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home : sports : sports Tuesday, May 24, 2016

3/5/2014 Email this articlePrint this article 
Cal-Wheat trio named to All-Tri-Rivers East squad

By Ross Eberhart
Sports editor

In just their first season together, the girls basketball teams in the Tri-Rivers East made plenty of noise this winter.

Three of the six squads in the division won at least 10 games, highlighted by division champion, Midland, which piled up 17 wins en route to a spot in the regional finals (the Eagles fell to second-ranked Janesville by just two).

In addition, the Tri-Rives East boasted one of the state's top individual talents in Cedar Valley Christian junior Shelby Hembera. The forward ended up leading the state in both scoring - she averaged 33.2 points per game - and rebounding (360).

The Calamus-Wheatland girls team did its part to impress as well. The Warriors won their most games since the 2011-12 season and proved to be one of the best rebounding teams in the division (they finished second in rebounds overall and first in offensive boards).

Cal-Wheat was rewarded for its play, too, as three players - senior McKenna Luepker, junior Becca VanderHeiden and sophomore Nina Cray - were selected to the recently released All-Tri-Rivers East team.

Each player landed on a different team. VanderHeiden was a first-team pick, while Luepker was selected to the second team. Cray, meanwhile, garnered honorable mention accolades.

VanderHeiden was one of five players - Hembera, Lizzie Meier of Easton Valley, Nicole Blum of Marquette Catholic and Brianna Schurbon of Midland - to be unanimously selected to the first team.

The junior tied for sixth in the division by averaging 9.1 points per game overall - her average grew to a team-best 11.5 during Cal-Wheat's conference slate - and finished the year with 79 two-point field goals (good for fifth in the division).

VanderHeiden had a penchant for getting to the foul line and led the Warriors in both free throws attempted (73) and made (42).

"Rebecca stepped up and showed us some big moments this year - she led us in scoring and rebounding during conference play," Cal-Wheat head coach Alan Seabrooke said. "She improved her understanding of post-play which caused teams to double-team her late in the year."

The Warriors also proved to be one of the better defenders in the Tri-Rivers East. VanderHeiden led the Warriors and was seventh in the division with 140 rebounds, while also finishing high on the team in both steals (she tied for first with 25) and blocked shots (her 23 was a team-best and good for fourth among all players).

"She had some of her best games in conference play and in our wins," Seabrooke said. "She also set the tone in practice with the post players every day."

While VanderHeiden handled a lot of Cal-Wheat's inside scoring, Luepker gave the Warriors a big boost on the perimeter.

The senior ended up leading the team in scoring with 209 points - good for 9.5 points per game - while developing into one of the division's top three-point threats.

"She was our leader at the guard position and finished second on our team in scoring in conference play," Seabrooke said of Luepker.

The Warrior finished the year with 20 treys, which tied her for fifth among all Tri-Rivers East players. Remarkably, no Cal-Wheat team had made more than 20 threes since the 2007-08 season.

The senior added 75 two-point field goals and was the division's most accurate free throw shooter, making 39 of her 54 attempts for a 72.2 percentage (the best of any player with more than 10 attempts).

"McKenna was our go-to shooter and also our point guard when teams pressed us," Seabrooke said. "She did a great job of finding openings in the defense and working to get her shot off quicker as the year went on."

Luepker helped set up her teammates with 33 assists as well and finished fourth on the team with 60 rebounds.

The Warrior tied VanderHeiden with 25 steals and also blocked five shots.

Cray began her sophomore season playing for both the Warriors' varsity and JV teams, but quickly established herself as a catalyst off the bench.

"Nina came out of nowhere this year," Seabrooke said. "She quickly developed into one of the regulars in the varsity rotation."

The sophomore was especially proficient on the boards as she finished second overall on the team with 135 rebounds (50 of which were offensive).

Cray also displayed quick hands on defense. She finished third on the team with 23 steals with a team-high 14 of them coming during conference play.

The forward gave Cal-Wheat a boost on the offensive end as well. Cray finished third on the team in scoring with 94 points, while dropping in 39 two-point field goals and 16 free throws (both also good for third on the team).

"She finished the year first in steals, third in scoring and second in rebounding for our team in conference play," Seabrooke said. "Her tremendous improvement helped us to be more competitive in all of our games this year."

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