Scheels Athlete of the Week: West Branch Senior Kaiya Luneckas Becoming Elite Rebounder

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Photo by Rob Howe

Ryan Murken

Your Prep Sports

Scanning the scoresheet after games Kaiya Luneckas isn’t going to standout very often.

The West Branch senior forward is averaging a modest 4.6 points per game and has cracked double figures in the scoring column one time this season.

Watch a West Branch game and it doesn’t take long to see the ways the 6-foot-1 Luneckas makes an impact for the Class 2A sixth-ranked Bears.

Luneckas has emerged as one of the top rebounders in all of Class 2A this season ranking in the top-15 in 2A in both rebounds per game and offensive rebounds.

Her 9 rebounds per game rank 15th in 2A and the 86 offensive rebounds for Luneckas are the ninth most in Class 2A.

Both of those numbers are best in the River Valley Conference South Division and top three among all RVC players.

“Kaiya Luneckas is the best rebounder in the conference,” West Branch Coach Jarod Tylee said. “I know that’s a biased opinion but I believe she is the best rebounder in our conference.”

A two-year starter in the post, Luneckas has made major strides offensively as a senior more than doubling her scoring output from a season ago.

After averaging 1.9 points per game in her first season in the lineup Luneckas has bumped that up to 4.6 and had a career-high 11 points in a win over North Cedar earlier this season.

The boost in offensive production is fine with Tylee but it’s not overly important to the veteran West Branch coach who has always put a premium on defense and rebounding during his tenure.

Those are two areas where Luneckas thrives.

Luneckas has been especially impressive this season hitting the boards.

She has nine games with double digit rebounds after pulling down a school-record 23 boards in a 52-31 win over Regina on Tuesday.

The 23 rebounds for Luneckas are the ninth most in a single game in the state this season.

“We like to be aggressive and crash the glass,” Luneckas said. “We have a lot of athletic girls so sometimes we can sneak in there and grab rebounds.”

Luneckas headlines an imposing frontline for the Bears that features her 6-foot-2 younger sister Delaynie and 5-foot-10 senior Mackenzie Heise.

Together the trio averages nearly 17 rebounds per game.  

“Kaiya is playing very well, Mackenzie had her best practice of the year yesterday and if those two continue to play the way they are on the block and then you throw in Delanie off the bench we have some players down there,” Tylee said.

While Luneckas doesn’t provide offense in the tradition sense she has become a reliable weapon on the offensive glass.

Of her 189 rebounds this season 86 have come on the offensive end.

A standout in softball and volleyball as well the athletic Luneckas has developed a nose for finding the basketball.

“I definitely think that our team is very athletic and we are talented in basketball but we are just athletes,” Luneckas said. “That helps us a lot.”

Luneckas helped West Branch to an 18-3 regular season mark and its first outright conference title since 1972.

Now the Bears are hoping to return to the state tournament for the third time in program history and first since 2016.

West Branch opens the postseason on Tuesday hosting the winner of Saturday’s opening round game between Wilton and Columbus.

“We know that postseason means we are 0-0 and every game is stay or go home,” Luneckas said. “We want to keep playing and keep pushing to the state tournament.”  

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