Four-year standouts lead Addison Independent girls’ hoop all-star team

ADDISON COUNTY — Basketball fans have been lucky for the past four years to watch the remarkable high school basketball careers of two players who are more friends than rivals, came on the scene as freshmen, and have combined for more than 3,200 points and countless memorable moments — fast-break layups, power moves in the paint, no-look passes, steals, blocked shots, rebounds in traffic, and three-pointers hitting nothing but net.
Those two seniors, Middlebury’s Keagan Dunbar and Mount Abraham’s Emma Carter, are the easy choices to headline the 2018 Addison Independent Girls’ Basketball All-Star Team as the Independent Co-Players of the Year.
Carter this winter played for Coach Connie LaRose’s powerhouse 20-win Division II champions. She helped them take that title by upping her game in a way that allowed her teammates to shine brighter, while still pouring in points and controlling the boards. Three more Eagles earned spots on the Independent squad.
Dunbar never had the luxury of contending for a title, in part because the powers-that-be insist the Tigers compete in D-I — Coach Jen Heath’s 2016-2017 group in particular could have made some noise in D-II. But Dunbar kept working her hardest and doing her best for her team, helping them win seven times this year after four starters from a year ago graduated. Two of her teammates join her as Independent all-stars.
Coach Kelly Trayah’s young Otter Valley team won four games and had their moments against good teams, such as a near upset of D-III champion Windsor. Two Otters made the Independent team.
Coach Billy Waller’s Vergennes group was hit hard by injuries that knocked one starter out for the season and another out for half of it. The Commodores kept positive, won four times, and gained valuable experience for next year, when they hope to have a full complement of players and better results. A VUHS junior is honored here.
Picks for Independent all-star teams are made based on observation, statistics and consultation with the coaches. Congratulations to the following:
EMMA CARTER, MOUNT ABE SENIOR, CO-PLAYER OF THE YEAR. Notes: Strong, athletic five-10 forward who is skilled in all facets of the game and averaged 19.9 points (shooting 41 percent), 9.2 rebounds, 3.5 steals and 1.3 blocked shots … Finished her career with 1,605 points … Always a good teammate, crucially for the Eagles’ success learned to be more patiently on offensive during this season by moving the ball more and waiting for higher-percentage shots, a change that also allowed the rest of the Eagles to flourish on the attack … Credited by LaRose for her work ethic and strong leadership, and became a better all-around defender this season … Will play at Franklin Pierce University next winter.
LaRose’s Quotes: “She was being more selective, and other kids were beginning to step up … Emma Carter was the one who made the greatest changes in her game for the betterment of the team, and I’m just so proud of her … If she got her hands on the ball as a rebounder she was going to come out of there with the basketball … We did an admirable job as a team playing defense, and she was a key part of it … She’s a physically strong kid who challenged herself in every practice, every game, to improve, to be better, to make a difference in our success.”
KEAGAN DUNBAR, MUHS SENIOR, CO-PLAYER OF THE YEAR. Notes: Dynamic two-way guard and four-time Independent Player of the Year who led the Tigers by averaging 21.1 points while shooting 41 percent from the floor and 78 percent from the line, 8.1 rebounds (at five-four), 3.0 assists and 2.2 steals … Finished her career with 1,625 points … Has excellent ball-handling and distribution skills, court vision, three-point shooting range, and the ability to finish at the basket with either hand … Played under the basket in the Tiger zone, using quickness, strength and smarts to defend larger players … Hard-working team leader who will play at Colby College.
Heath’s Quotes: “What makes Keagan so good is her work ethic. She definitely has natural athletic ability for sure, but when you match natural athletic ability like she has with her hard work it’s incredible … She’s been an incredible player for us the last four years, no doubt, and will be the next four years in college … I look forward to seeing her online and seeing her when she comes back to play Middlebury … She’s competitive. She understands the game … She can score and she can pass … She’s a great teammate … She’s a great leader, more of a quiet leader.”
GABBY PAOLINO, OV SENIOR. Notes: Powerful, skilled forward who averaged a double-double of 11.4 points and 10.4 rebounds while adding 2.6 assists plus about one block and one steal per game … Versatile offensive player who could hit from outside and find open players, especially with inside-out passes from the post … Tough defender, inside scorer and rebounder with good touch from the paint and a nose for the ball … Three-time Independent all-star.
Trayah’s Quotes: “She’s just a natural leader … People rally around her … She has the ability to take over a game … When she goes down in the low post she’s got great moves. She has the ability to create for herself … She crashes the boards really well and she gets good positioning … And then she’ll keep fighting for it until she gets it … She has the skill enough to dribble … Typically I’d put her on their best forward.”
EMMA LAROSE, MOUNT ABE SENIOR. Notes: Unflappable point guard who kept a steady hand on the Eagles’ tiller all season … Scored an efficient 4.7 points per game while shooting 40 percent on two-point attempts and hitting 43 percent on threes … Assisted 2.9 baskets per game while averaging fewer than two turnovers, and also averaged 2.0 steals and 1.75 deflections … Made key plays in the semifinal (clutch late free throws) and final (long pass to set up a key bucket with 1:10 to go).
LaRose’s Quotes: “Her maturity level just went up and up this year … She has basketball IQ. She knows what needs to happen out there … The changes she made on the fly on the court were good basketball decisions … She grew as team leader from that point guard position by leaps and bounds in the course of the season … She’s a good passer … She has a lot of confidence in what she does with the ball … She had a bunch of games where she had no turnovers.”
ABBY MANSFIELD, MOUNT ABE SENIOR. Notes: Sparkplug defender who made opposing guards’ lives miserable all winter with 2.9 steals (second on the team) and 3.5 deflections (first on the team) per game … Chipped in averages of 4.0 points, 1.5 assists and 4.5 rebounds (third on the team) from the guard position in the regular season, numbers that went up across the board during the playoffs … Good decision-maker who averaged just over two turnovers as a primary ballhandler.
LaRose’s Quotes: “She’s just cruising around out there, and all of a sudden she comes out of nowhere to get a rebound or to get a steal … She made a lot of good things happen this year … She just really came up with key steals, key deflections, just so many key things throughout this whole season, and especially down the stretch … She is physically a tough, tough kid, and she did a terrific job anticipating … Abby was seeing things out there.”
JALEN COOK, MOUNT ABE JUNIOR. Notes: Speedy, skilled forward who helped the Eagles at both ends of the court … Averaged 7.6 points, second on the team, and chipped in 4.4 rebounds, 2.35 steals and 2.2 deflections per game … Has a strong first step to the hoop and can finish in the lane, and has decent shooting range … Strong defensively on the perimeter and in the paint, making good use of long arms and quick hands … Made big plays at both ends in the final.
LaRose’s Quotes: “She’s a solid athlete, and she’s got some of that wiry strength … She’s got some good moves around the basket … I think she’s going to have a great year next year … She’s quick enough so she can stay after it (on defense). She can disrupt it once, and maybe they get it back, and she’s right there deflecting it again … I really like that intensity she brings defensively.”
ALIA EDMUNDS, OV SOPHOMORE. Notes: Forward who was second on the Otters with averages of 8.2 points and 9.0 rebounds while racking up a team-high 2.9 assists per game … Strong, skilled player with a quick first step who was particularly effective scoring in and passing out of the post … Versatile defender who handled tough assignments vs. both guards and forwards. 
Trayah’s Quotes: “She’s got great post moves … I’m telling you, that girl’s quick … She’s big enough and strong enough where she can defend a 4 (power forward) if need be … She’s got two years to continue to grow. I think she’s only going to get better … She handles the ball well enough that I can keep her out (at guard) … She was always in position, and she was a 3 (small forward) who would crash from the weak side … She’s a very intelligent player.”
SHANNON SUNDERLAND, MUHS SENIOR. Notes: Heady senior guard who was second on the Tigers with 6.5 points per game and third with 4.5 rebounds per outing … Chipped in 32 assists, 21 steals and 16 blocks … Played solid defense at the top of the MUHS zone … Versatile, skilled offensive player who made good decisions with the ball.
Heath’s Quotes: “Shannon stepped up for us in many ways this season, scoring, rebounding, bringing up the ball … She just loved playing basketball and being with her teammates … She helped us in every way … Shannon was good at switching things up. She would shoot when we needed her to shoot. She would pass … She could drive … It’s tough to defend someone who could do different things.”
ASHLEY SUNDERLAND, MUHS JUNIOR. Notes: Steady inside presence at both ends of the court who was third on the Tigers with 5.5 points per game and second with 6.0 rebounds per game … Grabbed 56 offensive rebounds, converting many into points … Increased her shooting range as the season progressed to become more of a threat … Held her own defensively against opponents’ top forwards.
Heath’s Quotes: “She’s strong … Defensively when we were in our zone she did a fantastic job of fronting the post … She was our best post defender … She really liked that role of playing the other team’s top post … She gained confidence and started to see herself as someone who could score in different ways.”
EMMA BRYANT, VUHS JUNIOR. Notes: Tough defender who averaged 4.5 points, 4.9 rebounds and 1.5 steals … Typically took on the assignment of guarding opponents’ top scorers and was effective against both guards and post players … Had a nice touch in the lane and had the Commodores’ second-best shooting percentage at 38 percent.
Waller’s Quotes: “She was a versatile defender because we put her on guards that were smaller than her and forwards that were bigger … She was one of the girls on the team that boxes out well … She did a good job of defending without fouling … She’s not a gamble defender, so she doesn’t get herself out of position … Offensively she did some things we liked. She extended her range a little bit. She’s a good offensive rebounder.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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