A Tiger sophomore tops the Independent’s High School Girls’ Basketball All-Star Team
ADDISON COUNTY — Although all the local high school girls’ basketball teams had their moments this winter, ultimately Middlebury enjoyed the season the most, sweeping all five games vs. local competition on the way to the program’s first winning season in six years.
The Tigers had plenty of contributors, but one stood out for her all-around play — sophomore Keagan Dunbar, the 2016 Addison Independent Girls’ Basketball Player of the Year.
Dunbar, the Independent’s 2015 Co-Player of the Year, helped Coach Jen Heath’s MUHS team improve from three wins in 2015 to 11 wins this winter. Two more key Tigers join her on the 2016 Addison Independent Girls’ Basketball All-Star Team.
Coach Connie LaRose’s young Mount Abraham squad started slow, but came on strong enough to win nine games and earn a first-round Division II home game. Three Eagles are honored here.
Coach Steven Keith’s Otter Valley group might have played the toughest schedule of the four local teams and managed eight wins, many of them nail-biters, including one over Mount Abe. A trio of Otters earned berths on the Independent squad.
Coach Billy Waller’s Vergennes team could not capitalize on a fast start and finished with seven wins. A four-year Commodore mainstay returns as an Independent all-star.
Selections were made based on observation, statistics and consultation with the coaches. Congratulations to the following:
KEAGAN DUNBAR, MUHS SOPHOMORE, PLAYER OF THE YEAR. Notes: Skilled, determined guard who averaged 23.0 points per game, a figure that if not the best in decades for a local girls’ basketball player, it’s close … Filled up the stat sheet with averages of 5.2 rebounds (second on the team), 2.6 steals and 1.9 assists … Smart defender with a nose for the ball … Quick and strong with good hands … Sees the floor well … Can finish with either hand at the basket, and improved her outside shooting, developing three-point range.
Heath’s Quotes: “Keagan brings a lot of energy to our team during practices and games … Whether it’s on offense or defense, she’s always working incredibly hard … Obviously she handles the ball very well … She’s someone we look to to score and someone that found open players a lot for us as well … She’s just a great all-around player … She’s someone that loves the game and definitely wants to improve. She’s very driven.”
AMY JONES, OV SENIOR. Notes: Athletic, quick four-year starter who averaged 10 points, 10 rebounds, two blocked shots and two steals … Always a tough, reliable individual and team defender, took a step forward offensively this winter by improving her shooting touch and range … Had some games with 16 or 18 rebounds despite being undersized for a post player … Typically the fastest player on the floor at any position.
Keith’s Quotes: “She was our centerpiece on the offensive side … She upped every statistical category, and was relied on more this year to do that … She had a direct impact on every game we played in … She’s a very heady player … Her jumper was much improved. It opened up her inside game even more … She plays 32 minutes and battles kids that are stronger, bigger … She just has a knack for getting rebounds.”
EMMA CARTER, MOUNT ABE SOPHOMORE. Notes: Reliable scorer at forward for the Eagles despite drawing extra attention from opposing defenses every game, averaging 19.1 points … Moves well without the ball and can hit from outside, slash to the basket or post up … Draws fouls and makes opponents pay by hitting 78 percent of her free throws … Added 5.5 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 1.4 steals per game.
LaRose’s Quotes: “She cut to the basket. She had the size and strength to get in there physically … She can get a shot off. She drew a lot of fouls … She was clearly the marked person on the team. It wasn’t like any opponent we had didn’t know it was key to shut her down … She always drew the opponent’s best defender. She took a lot of pounding in the course of the season … She’s a hard-working kid. She comes to practice every day to get better. Those are the kind of kids you like.”
NIKKI SALLEY, VUHS SENIOR. Notes: Once again sparked VUHS on the attack and on the boards, averaging 11.0 points despite being the focal point of other team’s defenses, plus a local high of 11.4 rebounds … Was particularly effective on the offensive glass converting putbacks … Smart team defender who led the Commodores in taking charges … Four-year varsity player and team captain who ran the floor well and could finish on the break.
Waller’s Quotes: “She attacks the glass. She’ll get offensive rebounds to give us second and third opportunities … She was a kid who wasn’t afraid to mix it up inside even with kids much bigger than her … She did all right in the post. Nikki actually scored more in the paint in the set offense than in the past … She didn’t back down from anyone. She did her best to get into good defensive position … She’s a fun kid to be around. She’s got a good sense of humor.”
GABBY POALINO, OV SOPHOMORE. Notes: Strong and athletic sophomore forward who came on strong in OV’s final 10 games, averaging about 10 points and nine rebounds in that stretch to finish with averages of 7.0 points and 8.0 rebounds … At one point posted three straight double-doubles … Developed a jumper to complement her ability to finish inside… Improved defensively and averaged 1.5 blocked shots.
Keith’s Quotes: “We were very happy with Gabby’s progression throughout the year … She had good touch all the way out the three-point line … She’s smart, she’s strong, she’s physical … Defensively she really bought into what we were trying to do. That’s an area of the game where she really picked it up … She stepped right in and put up numbers … She went from coming in and wanting to be part of it to really saying, ‘I can have a big impact here, and I know I can.’”
JESSIE MCKEAN, MOUNT ABE SENIOR. Notes: Smart, quick all-around guard for the Eagles … Averages of 4.0 assists and 2.7 steals led all local players … Began to look for and hit her jump shot late in the season, and raised her scoring average to 5.1 points, second on the team … Excellent, tireless defender one-on-one or in the Eagle zone and 2-2-1 press … Team co-captain.
LaRose’s Quotes: “What can I say about Jessie other than we wouldn’t have done much without her … She’s just a durable, all-purpose player … She did everything we needed … She’s just tough … She would still be scrambling after the basketball or playing tough on defense as hard in minute number 30 as she was in minute number two … She finally began to have a little confidence, especially the last third of the season or so, in her mid-range shot.”
PAYTON BUXTON, MUHS JUNIOR. Notes: Guard who was a solid contributor this winter in all phases of the game, defending, shooting, ballhandling, passing and rebounding … Averaged 6.6 points, 4.0 rebounds, 2.5 steals and 2.0 assists … Brought poise to the Tigers on the break and in halfcourt sets … Quick, smart defender whose willingness to step up offensively gave the Tiger attack another dimension.
Heath’s Quotes: “Payton did a really good job of handling the ball. She averaged the least amount of turnovers … She was calm and composed with the ball … She really sees the court well, really started the fast break for us … She started looking for her shot more, which was exactly what we needed. It made a big difference for us as the season went on … She really did a good job on the press … She would hustle … She would really harass people she was playing.”
HANNAH BUTTOLPH, MUHS SENIOR. Notes: Speedy forward who blossomed as a scorer, especially down the stretch … Improved her shooting touch around the basket, averaging 5.8 points … Also averaged 4.2 rebounds and 1.6 steals … Was a shot-blocking threat and helped anchor the back of the Tiger press … Contributed key plays late in a Feb. 15 win vs. Mt. Abe, including a coast-to-coast hoop and a block at the buzzer.
Heath’s Quotes: “She came up with some big steals … As an offensive player, when you’re playing against someone like that, it’s a little unsettling, because she’s athletic and she can jump and you know she has the ability to block your shot … This year we all felt she just continued to grow and continued to improve … I don’t think there was any post player we played that could get up and down the court with her.”
EMMA LAROSE, MOUNT ABE SOPHOMORE. Notes: Skilled ballhandler for the Eagles who picked up 3.2 assists per game while turning the ball over just twice per outing … Steadily increased her scoring average and finished at 4.5 points per game by hitting 41 percent of her three-point attempts … Smart defender who worked well at the top of the Eagle press and zone and averaged 2.1 steals.
LaRose’s Quotes: “What I like about her as much as anything is two turnovers a game. That’s pretty good balance for a kid who handled the ball as much as she did … She had a good basketball IQ, and game savvy … She has an understanding of the offenses and a real desire to make them work … She got to where she was scrappy … She’s a good ballhandler. She does well right- or left-handed … She’s always playing smart half-court defense.”
MAIA EDMUNDS, OV SENIOR. Notes: Earned a spot here by making life miserable for other teams’ top scorers all season … Strong, tenacious defender with quick feet who drew the most challenging assignment in OV’s man-to-man defense every time, typically holding top scorers under their averages as OV 12 times limited foes to 40 points or fewer, including D-II champion Fair Haven twice … Could hit a jumper when asked and chipped in with 4.0 points per game.
Keith’s Quotes: “She’s pretty fearless … She guarded the toughest players. She guarded Abby McKearin over in Proctor terrific in the win over there … She cut down her turnovers significantly from last year … She was a pretty solid rebounder … She was most often playing a player one-on-one with no help, and made her work.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].
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