know exactly where she fit in just yet, Hayes knew something special could be on the horizon.
“With someone like Trisha Waugh and her talent, she dominated that year, (we) knew we’d be good,” Hayes said. “Having Trisha in the forward court and Cathy in the guard court, she was one of the best defenders in the state, I knew we’d be successful, I just didn’t know how successful.”
It was obvious Pipkins would be the leader of that team, and she didn’t disappoint, averaging 45 points her senior year (third most in the state), continually pushing her team to victory. She’d later be named a Parade Magazine fourth team All-American, which included the entire country. Pipkins averaged 11 points her senior year at Iowa.
“Trisha was very athletic,” Vander Wilt said. “She was good inside and had a good shot from 15-feet. She also handled the ball really well. She could use either hand and knew how to handle her body to get position.”
Krieger, who came into her junior year with very little outside attention, was a rebounding and defensive specialist for most of her career. She graduated with a school record 596 rebounds, and after transitioning to forward her senior year, averaged 32.9 points per game.
“Cathy was another really good athlete,” Vander Wilt said. “She jumped really well. She attacked the ball and blocked out well.”
Freshman jitters never affected Hayes. She was wise beyond her age and it showed in her productive play. Her confidence was something that resonated throughout the team.
“Kristi was a good passer and she had poise,” Vander WIlt said. “They all didn’t really get flustered.”
The age disparity looked difficult on paper, Pipkins was a senior, Krieger was a junior while Cindy Most and Lana Drake were also underclassmen. They were a mismatch of personalities but ones that fit perfectly when the ball was live.
“It was a team full of people that weren’t necessarily best friends off the court because of our age differences, but we were united on the court,” Hayes said. “We were teammates and we did what it took to win.”
–– • ––
A battle with Ankeny, a 78-67 defeat in the season’s sixth game, their first – and only – loss of the regular season, was a turning point. Vander Wilt saw everything come together that night.
“We knew after that game that we could hang with anybody,” he said. The coach looked through the roster and saw very few holes to exploit.
“Offensively, you couldn’t match up with us,” he said. “We had height and talent, which made us tough to defend. And we had strong depth.”
The coaching staff and athletes took notice when the crowds picked up on the Jeffettes’ magical season.
“In previous years, they would come in the third quarter for the boys’ game,” Vander Wilt said.
The Jeffettes compiled a dazzling 20-1 regular season record. They trounced their Midwest Conference opponents, going 10-0 in league play, securing the first-ever girls’ conference title while also stringing together a 20-game win streak. The Jeffettes shot 63.3 percent as a team and blew out opponents with incredible regularity, often by 30 or 40 points.
Jefferson-Scranton upset second-ranked Harlan in an epic battle in the regional semifinals then proceeded to waltz into Des Moines, where they made tremendous noise in knocking off an undefeated Granavillo squad followed by a 22-point victory over Charles City in the quarterfinals.
That Harlan game is what sticks out to Vander Wilt most. Coming in, it looked like a fairly decent mismatch, in favor of the Cyclones. of course.
The Jeffettes pulled off the shocker, a 72-68 victory that put them a game from the elusive state tournament.
“I don’t know how we did it,” the coach said. “They had three girls that were six feet or taller and they played zone. We were a little more athletic. But if we wouldn’t have beaten them, they would’ve won state. They were a tough match up.”
With their toughest task to date out of the way, Jefferson-Scranton blasted Atlantic in the regional final in Denison, 92-70 to punch their ticket to Vets. Setting off a wave of jubilation and relief.
“The game that we won to go to state, in Denison, that was a big one,” Krieger said. “We made it and that is one I’ll always remember.”
The communities of Jefferson and Scranton were fully on board all season long. The support helped push the girls. Even the student body got involved.
“There were big crowds, it drew so many people,” Hayes said. “I remember the senior boys, before we went to state, at pep rally, they had a chant for every girl to the tune of the Super Bowl shuffle. They got the whole school involved.”
As the lights shone brighter and brighter, the Jeffettes continued to perform at a high level. The Jefferson-Scranton squad cruised into the semifinals, with many pundits pegging the third-ranked Jeffettes as the tournament favorite. The state’s top two teams failed to qualify, which left Jefferson-Scranton as the best team, on paper, left.
The crowds were massive (the six-on-six state tournament was a huge deal back then), but it didn’t faze the Jeffettes.
“I don’t remember freaking out,” Krieger said about taking the court in the famous Veteran’s Auditorium. “It was fun, you were nervous because it was state, but it was a neat and powerful experience.
Krieger continued, “I remember walking through the tunnel with our Walkmans. The energy of the crowd, it got you excited. There were no nerves. It was a neat thing to be apart of.”
Pipkins, Krieger and Hayes put on a show that March, as Pipkins led the tournament in scoring with 146 points (pouring in 41 points twice), while Krieger broke two state tournament records. She set the single game high of 18 rebounds against Charles City as the team shot an incredible 70 percent from the field. She also hauled in a tournament record 54 boards in four state tournament games. The freshman Hayes provided a formidable second scoring option, averaging 13.5 points and 6.2 assists, the second best mark in the tourney.
After scooting past Garnavillo and Charles City by a combined 30 points to push their record to a remarkable 25-1, Southeast Polk closed the door on a potential storybook ending. The Altoona squad was tough defensively, forcing the Jeffettes into uncharacteristic turnovers – a staggering 25 – and missed layups while holding Pipkins to a season low point total, a mere 26 points. Almost as quickly as the success and excitement rose, a deflating 65-48 loss crushed the hopes of a title. After leading by just one at the half, the Rams blew J-S out the rest of the way, outscoring them 36-17, leaving the Jeffettes just a game short of the championship. Dike would go on to defeat Southeast Polk a day later in the title game.
“The game we lost was devastating,” Krieger said. “We were told we were picked to win (it all). Dike won and was written up in Sports Illustrated, that was bittersweet.”
The upstart squad bounced back to capture the consolation championship over Buffalo Center-Rake-Lakota (21-3 at the time), led by Waugh’s 41 points. The Jeffettes used a late 13-0 run to secure the 59-43 win, shooting 63 percent en route to their third place victory. Cindy Most, who averaged 5.7 assists per game throughout the year, also added 14 points in the win.
–– • ––
Krieger’s monster state tournament in which she averaged 13.5 boards in four games, ignited a wave of recognition she had yet to receive in three years of high school basketball. She was awarded with third team all-state honors from the Iowa Newspaper Association and the Des Moines Register, was selected to the all-tournament team along with Pipkins and garnered interest from Division I coaches.
Jefferson-Scranton finished the 1987-88 season with a 26-2 record, ranked fourth in Class 2A and eighth overall across the combined six player and five player divisions. Just one other team has qualified for the state tournament since, the Hayes-led 1991 squad.
“It’s special,” Krieger said. “It’s one of my most treasured high school memories. It was fun. It was neat to look back. It was a great time. Obviously, I wish it would’ve turned out better. That consolation championship was a big deal, we didn’t go home empty handed.”
Coach Vander Wilt spent more than 24 years as a full-time faculty member and coach (basketball, softball and girls’ golf) and still provides his services as a sub in the Greene County School district. He won more than 80 games in the five-on-five girls game as well.
Krieger works as a human resources director for Lynch Livestock Company in Waucoma, Iowa. She also spent time in HR at the Greene County Medical Center. Hayes is married to former Iowa football player Jonathan Hayes, who is now the tight ends coach for the Cincinnati Bengals. She has held several coaching stints, as an assistant with the University of Iowa, Oklahoma and Southern Illinois-Carbondale. Hayes was inducted into the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union Hall of Fame in 1997 while Pipkins followed in 1998. Hayes was named Missouri Valley Conference player of the year at Drake and finished her college career with more than 1,500 points.
Krieger will cherish the state tournament run forever as well as the place six-on-six holds in Iowa athletics history. She’s thrilled to have played a role on such a special team and because the game went completely by the wayside in 1993, her state tournament records will never be broken.
“I think (I liked it) because it was so unique. It was the only game I knew at the time,” Krieger said. “I hadn’t played five-on-five. I was a guard for most of my high school career. The forwards get the credit, but guards do the grunt work. I am grateful to be apart of history.
She continued, “I was shocked to make all-tournament team. When I look back at my role and those records that I hold, it’s pretty cool to know that they are there forever.”