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home : sports : sports Monday, May 2, 2016

4/2/2014 Email this articlePrint this article 
Talent abounds on All-Observer basketball teams

By Ross Eberhart
Sports editor

One is filled with returnees, the other loaded with newcomers.

But one thing is certain - both 2013-14 All-Observer basketball teams boast a ton of talent.

That, though, is no surprise to fans who flocked to the Cal-Wheat, Central or Northeast gymnasiums, as all six area squads shined this winter.

Altogether, the Observer-area produced 75 wins on the hardwood this year. That is 16 more victories than last year and the most since 2010-11.

And that number should only continue to grow as exactly half of the 24 athletes that were selected to this year's All-Observer boys and girls basketball teams will be back next season.

The 2013-14 All-Observer girls squad certainly knows something about returning strong, as seven of its members were also on the team last season.

The boys team, on the other hand, has plenty of fresh faces with 10 new honorees.

Returnees dominate 2013-14 All-Observer girls basketball team

Maybe more amazing than the seven returnees, is the fact that four players on this year's All-Observer girls basketball team are making their third appearance.

It will be the last for Northeast seniors Addie Oberman and Breanne Butler, but Central junior Miranda Meland and Cal-Wheat junior Becca VanderHeiden will have the opportunity to be four-time selections next season.

They are not the only ones on pace to be four-time selections either. Central sophomore Amanda Brainerd is back for her second-straight season, while Saber freshman Kali Roling takes Brainerd's spot as this year's Newcomer of the Year.

Joining Oberman, Butler, Meland, VanderHeiden and Brainerd as returnees are a pair of Central seniors - Abby Willis and Gretchen Henningsen.

Oberman and Willis are captains of the squad and so is Cal-Wheat senior McKenna Luepker, who leads a group of five newcomers to the team.

A two-time all-state player, Oberman led the area with 429 points (17.9 per game) and was second in three-pointers (21), two-point field goals (138) and free throws (90) made.

The senior also was the area's top rebounder, grabbing 169 boards, and Oberman dished out 102 assists and came away with 81 steals - both Observer-area bests (the Rebel blocked 19 shots as well).

Luepker, meanwhile, emerged as the Warriors' top offensive player. The senior led Cal-Wheat with 209 points (9.5 per game) - good for fifth among all players - and knocked down half of the Warriors' 40 three-pointers (good for third in the Observer-area).

The senior was a distributor as well, finishing second for the Warriors with 33 assists, and was a tough defender - Luepker grabbed 60 rebounds, tied for the team-lead with 25 steals and blocked five shots.

Willis again proved to be one of the area's top rebounders. Despite being slightly undersized in the post, the Central senior grabbed 137 rebounds - good for second on the team and fifth among all area girls.

The Saber added 78 points as well, while also dishing out 17 assists and coming away with 13 steals.

Combining with Willis to give Central a nice one-two punch inside was Brainerd, who earned all-state honors for her fine sophomore season.

Last year's Newcomer of the Year, the Saber led her team with 371 points and was the area leader in both two-point field goals (140) and free throws (91) made.

Brainerd corralled a team-high 149 rebounds (good for third in the area), handed out 26 assists, came away with 15 steals and tied for second in the Observer-area with 23 blocked shots.

Putting together her own strong season inside was VanderHeiden, who was one of just three area players to score over 200 points and grab more than 100 rebounds.

The junior actually led Cal-Wheat with 140 boards, while her 201 points were good for second on the team. VanderHeiden tied Luepker for the team-lead with 25 steals and was the player that joined Brainerd with 23 blocks.

No Observer-area player swatted away more shots this winter than Butler. The Rebel senior finished the season with 84 blocks and ended her career as Northeast's all-time leader.

Butler was also an offensive threat with 172 points (she finished fifth in the area with 76 two-pointers) and grabbed 130 rebounds, while also dishing out 18 assists and coming away with 14 steals.

Ready to grab any rebound that came her way was Butler's senior teammate Laikyn Schaefer.

The Rebel forward came down with 162 boards - only Oberman grabbed more among area players - and also helped the Northeast defense by swiping away 26 steals.

Schaefer added 110 points on the offensive end and handed out 18 assists for the Rebels.

Making her own presence felt on the boards was Cal-Wheat sophomore Nina Cray.

Coming off the bench, Cray still finished second for the Warriors (and sixth among area players) with 135 rebounds. The forward was third for the Warriors with 23 steals as well, and blocked five shots.

On the offensive end, Cray finished her year with 94 points (4.3 per game) - the third-highest total on the team.

Leading the All-Observer team's group of guards is Meland, who proved to be the area's top perimeter shooter.

The Saber drained 53 three-pointers this season - a school record and more than either Cal-Wheat or Northeast made as a team.

Meland finished second for Central with 242 points (fourth overall among area players) and was the Sabers' leader in steals with 29.

The junior grabbed 83 rebounds as well and finished the year with 39 assists.

Joining Meland in the Saber backcourt was Henningsen. The senior finished the year with 50 points and 50 rebounds, while tying for third on the team with 20 free throws made.

Henningsen added 15 assists for Central and came away with six steals.

Bursting onto the scene during her sophomore season was Northeast's Aleenah Marcucci.

The Rebel guard finished third among area players with 281 points (11.7 per game) and was constantly around the rim as she also finished third with 97 two-point field goals.

The sophomore was a terror on defense with 77 steals, 63 rebounds and 13 blocks, but also handed out 46 assists (good for second on the team).

Rounding out the squad is Roling, who garners Newcomer of the Year honors.

Coming off the bench, the freshman finished third for the Sabers with 96 points, while excelling from behind both the three-point and free throw lines - she made 16 threes and 28 foul shots, both good for second on the team.

The guard grabbed 41 rebounds as well, while dishing out 40 assists and coming away with nine steals.

Along with the All-Observer team, a five-player All-Defensive team has also been selected.

Butler handles the center position, while Oberman and Brainerd man the forward spots. Marcucci is one of the guards with the other going to Central sophomore Brittany McNamara.

McNamara finished second for the Sabers with 27 steals this winter, while also finishing fourth on the team with 74 rebounds.

Ten seniors and juniors land on All-Observer boys basketball team

There is definitely a veteran flair to the 2013-14 All-Observer boys basketball team, as the squad features six seniors and four juniors.

Despite having more older players than their counterparts on the girls squad, the 12-player boys team features just two returnees - Central senior Kyle Bauer and Northeast junior Nick Wall.

That means five seniors are making their first appearance on the squad.

That includes Cal-Wheat's Josh Poell, Central's Christian Wright and Northeast's Eli Kaczinski, who join Bauer as captains on the squad.

Bauer earned first-team honors on a pair of all-state teams for a senior season in which he piled up an area-best 421 points (15.6 per game) and led all boys players in both two-point (104) and three-point (48) field goals made.

The senior pulled down over 100 rebounds as well (he finished with 107), dished out 63 assists and led the Sabers with 34 steals, while also blocking 16 shots.

Putting together his own strong season for the state runner-up Sabers was Wright.

The senior forward finished second in the area with 275 total points and ranked third in scoring average (10.2 points per game). Wright missed just 13 of his 75 free throw attempts (good for 83 percent at the line) and finished second on the team behind Bauer with 41 threes.

The Saber led the Observer-area with 151 rebounds, while racking up 36 assists, 15 steals and nine blocks.

Providing a lift in the backcourt for the Rebels was Kaczinski. The senior guard was second among boys players with 44 three-pointers and his 9.7 points per game average tied for best on the team (Kaczinski finished with 214 points in 22 games).

The senior was second among area players with 39 steals and blocked 11 shots, while also pulling down 48 rebounds.

Poell proved to be a versatile offensive player during his senior season, as the Warrior forward shot over 50 percent on his two-point attempts, while also draining 21 three-pointers.

The senior led Cal-Wheat with 218 points (12.8 per game, the second-highest scoring average in the area) and grabbed 81 rebounds. On the defensive end, Poell came away with 18 steals and blocked 13 shots.

Poell and Wright are two of four forwards selected to the team with the Northeast duo of Wall and Matt Haferbier joining them.

A co-Newcomer of the Year last season, Wall continued to grow during his junior season with the Rebels.

The forward led Northeast with 233 points and joined Kaczinski with a 9.7 points per game scoring average (Wall was second in the Observer-area with both 77 two-point field goals and 70 made free throws).

Wall also grabbed a team-best 128 rebounds, accumulated 30 steals and led the Rebels (and finished second among all area players) with 19 blocks.

Haferbier joined Wall, Bauer and Wright as the only boys players to score more than 200 points and grab more than 100 rebounds (the forward finished with 215 points and 117 boards respectively).

The Rebel junior was a tough defender with 24 steals and 10 blocks, and also knocked down 22 three-pointers and dished out 22 assists.

Northeast's leader in assists proved to be its center - senior Damon Diedrich.

Diedrich finished second among all area players with 84 assists and was just as adept at putting the ball in the hoop himself, scoring 156 points with 18 treys and 45 two-pointers.

The senior grabbed 96 rebounds as well and came away with 31 steals, while also blocking eight shots.

Making his own presence felt inside was Central junior Jordan Cornelius.

The Saber center scored 149 points during his first varsity season (shooting over 60 percent from the floor in the process), while also pulling down 95 rebounds (good for third on the team).

Cornelius also tied for a team-best with 18 blocked shots and notched 11 steals to go with 19 assists.

Two other Sabers - junior McClain Steffens and senior Trevor Green - round out the All-Observer boys basketball team's backcourt.

Steffens was the area's top distributor as he was the only boys player to amass more than 100 assists (he finished with 102).

The Saber did his own scoring, too, finishing with 238 points (an 8.8 average). Nearly half of Steffens' scoring output came at the free throw line as he led the area with 95 foul shots made (the junior sank 19 three-pointers as well). The guard pulled down 88 rebounds during the season and collected 32 steals.

Green also was a strong passer, as the senior guard finished second on the team and third among area players with 73 assists.

The senior chipped in 108 points with 18 three-pointers (including a half-court game-winner against Maquoketa) and 47 free throws (Green shot 77 percent from the line).

Green pulled down 55 rebounds and finished third on the team with 20 steals.

Rounding out the squad are the only players not to be seniors or seniors-to-be - Cal-Wheat freshmen Brett Kelting and Garrett Rickels - who share Newcomer of the Year honors.

Kelting proved to be a sharpshooter from deep for the Warriors as he led the team (and finished fourth among all area players) with 39 three-pointers.

That helped the freshman finish the season with 189 points (a 9.5 average), and Kelting added 51 rebounds, 24 steals and 20 assists.

Rickels ran the point for Cal-Wheat and paced the Warriors with 58 assists. The guard provided a scoring lift as well with 183 points and 22 three-pointers.

Rickels pulled down 67 rebounds as well and led the Observer-area with 44 steals (he blocked two shots as well).

Rickels' defensive play also earned him one of the three guard spots on the All-Defensive team where he is joined by Steffens and Kaczinski.

The two forward positions, meanwhile, are manned by Bauer and Wall. Together, the five-man squad piled up 179 steals and pulled down 438 rebounds.

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