With springs sports days away from being in full swing, it’s time to take a look back on this year’s high school basketball season and recognize the top girls in Crawford County.
The Morning Sun All-County Girls Basketball Team is made up of 12 players — six first-team athletes and six for honorable mention — as well as a coach of the year nomination. The players were chosen based on performance on the court and leadership qualities.
2015-16 Morning Sun All-County Girls’ Basketball Team
FIRST-TEAM STARTING FIVE
Taylor Muff, junior, Pittsburg High School
Coming into the season, Muff figured to be the go-to player for the Purple Dragon girls. She lived up to those expectations and built upon them as her game expanded further away from the basket in her third season with PHS. Always dominant cleaning up inside, Muff improved her shot from mid-range as well as from beyond the 3-point line this season. Muff transitioned from a dominant post player to a dominant all-around player on the way to averaging a county-high 16.1 points per game and 9.4 rebounds per game. She was third in assists on PHS, with 34, and added 58 steals and 13 blocks on the defensive end.
Sydnee Crain, sophomore, Girard High School
After a solid freshman season, Crain continued to develop into the top all-round player as the point guard on an exciting Girard team which finished fourth in the state. The lefty showed her prowess of smart shooting, ability to penetrate the lane and selflessness when passing to the open man all season long as the floor general. While her play on offense was nothing short of great, her defense was just as a strong. Her hard work on both ends of the court was the backbone of the Trojans’ success this season. Crain led Girard in scoring with 13.2 points per game and was the leader in assists with 47 total. Defensively, Crain had a team-high 80 steals.
Ashley Ray, junior, Girard High School
Standing at 6-foot-4-inches tall, Ray was the most-dominant player in the post in the county. She was a two-way threat for the Trojans, using her size to her advantage as she continued to round out her game. Offensively, Ray expanded her range away from the basket in her junior season, showing an ability to consistently knock down high-post jumpers. Defensively, she kept herself in games by learning to stay away from fouls while being just as effective as a post defender. Ray finished the season second on the team in scoring, putting up 12.1 points a game. She was the leading rebounder with 7.6 boards a game. On the defensive end, Ray compiled a county-high 124 blocks this season.
Jaycie Polhlopek, senior, Northeast High School
After a knee injury prematurely ended last season for Polhlopek, there were questions as to whether she would be able to return to form. Hard work in the offseason put those questions to bed as Polhlopek was the driving force behind the Northeast Vikings’ success in her senior season. She came back in a big way on both ends of the court playing at the two-guard spot. Polhlopek averaged a team-high 11.9 points per game for Northeast, finishing as the assist leader as well with a 3.9 per-game average. She added nearly five rebounds per contest and averaged 2.5 steals on the defensive side.
Sydney Russell, senior, St. Mary’s Colgan
Russell entered her final season with the Panthers as the key component for a young team. She, along with Haydn Dawson, was relied up for leadership more than most seniors, knowing Colgan had to transition a crop of players with little to no varsity experience to a competitive high school basketball team. Russell managed to lead her Panthers in performance as well as leadership on the way to a state berth. She led the Panthers in scoring, with 10.4 points a game, and assists with, 2.8 per game. Russell was second in rebounds, grabbing an average of 8.1 per contest. Defensively, she led Colgan in steals with 2.7 a game.
FIRST-TEAM SIXTH MAN
Lauren Hipfl, senior, Frontenac High School
Hipfl averaged 11.2 points to lead the Raiders, while pulling down 8.2 rebounds a game. She was one of three seniors on the Raiders team which finished second in the CNC. Hipfl brought experience and leadership at the post position for Frontenac in her final season. She was the most-reliable option on the offensive end if the Raiders needed a basket. Defensively, Hipfl was solid against opposing teams, averaging a steal each contest as well as altering the opposing player’s shot consistently.
HONORABLE MENTION STARTING FIVE
Calea Augustin, junior, Girard High School
While Augustin may not have been the flashiest player on the Trojans’ roster, she was certainly a key member. Her hard-nosed, gritty play on both ends of the floor set the tempo constantly during games. Augustin scored 9.1 points per contest for Girard, while pulling down six rebounds a game. She tied for the second-most assists on the team with 36 total. On the defensive end, Augustin had 38 steals and 11 blocks on the season.
Kelsea Choate, junior, Northeast High School
Choate took over as the second option on the Vikings this year, and thrived doing so. She made strides both offensively and defensively for Northeast in her junior season. She scored 11.1 points a game and averaged 2.1 assists per contest. Though she was predominantly an outside player, that didn’t prevent her for fighting for 4.4 rebounds per game. Choate was the leading defender for the Northeast, recording 3.1 steals per contest.
Haydn Dawson, senior, St. Mary’s Colgan
Along with Russell, Dawson had a big responsibility in her final season with the Panthers—helping to shape and mold a young team into a unit capable of varsity-ready basketball. She had a strong season on both ends of the floor, but the Panthers relied heavily upon her down the stretch and in the postseason. Dawson finished the year nearly averaging a double-double, scoring 8.5 points a game and pulling down a team-high 9.9 rebounds per contest.
Ashlee Beitzinger, senior, Pittsburg High School
Beitzinger possessed every aspect of a player a coach wants on a team in her senior season. She was constantly working hard on both ends of the floor regardless of how many touches she was getting on the offensive end. Her gritty style of play helped the Dragons rally around her when in need of a boost. She finished the season averaging 8.8 points and and 4.3 rebounds per game. Beitzinger was second in assists, with 36, and added 37 steals on the defensive end.
Emily Merando, senior, Frontenac High School
Merando was the floor general for the Raiders in her final season, dictating the pace of play as the point guard. She was one of three seniors on the FHS team that finished in second place in the CNC. Merando averaged 9.5 points per game for the Raiders, grabbing an average of 3.2 boards in the process. She had a team-high in assists with a 2.1 per-game average. Defensively, Merando tied for the team lead in steals at 1.2 per game.
HONORABLE MENTION SIXTH MAN
Kayln Bitner, senior, Southeast High School
Bitner was a solid player int he post during her final season with the Lancers. Though the team struggled to get production out of their extremely young lineup, Bitner did a nice job on both ends of the floor to provide stability. She finished the year scoring 7.7 points a game, while pulling down 7.2 rebounds per contest. She was a key defensively for Southeast as well, finishing the season with 54 blocks, constantly disrupting opposing offenses in the paint.
2015-16 Morning Sun All-County Girls Coach of the Year
Brad Herlocker, Girard High School
For the sixth time in 10 years since being at Girard, Herlocker led his Trojans to an undefeated season in the Crawford-Neosho-Cherokee League, which led to a CNC Title. He had his Trojans playing as a top-five ranked team in Class 4A DII nearly all season, and ultimately led them to a fourth-place finish in the state tournament—the fifth time in eight seasons GHS has made the state tournament. Girard finished the year 21-4.
Lucas Davis is the sports editor of the Pittsburg Morning Sun. E-mail him at email@example.com and follow him on twitter @LDsportswriter.