This girls basketball season ended with the area’s only gold ball when Notre Dame captured its second straight Division 2 state title game.
While Notre Dame put an exclamation point on the season, there was plenty else to watch, like great players in Allie LeClaire, Frankie Wurtz, McKenna Larsen and Laken James, amongst others.
It was a great year for girls basketball so here we go with naming the players and coaches of the year:
LeClaire player of the year
LeClaire finished her career in style, scoring 24 points in the D2 state title game against DeForest. The UW-Green Bay commit scored as many as 37 points in a game this season and finished as Notre Dame’s all-time leading scorer.
“I knew Allie was a special player her freshman year,” Tritons coach Sara Rohde said. “It was nice I was able to coach her as the JV coach and now as the varsity coach as well. It’s been nice to see her grow and improve every year.”
What made LeClaire the player she is was she could do everything. She averaged 20.9 points game, averaged 5.2 rebounds per game, made 44 .5 percent of her 3-pointers (45 for 99), had 87 assists, 86 steals and made 75 percent of her free throws.
She’s as complete as they come at the high school level.
Larsen player of the year
The Small Division player of the year left her best for last and it came at the state tournament. Oconto Falls’ McKenna Larsen finished her career playing with a torn ligament in her non-shooting right thumb that coach Mike Kaczmarek Jr. said few would be able to do.
But she didn’t just play with a major injury, she was dominant at times. Larsen scored a career-high 31 points in a state semifinal loss to Kettle Moraine Lutheran as she finished as the school’s all-time leading scorer.
Larsen scored 71 of her team’s 114 points in her final three games (62.2 percent) and Kaczmarek is going to miss her.
“Excuse me if I’m emotional,” Kaczmarek said after the state loss. “She’s a heck of a player and a heck of kid. You saw McKenna at her best.
“To get here was a heck of an accomplishment for the team. We all wanted to get a piece of hardware for her. It just didn’t happen. She deserves a piece of hardware.”
Larsen’s final shot of her career was a made 3-pointer and then she walked off the court in a late-game substitution. It could be said she walked off in style.
Rohde coach of the year
Ask most coaches will tell you after winning a state title the hardest thing to do is to repeat and that’s what faced Rohde this season.
Players leave, you become more of a target after winning a title and winning state titles just aren’t easy. Nonetheless, Rohde’s team had a better year this season, record-wise, which is why she’s the Large Division coach of the year.
Notre Dame repeated as D2 state champs and finished 27-1 with its only loss to Sheboygan North, and with a target on its back all season the Tritons rolled.
“All these girls had a will to win this year,” Rohde said. “This is a special group. They refused to lose.”
Rohde will have a tougher chore next season going for a three-peat with the likes of LeClaire and Eliza Campbell graduating, but if it starts with coaching, Notre Dame’s in a good spot.
Kaczmarek Jr. coach of the year
Oconto Falls made its first state appearance getting through a tough sectional, and while Larsen was the difference on the court, Kaczmarek was off it.
Despite having an obvious go-to player in Larsen, Kaczmarek figured a way to get other players involved, playing off the attention on Larsen. Post Carly Lemke averaged 10 points per game and Kaczmarek made sure the offense ran though Larsen, even when she didn’t shoot.
Defensively, Falls was at its best in sectionals, holding Fox Valley Lutheran to a season-low 36 points, including 11 in the second half, and limiting Two Rivers to just 28 points (second-lowest total of season). Kaczmarek developed a team that had balance, with a great offensive player and a quality defense.
Girls Large Division
- *Allie LeClaire, Sr., G, Notre Dame: 20.9 ppg. (led FRCC); helped lead Tritons to back-to-back state titles. Committed to UW-Green Bay.
- Eliza Campbell, Sr., F, Notre Dame: 13.6 ppg.; helped lead Tritons to back-to-back state titles. Committed to UW-Oshkosh.
- Frankie Wurtz, Jr., G, Kimberly: 15.6 ppg. (led FVA); topped 1,000 career points; helped lead Kimberly to D1 state tournament.
- Natisha Hiedeman, Jr., G, Green Bay Southwest: 17.5 ppg.; topped 1,000 career points.
- Brooklyn Schamens, Sr., G, Oshkosh North: 14.4 ppg.; helped lead Spartans to 16-7 record. Committed to Upper Iowa.
- Alyssa Fischer, Jr., G, Manitowoc: 18 ppg.; 5.3 rpg.
*Player of the year
Girls Small Division
- *McKenna Larsen, Sr., G, Oconto Falls: 18.6 ppg. (led Bay); scored career-high 31 pts. in team’s first state appearance. Committed to Winona (Minn.) State for volleyball and softball.
- Laken James, Sr., G, Oconto: 20.1 ppg. (led Packerland); 6.9 rpg.; 5.6 apg.; led Blue Devils to 20-4 record; Committed to UW-Green Bay.
- Kennedy Blahnik, Sr., F, Algoma: 14.7 ppg.; helped lead Wolves to D4 state title game. Committed to Wisconsin for track and field.
- Kelli Schrauth, Jr., F, St. Mary’s Springs: 15.7 ppg., 10 rpg. (led Flyway in both categories); helped lead Springs to first WIAA state tournament berth.
- Maddy Reed, Sr., F, Lourdes Academy: 17.8 ppg. (led Trailways North); 6.5 rpg.; helped lead Knights to 21-4 record. Committed to Hillsdale (Mich.) College.
- Kim Runge, Sr., F, Freedom: 14.7 ppg.; 9 rpg. (tops in Eastern Valley); led Freedom to 16-9 record. Committed to Missouri S&T.
*Player of the year
Follow Doug Ritchay on Twitter @dougritchay