February is one of the coldest months of the year, but it is also a time when basketball begins to heat up. February is a month where the conference races come to an end and substate play begins. Speaking of heating up, the Ames High Girls Varsity Basketball team is cranking up the temperature. The girls have clinched the CIML conference championship with a record of 9-1. âIt feels great to win the conference, no one on our team has been champs,â senior Jayne Strand said. â It is really something special for the seniors.â Most of the success can be attributed to the veteran play of the team, which boasts a starting lineup of four seniors: Amy Hamilton, Jayne Strand, Alexa McGrory and Natalie Hashemi-Toroghi. Guard Hamilton has been playing in varsity competition since her freshmen year. The two-time first team all-conference player has a deadly shot from behind the 3 point arc and has been a huge lift for her team throughout the years, leading her team to the state tournament two years ago. Another member of that state qualifying team is McGrory. McGrory has been patrolling the lane for three years now and is a force to be dealt with whenever someone enters her domain. Another young lady that made her starting debut this year is the âtriple threatâ Strand. Strand can make the quick pass, power her way down low, and even step back and knock down the trey. The final senior in the starting lineup is Hashemi-Toroghi. She is a rebounding machine and adds a nice touch to the lineup. âOur team chemistry is exceptional. We know each otherâs tendencies and we all are friends,â Hamilton said. Along with the starting lineup, the bench is also filled with veterans. Senior Beth Bystrom recently recovered from a torn ACL and made her debut in a win against Ankeny. Last year, Bystrom was an important factor in the teamâs success. She is a sharpshooter from anywhere on the court and will add a spark to the team when substate rolls around. The other seniors that come off the bench include Meghan Hackerson, Jessie Curry, Jenna Jensen and Sarah Brimeyer. As you can see, this yearâs team is filled with veteran leadership and it has shown with the teamâs impressive record of 17-4 overall and a no. six ranking in the state. To compliment the veterans, sophomore Trisha Nesbitt and freshmen Hannah Burt each log major minutes and distribute the ball very well to the seniors. Unfortunately, the girlsâ team draws tough competition in substate. The possibility of playing Dowling in the final is a daunting task, but the girls believe it can be done. The final falls Feb. 24 at the Ankeny gym and a trip to the state tournament is on the line. âIt would be very sweet if we are able to make the state tournament,â Hamilton said. These girls have been playing basketball all their lives, and they are looking forward to keeping the heat up in the cold times of February.