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Your Prep Sports
The opening game of the girls state basketball tournament is just four days away.
For the second consecutive season three Iowa City teams are among the 40 teams head to Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines in search of a state title.
Before taking a lot at what awaits area teams at the state tournament her is a look back at the best from the girls basketball season so far.
Best individual performance: Ashley Joens against Waterloo East. Joens has had an entire season full of performances that would fit this spot but her outing against the Trojans stands out above the rest. Joens had 45 points, on 18-of-23 shooting, 18 rebounds, seven assists, five steals and three blocks. The 45 points are the most in a game in Iowa this season.
Best individual performance part II: Alex Wiese against West Branch. When Regina needed a big game against rival West Branch its biggest player came up with the biggest game of her career. The 6-foot, Wiese scored 23 points and a grabbed a school-record 25 rebounds to lead Regina to a 55-38 win. Wiese scored 11 points and had 17 rebounds in the second half as Regina pulled away.
Best team performance: City High at West High. The Little Hawks had four players in double figures, shot 47 percent from the field, went 10-of-25 from 3-point range and committed just nine turnovers in a 79-70 win over a West High team that annually ranks among the best defensive squads in the state.
Comeback player of the year: West High senior Rachael Saunders. Saunders’ season got a late start after surgery to repair a torn ACL last spring kept her sidelined until January. Since returning Saunders has picked up where she left off averaging 10.8 points, 3.8 points and 2.1 rebounds per game.
Coach of the year: Bill McTaggart directed City High to a perfect 23-0 season, a sixth consecutive Mississippi Valley Conference divisional title and a second straight state tournament berth. The Little Hawks are one of only seven remaining unbeaten teams in the state and the only 5A team without a loss.
Coach of the year part II: West Branch has won more games and advanced further in the postseason in previous years under Jarod Tylee than it did this year but this season ranks among the best coaching jobs of Tylee’s seven-year head coaching stint. Tylee directed a West Branch squad with two returning starters and two freshman guards to a 17-7 record with wins in 14 of its final 17 games.
Best game: Liberty High against Mount Vernon. Any game that ends with a buzzer beater is a strong candidate for game of the year. When the game-winner caps an 11-point second-half comebacker that secure the first win in program history it becomes an easy choice. Those were the circumstances surrounding the bank shot by Isabel Smith that lifted Liberty High to a 44-43 win over Mount Vernon.
Best Timing: Regina senior Mary Crompton. Along with being one of the top shooters in the state Crompton also showed a knack for perfect timing this season, becoming the all-time leading scorer at Regina on senior night. Crompton poured in 34 points on 13-of-17 shooting in a 66-41 win over Camanche.
Breakthrough performer: Clear Creek Amana sophomore Karsyn Stratton. Stratton burst onto the scene a year ago averaging 16 points and six rebounds per game as a freshman. This year Stratton cemented her status as one of the state’s top sophomores averaging 21.9 points, 7.5 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game.
Best clutch performance: West High senior Logan Cook. It doesn’t get much more clutch that putting up your best performance of the season against a ranked team on the road, with your season and career on the line. That is exactly what Cook did in on Tuesday with a 20-point, 13-rebound double-double in a 61-51 regional final win over Pleasant Valley. Cook went 8-of-12 from the field and 4-of-4 at the line and added 3 assists and a blocked shot.
Biggest shot: City High senior Ashley Kuennen. The senior reserve has 14 field goals this season and there is no question which one was the biggest. Kuennen’s third-quarter 3-pointer against West High spurred a late City High rally that led to a 53-40 Little Hawk win in a battle of top-three teams. Kuennen buried a 3-pointer on a set play out of a timeout that cut a five-point West High lead to two with 1:30 left in the third quarter.
Unsung hero: City High sophomore Rose Nkumu. Playing in the shadow of the state’s top player in Joens, Nkumu has quietly established herself as one of the top point guards in Iowa. A unanimous first-team all-conference pick, Nkumu isn’t complete unheralded but has had an elite season averaging 13.6 points, 3.3 steals and 3.2 assists per game.
Defensive player of the year: West Branch senior Tatum Koenig. You could put Koenig in just about any category on this list and the senior guard would be deserving. One of the most versatile players around, Koenig was incredible on offense averaging 21.2 points and 5.3 points per game but did her best work on defense. Consistently tabbed with guarding the opponents’ top player, Koenig averaged 3.3 steals and 5 rebounds per game.
Newcomer of the year: West Branch freshman Sasha Koenig. The younger sister of senior standout Tatum Koenig didn’t need much time to adjust to the varsity spotlight. A 5-foot-3 sparkplug, Koenig averaged 11.2 points, 3.2 assists and 2.6 steals a game in her debut season.
Bench player of the year: West High senior Paige Beckner. Beckner has started a game or two this season but has done most of her work off the bench. The 6-foot-1 senior doesn’t fill a stat sheet but is one of West High’s top post defenders, leading the team in blocks with 27 and averaging 3.7 rebounds per game.
Most valuable player: City High senior Ashley Joens. The final season in a brilliant high school career has been the best for Joens. The 6-foot guard leads the state in scoring 31 points per game and averages a double-double adding 11.8 rebounds. The Iowa State recruit has done it all, adding 3.3 steals, 3.1 assists and a team-high 42 blocked shots.