Posted: Friday, March 4, 2016 6:00 am
By AARON KENNEDY – firstname.lastname@example.org
It was a season of haves and have-nots locally, as two teams finished in the top three of their conference tournament, while the other two combined to win just one game – one earning it against the other – while giving young players valuable experience in what became an obvious rebuilding season.
Given the lack of parity, it is not surprising then that the haves – Clinton Prairie and Rossville – took all five spots on the 2015-26 All-Clinton County girls’ basketball first team. The Clinton Prairie Gophers finished the season 15-7 and won the first Hoosier Heartland Conference Championship Tournament, while the Rossville Hornets finished with a 12-11 record and took third place in the championship tournament.
Plenty of talent returns to the Gophers and Hornets next season, as the first team features one senior, two juniors, a sophomore and a freshman.
Clinton Prairie is represented on the All-County first team by senior center Madison Douglass, freshman point guard Tatum Neal and junior guard Micha Ruiz.
The Rossville Hornets are represented on the first team by sophomore guard Tatum Neal and junior forward Keely Criswell.
For the first time in recent history, voting for the top individual award resulted in a tie.
Douglass and Deboy are the Times’ 2015-16 Players of the Year.
The All-County second team is made up of Frankfort senior Tania Olivas, Clinton Prairie senior Kayla Pearson, Rossville sophomore Julia Malson, Rossville junior Mallory Roberts and Clinton Central senior Avree Barrett.
Rossville senior Taylor Zink, Clinton Prairie junior Kinsey Martin, Clinton Prairie sophomore Jaycie Pletch, Clinton Central freshman Kaylea Whitcomb, Frankfort freshman Rylee Siebert, Rossville senior Taylor Zink, Frankfort freshman Emily Michael, Clinton Central freshman Katelyn Russell and Frankfort senior Briana Myers earned honorable mention honors.
Voting for the All-County teams were Frankfort head coach Andy Ross, Clinton Prairie head coach Jessi Johnson, Rossville head coach Chad Geheb, Clinton Central head coach Hillary Doyle and Times Sports Editor Aaron Kennedy.
Clinton Prairie senior
The Gophers’ standout center makes it three All-County first team selections and three Times’ Player of the Year awards in her high school career, and she may have made it four if not for being sidelined with an injury in her junior season.
Douglass was back in form this season, averaging 13.4 points, 7.8 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 0.7 steals and one block per game.
“The first thing you talk about with Madison Douglass is her strength. It is just hard to defend,” Geheb said. “She is a really strong athlete who is going to a Division 1 program in Purdue to play softball. She likes to set up in the post, and then she also has a nice 15-foot range shot that can hurt you. She is a very nice player overall, but her strength is really hard to defend.
“She is a dominant player who is hard to prepare for,” he added. “You don’t have that kind of strength in practice. She is a special player, and this isn’t even her number one sport. That should tell you what type of athlete we are talking about.”
Selected to the All-County second team last year, Rossville point guard Maggie Deboy took a big step forward in her second season as a starter.
Opposing coaches took notice, leading to her first Times’ Player of the Year award.
Deboy averaged 13.7 points, 6.4 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 2.3 steals and one block per game for the Hornets.
“We came into Rossville ready with a game plan, and Maggie slowly took over the game without me realizing what was going on,” Johnson said. “She doesn’t just look to score first. She accompanies her teammates nicely. She is obviously one of the better players in the county because of that. She has that ability to take over a game before the opponent knows it.”
Clinton Prairie freshman
There were high expectations for Tatum Neal coming up from the junior high school, and she did not disappoint. The young point guard earned a spot on the All-County first team after averaging 10.9 points, 3.6 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1.2 steals per game for the Gophers.
“Tatum was our main ball-handler this season,” Johnson said. “As a freshman, she really stepped up and filled a large role for our team. She was a scoring threat on offense and also helped us on defense.”
A three-year starter at forward for the Hornets, Criswell earned her second consecutive selection to the All-County first team after averaging 11.2 points, 6.2 rebounds and one steal per game.
“Overall, she had a difficult year,” Geheb said. “She came out early in the year diagnosed with some kind of iron deficiency that plagued her a lot. When she got close to full health late in the season, she became the player we thought she could be. She had a really good second half of the season.”
Criswell was a second team selection as a freshman.
Clinton Prairie junior
The tough, lead-by-example leader of the Gophers was a lock-down defender for her team whose total contribution cannot be charted by any standard set of statistics.
“Micha played a huge role in the success of our team this season,” Johnson said. “She led us on the defensive end and was the energy-giver we needed many times. She is a hard-nosed player whose hard work inspires others on the team. Her role as team captain this season was huge for us.”
A second team selection last year, Ruiz lands on the first team after averaging 7.3 points, 4.5 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 2.4 steals per game.
The Hot Dogs’ versatile, veteran forward got off to a late start to the season, but once she got on the court for Frankfort, she provided an immediate boost to the young team.
Olivas averaged 9.8 points and 4.7 rebounds per game. At the end of the season, she was named to the All-Sagamore Athletic Conference second team.
“Tania missed the first half of the season due to a knee injury suffered during volleyball,” Ross said. “She battled back from surgery and was able to be our best player for the second half of the season.”
This is Olivas’ third straight selection to the All-County second team.
Clinton Prairie senior
A sharp-shooting guard for the Gophers, Pearson averaged 7.4 points, 1.8 rebounds and one steal per game this season.
“Kayla was our most consistent outside shooter this season,” Johnson said. “She led our conference and the entire Lafayette area in 3-point field goal percentage, shooting 42 percent for the year.”
Pearson was a first team All-County selection last year.
Never shy of contact in the paint, the Rossville sophomore did many of the little things that made a big difference in whether the Hornets won or loss.
Put differently – in an alternate universe, Malson is probably an All-Star hockey enforcer.
Though many of her contributions to the Hornets never showed up in the statistics, her rebounding definitely does.
Malson averaged 8.3 rebounds per game while adding 5.4 points, one assist and one steal per game.
“Julia led us in rebounding, was our best post defender and our second-best defender overall,” Geheb said. “She would run through a wall for us, and she is a great kid.”
The Hornets’ shooting guard finds herself on the All-County second team after averaging 5.4 points, 3.9 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 1.4 steals per game.
“She improved her shooting drastically over the stretch of the season and had a three-game stretch where she led us in scoring with 14 to 16 points per game in that stretch,” Geheb said. “Consistency is her biggest obstacle, but she’s a great kid and a great defender. She always guarded the other team’s best offensive player.”
Roberts earned an All-County honorable mention as a sophomore last year.
Clinton Central senior
The Bulldogs’ steady presence in the paint showed up night-in and night-out for the young and winless Bulldogs, averaging 6.1 points and 5.6 rebounds per game while rarely being able to rest on the bench due to Clinton Central’s lack of numbers this season.
“Avree led our team in points and rebounds,” Doyle said. “Avree was an exceptional leader and role model for not only the younger players on the team but for the program as a whole.”
A tenacious defender for the Hornets, the scrappy guard averaged 4.4 points, 2.2 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 2.3 steals in her final year wearing the red and white.
“Rylee started the whole season for us as a freshman,” Ross said. “She was our leading rebounder, and she was a shot-blocking presence inside for us on defense.”
The young post player showed she was immediately ready for the varsity level, averaging 6.8 points and 4.9 rebounds per game for the Hot Dogs.
Clinton Central freshman
One of two starting freshmen for the Bulldogs, Whitcomb averaged 3.5 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.3 assists.
“As a freshman, I felt like Kaylea was a key defensive player for us this year,” Doyle said. “She had the task of defending the opposing team’s best ball handler. She rarely came out of the game and made things happen on both ends of the floor with her presence.”
Clinton Prairie junior
An athletic guard whose aggressive play sparked the Gophers at times, Martin averaged 4.3 points and 1.5 rebounds per game.
Clinton Prairie freshman
A young spot shooter for the Gophers, Pletch averaged 3.6 points and 2.3 rebounds per game while coming off the bench for Clinton Prairie.
Much like her classmate Siebert, the freshman point guard for the Hot Dogs was thrown right into the varsity mix and averaged 3.7 points per game.
“Emily started for us as a freshman,” Ross said. “She handled the ball the majority of the time for us, and she was one of our better 3-point shooters.”
Clinton Central freshman
Another freshman pressed into a starting role, the 5-10 forward averaged 3.5 points and 3.2 rebounds per game for the Bulldogs.
A forward for the Hot Dogs, Myers stepped into a starting role and for the Hot Dogs this year and provided a veteran presence.
“Briana gave us a lot of senior leadership with a young team,” Ross said. “She was a very consistent player for us.”
Myers averaged 3.3 points and 2.6 rebounds per game.