Your Prep Sports
The girls basketball season will officially come to a close on Saturday with state championship games in Classes 1A, 2A and 3A marking the end of the 2021-2022 season.
Before the final hardware is handed out at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines on Saturday we take a look back at what was another incredible season for Your Prep Sports area teams.
All seven Your Prep Sports area teams finished with a winner record and six had at least 15 wins.
Regina and City High reached the state tournament and West High and Clear Creek Amana advanced to regional final games.
Your Prep Sports takes a moment to look back at some of the best performances, players, coaches and moments from an outstanding season.
Best individual performance: Kelsey Joens against Waterloo West. In a career already filled with impressive performances this was one of the best as Joens scored 30 points on 8-of-11 shooting, hit all nine free throw attempts, grabbed nine rebounds and had five assists in a road win over a top-five team.
Best individual performance part 2: Ava Stebral against Independence. The senior guard emerged as a reliable offensive option for Solon this season and had one of the best shooting performances in program history against the Mustangs hitting a school-record nine three-pointers in 12 attempts while pouring in a career-high 31 points to go with three steals and two assists.
Best team performance: City High at Waterloo West. One of the best performances by any team state-wide this season saw City High race to 45-24 halftime and cruise to a 76-46 win over a Waterloo West team that reached the 5A state title game this week. City High shot 53 percent from the floor, was 16-of-19 from the line, had a 33-24 rebounding edge and had 16 assists on 24 field goals.
Best moment: Emma Ingersoll-Weng’s final bucket against Liberty High. Ingersoll-Weng had her second-season ending knee injury of her career in a December game at Liberty High. In the second meeting between the team teams the senior guard got the start on senior day and one final bucket as the teams swapped uncontested baskets to begin the game.
Coach of the year: Mary Rogers at Regina. With the amount of success area teams had this season you could make a case for all seven coaches in the area. However, this is still an easy pick after what Rogers and the Regals did this season. Rogers directed Regina to a 20-5 record, an RVC South Division title and its first state tournament appearance since 2018.
Biggest turnaround: Jamie Brandt at Liberty High. After winning 10 games the previous three seasons combined Brandt directed the Lightning to the best season in program history. Liberty High had a program-high 12 wins, including a program-best eight MVC wins and the first postseason win in program history and made its first ever appearance in the 5A rankings.
Best game: West Branch against Wilton. The third meeting of the season between the two River Valley Conference South Division rivals in the regional quarterfinals was exactly what was expected between two quality, evenly matched opponents. West Branch erased an 11-point third-quarter deficit on its way to a 63-62 overtime win in a back-and-forth slugfest.
Breakthrough performer: Clear Creek Amana sophomore Ava Locklear. After getting her feet wet at the varsity level while averaging 4.5 points and 4.1 rebounds per game last season as a freshman Locklear emerged as an absolute force on both ends of the court this season. The 5-foot-10 Locklear led the Clippers with 14.1 points, 8 rebounds, 1.9 steals and 1.5 blocked shots per game while shooting 52 percent from the floor.
Emerging star: West High junior Meena Tate. This was easy to see coming after her performance at the state tournament last season as a sophomore but Tate took her game to a totally different level this season leading West High in scoring (15), assists (3.1) and steals (2.1) while averaging 3.6 rebounds and 1 blocked shot per game.
Best clutch performance: Emmy McComas against Linn-Mar. The freshman guard couldn’t have picked a better time to turn in the best game of her young career. In her third career start McComas had career highs of 11 points and nine rebounds to help City High rally for a 59-51 win over Linn-Mar in the 5A, Region 6 championship game.
Most improved: West High junior Anna Prouty. The 5-foot-10 Prouty made a big jump from a year ago averaging 10.8 points and 8.9 rebounds per game after putting up 4.9 and 5.2 as a sophomore. However, it was the way Prouty continued to improve throughout the season that stood out most as she posted double-doubles in eight of the final 12 games.
Most improved over a career: City High senior Andie Westlake. Few players made more improvement from the start to the end of their careers or continued to improve over the course of their careers than Westlake who played her best basketball down the stretch of her senior season. Westlake had career highs in points (11.5), rebounds (3.6) and assists (2.8) as a senior and shot 41 percent from three-point range and 86 percent from the free throw line.
Biggest shot: Madeline Casey against Davenport North. Actually, it was probably biggest shots, as in plural, that give Casey this award. The freshman sharp shooter buried three three-pointer in a little more than a two-minute span in the fourth quarter to held Liberty High rally past Davenport North for the first postseason win in program history.
Toughest player: City High senior Eviyon Richardson. The Omaha recruit did a lot of things for City High this season averaging 14.9 points, a team-high 8 rebounds and 3.2 assists but it was the toughness that Richardson brought that was perhaps most valuable in helping City High return to the state tournament.
Most versatile: Solon sophomore Callie Levin. Offense or defense. Scoring or facilitating. Passing or rebounding. The Iowa-bound Levin did it all this season leading the Spartans in scoring (21), steals (4.3), assists (4.2) and ranking second on the team in rebounds (3.7).
Unsung hero: Regina senior Alli Dillon. The definition of an unsung hero most of what made Dillon so valuable doesn’t shot up in a stat sheet. She averaged 4.4 points and 3.2 rebounds, which is solid, but Regina likely doesn’t do what it did this season without Dillon.
Hardest worker: Solon senior Elly Holubar. If you are going to lead your team in rebounds three consecutive seasons and average 7.5 rebounds per game in your career while collecting more than 500 career rebounds at 5-foot-7 you are going to have to work hard. That’s what Holubar did consistently the last three years outworking opponents on the court and putting in extra work off it to average a team-high 6.9 rebounds this season.
Best under the radar player: Regina sophomore Alli Clark. It was easy to overlook Clark who was the fourth offensive option for the Regals behind Grace Gaarde, Lily Simpson and Miller but the sophomore had a big-time breakthrough season averaging 9.5 points and 3.8 rebounds per game.
Defensive player of the year: West Branch senior Delaynie Luneckas. Few players in the state had more of an impact on the defensive end than the 6-foot-2 Luneckas who ranked in the top-13 statewide in both rebounds (12) and blocked shots (4.4) per game. Luneckas had single-game performances of 23 rebounds and eight blocked shots and also averaged 1.4 steals per game.
Newcomer of the year: Clear Creek Amana sophomore Bliss Beck. In her first varsity season the 6-foot-2 Beck made an immediate impact on both ends of the court shooting a team-best 58 percent from the floor and averaging 9.5 points per game and ranking second on the team with 6.8 rebounds and .8 blocks per contest.
Freshman of the year: August Palmer made an immediate impact in her first season at West Branch leading the Bears in scoring at 14.8 points per game and steals with 2.4 per game and ranking second on the team with 6 rebounds and 2.3 assists per contest.
Freshman of the year part 2: Morgan Miller joins Palmer as one of the brightest young stars in the River Valley Conference after averaging 10 points, 4.1 assists, 3.4 rebounds and 2.2 steals per game for Regina in her debut season.
Bench player of the year: West High sophomore Lucy Wolf. Wolf spent a little time in the starting lineup but she was at her best as an offensive boost off the bench averaging five points, 2.8 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game while shooting 38 percent from three-point range.
Most valuable player: Regina junior Grace Gaarde. No, the stats don’t stand out like some others. And yes, Gaarde likely isn’t the best prospect or overall player in the area. However, perhaps no player meant more to the success of their squad this season than Gaarde who helped Regina to its best season in four years. Gaarde led Regina in scoring (11.1), assists (5.4) and steals (3.1) but her experience, leadership and attitude were as valuable as an statistic.
Most valuable player part 2: Liberty High junior Jasmine Barney. One of the most productive all-around players in the state Barney provided a major boost in her first season at Liberty High leading the Lightning in scoring (18.4), rebounds (6.9), assists (4.5) steals (2.8) while shooting 44 percent from the floor and 70 percent from the free throw line.