Your Prep Sports
A little more than week is all that remains in the 2020-2021 girls basketball season.
Regional finals are complete, state tournament brackets are set and all that remains is a one week of action at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines that culminates with the crowning of five state champions.
The final six days of the season start on Monday as the 2021 state tournament that runs March 1-6 opens and Your Prep Sports teams West High and West Branch are among 40 teams heading to Des Moines with hopes of raising a state title trophy.
Before we look ahead to next week, Your Prep Sports takes a moment to look back at some of the best performances, players and coaches from a unique season unlike any before it.
Best individual performance: Kelsey Joens against West High. Circumstances aside, a 30-point outing is always impressive but it’s a combination of the opponent and the scenario that makes this one stand out. Joens put up 30 on 10-of-19 shooting against an always stingy defensive West High team in the season opener coming off several weeks without formal practice.
Best individual performance part 2: Annie Gahan against West Branch. There were higher scoring and rebounding totals for individuals in the area this season but Gahan’s performance against West Branch was as impressive as any. Gahan hit contested shot after contested shot, finishing with 23 points and six rebounds on 8-of-13 shooting against a West Branch team that allowed just 36 points per game this season.
Best team performance: West High against Cedar Falls. The Trojans shot 55 percent from the field, including 12-of-20 from 3-point range, had 24 assists on 29 field goals and had four players score at least 12 points while putting up a season-high 86 points in a 10-point win over seventh-ranked Cedar Falls.
Biggest upset: Liberty High over CR Washington. Yes, the eighth-ranked Warriors were without several starters and a few of their top weapons but this was as much about the resolve of Liberty High as its opponent. The Lightning weathered a scoreless first quarter and overcame a two-point halftime deficit for the first win over a top-10 team in program history.
Comeback player of the year: West High junior Emma Ingersoll-Weng bounced back from a knee injury that forced her to miss all of last season to average 8.8 points and a team-high 3.6 assists per game.
Coach of the year: Clear Creek Amana’s PJ Sweeney. Clear Creek Amana lost a pair of four-year starters including the program’s all-time leading scorer from last year’s state tournament squad and for an encore went 17-5 and won a second consecutive WAMAC Conference title.
Coach of the year part 2: A strong case could be made for numerous area coaches but what Jarod Tylee has done at West Branch this season has been as impressive as any. Tylee led the Bears to a 20-1 record, 17 consecutive wins and a second straight 2A state tournament berth.
Biggest turnaround: Jamie Smith at Solon. In three short seasons Smith has taken the Spartans from a three-win team to a 17-6 record, a top-15 ranking and a spot in a Class 3A regional final.
Best game: Solon vs. Monticello. The Class 3A regional semifinal between No. 12 Solon and No. 15 Monticello was among the best games in the state this season. There were 17 lead changes and neither team led by more than three points over the final 22 minutes of the Spartans’ 50-48 overtime win that came down to the final possession.
Breakthrough performer: City High junior Eviyon Richardson. Richardson has been a key contributor for the Little Hawks the past two season but simply took her game to another level this season averaging 14.8 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game.
Best clutch performance: Audrey Koch vs. Davenport North. Maybe the best overall performance in the area this season and perhaps the best game of Koch’s brilliant career couldn’t have come in any more of a clutch spot. With a trip to the state tournament on the line Koch scored 34 points on 10-of-15 shooting, made her final seven goal attempts and went 8-of-8 from the free throw line in the final 3:02 to put the game away.
Most improved player: West Branch junior Delaynie Luneckas. The growth of Luneckas’ overall game has been eye-popping and the scary part is there is the 6-foot-2 junior appears to be just scratching the surface. Luneckas went from averaging 4.4 points, 4.1 rebounds and 1 block per game a year ago to 11.7 points, 9.6 rebounds and 2.7 blocked shots per outing this year.
Biggest shot: Callie Levin vs. Monticello. Levin had what proved to be the game-winning bucket on a driving layup with 40 seconds left but it was he corner 3-pointer with 1:51 left that put the Spartans up 42-40 that breathed life into Solon and the home crowd in what turned out to be a 50-48 overtime win.
Toughest player: West High senior Matayia Tellis. From an early season knee injury to wearing a mask to protect her nose late nothing has been able to keep the senior point guard off the court for long. On the court Tellis is as tough as they come, averaging 3.9 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 2.4 steals to go with 11.3 points.
Most versatile player: City High sophomore Kelsey Joens. Few players across the state can match the skill set of Joens who has the ability to handle the ball (3.4 assists), score from all three levels (19.3 points), rebound (5.6) and defend (2.1 steals) all while playing virtually any position on the court.
Unsung hero: West Branch senior Taya Young. Between all-state point guard Sasha Koenig and a breakthrough season from junior Delaynie Luneckas its easy to overlook Young but the senior guard has steadily gone about her business in what has been the best season of her four-year career averaging 9.9 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2.5 steals per game.
Hardest worker: Solon junior Elly Holubar. Rebounding is as much about attitude and effort as it is about size and what the 5-foot-7 Holubar lacks in height or brawn she more than makes up for with energy. At 5-foot-7 (5-FOOT-7!) Holubar ranked eighth in Class 3A with 9.4 rebounds per game. That’s all determination and heart.
Best under the radar performer: Liberty High sophomore Keiko Ono-Fullard. Without much fanfare Ono-Fullard is quietly becoming one of the better lead guards in the conference leading the Lightning with 8.3 points and 3 assists and grabbing 3.1 rebounds per game.
Defensive player of the year: Clear Creek Amana junior Calia Clubb. The 6-foot Clubb led the Clippers in scoring at 11.7 points per game but it was her work on the defensive end that was most valuable as she ranked sixth in Class 4A with 10.6 rebounds per game and fifth with 1.9 blocks per game.
Newcomer of the year: Regina senior Abby Clark. Clark wasn’t actually a newcomer, she has been at Regina throughout her career but getting the senior guard in the lineup full-time after injuries kept her out for much of her career felt like getting an addition for the Regals. In her first full season Clark averaged 6.3 points and 3.3 rebounds per game.
Freshman of the year: Callie Levin showed why she held a Division I offer before playing a single high school game leading Solon in scoring (19), steals (4) and assists (3.7) and grabbing 5 rebounds per game while shooting 47 percent from the field.
Bench player of the year: Clear Creek Amana junior Kalin Rotzoll spent some time in the starting lineup but played a key role as an offensive boost coming off the bench. Rotzoll ranked second on the team with 7.7 points per game and led the Clippers with 39 3-pointers while shooting 36 percent from beyond the arc.
Most valuable player: West Branch senior Sasha Koenig. There might not be a player in the state that gets more done on both ends of the court than Koenig. Koenig averages 20.9 points, 5.4 assists, 4.5 rebounds and 3.1 steals per game and is a tenacious defender, an unquestioned team leader and checks all the boxes in what you want from a senior point guard.
Most valuable player part 2: West High senior Audrey Koch. Not only is Koch among the best overall players in the state but she is the perfect fit for a West High program that prides itself on unselfish play and spreading the ball around offensively. Koch was simply incredible as a senior averaging a career-high 20.1 points per game on nearly 60 percent shooting while leading the Trojans with 6 rebounds and ranking second on the team with 2.3 steals per game.