DES MOINES -- The layman may browse through the Boyden-Hull roster and statistics without seeing all the things Bill Francis values.
One thing you don't readily spot is the tradition for a school making its 15th trip to the Iowa Boys State Basketball Tournament -- and its 20th if you count five appearances for old Hull High School.
Unless you've kept up with Northwest Iowa high school hoops, you don't see the five times Boyden-Hull has played in state championship games or the challenging schedule the Comets face every winter in the Siouxland Conference.
Francis simply knows what it takes to win and he's definitely not surprised that this year's team is 23-2, losing only to undefeated league rival MOC-Floyd Valley, the No. 1-ranked team in Class 3A.
"Some years you're weak in an area, like you may not have a post presence, just different things,'' said the former Palmer High and Northwestern College star who has Boyden-Hull in the tournament for the seventh time in 12 seasons at the helm.
"I think this team has all the pieces,'' said Francis. "We've got a scorer in the post (6-5 senior Bryce Moss, averaging a team-high 15.1 points). We've got a good point guard (6-3 junior Brandt Van Roekel, averaging 11.4 points with 156 assists). We've got wing kids that can knock down the three (6-2 senior Taylor Francis, the coach's eldest son, averaging 12.3 points). And we've got a top defender in Nathan Alexander (a 6-2 senior).
"We don't have a glaring weakness. If they take something away, we can counter with something else.''
Colin Bolkema, a 6-1 junior, rounds out the lineup for the Comets, whose only loss in their last 22 games was a 55-52 cliffhanger on MOC-Floyd Valley's home floor. Meanwhile, 5-9 junior guard Miguel Alvarado and 6-2 junior forward J.C. Koerselman head up the reinforcements along with 5-11 sophomore Riley Francis, No. 2 of the coach's four sons.
Seeded third behind two undefeated teams that met in last year's title game, Danville and Storm Lake St. Mary's, Boyden-Hull is definitely in the title picture. However, a first-round assignment today at 2 p.m. is certainly no gimme as the Comets face another tradition-rich foe in Iowa Mennonite, unranked at 22-4 but no stranger to the tournament with 11 previous visits.
Same as Boyden-Hull, coincidentally, IMS has four state runner-up trophies to go with one championship.
"This is one of those years when the 1A field is loaded,'' said Francis. "The championship team with everybody back (St. Mary's) is not even ranked No. 1 and the No. 6 seed is a great program like IMS.''
Iowa Mennonite's first trip in three years has followed a strong late-season surge, a 10-game winning streak in which the Kalona-based school avenged two of its four losses with a 59-35 rout of Lone Tree.
"They're on a roll right now and they're under control and getting people the ball,'' said Francis, impressed to see five starters all averaging in double figures.
Heading up the lineup is 6-foot junior point guard Chance Miller, averaging 13.4 points with 141 assists and 58 three-pointers in 137 attempts (.423)
Veteran Coach Dwight Gingerich, also the IMS athletic director, has two more junior guards in the lineup with Peyton Thompson and Cameron Gingerich. Meanwhile, 6-4 senior Brian Hagedorn and -3 senior John Lackender patrol the interior.
This Class 1A champion will reign over 164 schools, up from 137 a year ago because Class 2A was whittled from 128 teams to 97 in order to provide more enrollment parity within the divisions.
And, there could be an All-Northwest Iowa semifinal at 12:15 p.m. Thursday if Boyden-Hull advances along with the defending champs from St. Mary's, who face Lisbon at 3:45 p.m. today.
St. Mary's wouldn't mind a shot at Boyden-Hull, which dealt them their only setback two seasons ago, dishing out a 67-37 spanking in a district final before the Comets subsequently bowed 63-55 in a substate final to eventual state champion Rock Valley.