Girls’ basketball: Prescott earns three MBC First Team honors; Ellsworth represented on honorable mention list
At the conclusion of the 2018-19 regular season, the Prescott Cardinals girls’ basketball team accounted for over half of the All-Middle Border Conference’s First Team.
Bella Lenz, Allie Murphy and Haylee Yaeger were all named to the MBC’s top team after leading the Cardinals to a 12-2 conference record, the program’s best league finish in the past decade.
In her second and final season playing as a Cardinal, senior co-captain Yaeger recorded averages of 21.2 points and 9.9 rebounds per game, topping Prescott’s single-season scoring and rebounding school records. Yaeger finished second in the conference in scoring and rebounding behind Amery senior Madelyn Granica, the MBC’s Player of the Year. Her average of 2.0 steals per game sat her at fifth-best in the conference.
Yaeger recorded 905 total career points in her two-season stint as a Cardinal, which gives her the fourth-best scoring total in Prescott girls’ basketball history, and she recorded the program’s best single-game point total on Dec. 4 when she tallied up 36 points against the Cameron Comets.
Yaeger’s co-captain, Allie Murphy, also received First Team honors after she recorded season averages of 10.3 points, 4.5 assists and 2.9 assists per game. Murphy finished as the MBC’s second-best distributor and third-best steal leader.
Murphy leaves the Cardinals girls’ basketball program with the top career assist total (353) career, the second-best steal total (225) and the fifth-best scoring total (898 points).
Sophomore Bella Lenz was the youngest MBC player to receive First Team honors this season. Lenz recorded averages of 16.8 points (third-best), 4.6 assists (best) and 3.0 steals (second-best) this season and will be a vital player for the Cardinals in the final two seasons of her high school basketball career.
Prescott head coach Ron Murphy said he was honored to have three of his players named to the MBC’s First Team, but his team’s greatest honor of the season involved more than three of its players.
“Most importantly, we recorded 20 wins this season,” Murphy said. “We recorded the most wins in a single season for Prescott girls’ basketball.”
Panthers land three on HM team
The Ellsworth Panthers were represented by senior co-captain Emma Swanson, junior co-captain Kaitlyn Nugent and sophomore Autumn Earney who were all named to the MBC’s honorable mention list after they recorded a 2-12 league-play record in 2018-19.
Swanson was among the top defensive players in the MBC, and was considered to be one of Division 3’s top defenders by Ellsworth’s head coach Jason Janke. The senior guard stamped her career with defensive prowess in her final game in a Panther uniform by shutting out All-Conference First Team recipient Brooke Evenson. Evenson finished with a fast-break layup and one free throw in Baldwin-Woodville’s regional playoff win against the Panthers, but was unable to score in an offensive set when guarded by Swanson.
Swanson also ran the Panthers’ offense from the point guard position, and began scoring more consistently at the end of our season.
Swanson led the Panthers in rebounding with an average of 5.3 boards per game and added averages of 6.0 points and 1.7 steals per game in her senior campaign.
"Emma is one of the better leaders that we've coached; I think all of us would say that,” said Ellsworth head coach Jason Janke. “She is almost always the first player in our gym and often the last one to leave during practices.”
Janke noted that Swanson has played with many different teammates over the course of her career and has always been willing to adjust her game based on who's on the floor with her.
“Her commitment to, and love of, playing defense will play a big role in our program for years to come,” Janke said. “She's left an indelible mark on Panther girls’ basketball, and we are proud of her accomplishments."
Nugent was the Panthers' leading scorer in 2018-19 at 15.2 points per game. Nugent was also second on the team in rebounding with 4.2 per game, while leading the team in 3-pointers made (47) and in free-throw percentage (74.7).
Nugent was at times a dominant scorer, dropping in Ellsworth’s first 18 points against Ashland on Dec. 28, and getting 28 points in consecutive games in mid-January. The junior guard also showed the ability to score inside, after proving her outside prowess as a freshman and sophomore. Her ability to get to the rim and free-throw line was critical to the Panthers’ offense.
"Kaitlyn really came into her own as a basketball player this season,” Janke said. “I've told her what a true talent she is, as the skill necessary to become a really strong basketball player is so challenging. While she is the quintessential three-sport athlete, basketball has certainly become the place where she shines. Don't get me wrong, she's a very good softball and volleyball player, but she's got the ability to be a star basketball player and her junior season was an example of how good she already is.”
Janke said Nugent became a much stronger “student of the game” as a junior and that she learned how to play defense in various concepts.
“That, along with her array of offensive abilities makes her an outstanding player,” Janke said. “Given an offseason of development, there's not much for limits on how good she can become. We are sure excited to welcome her back for a senior campaign."
Like Nugent, Earney received MBC recognition for the second-straight season. The sophomore, who showed her ability to play all positions for the Panthers, finished with 14.1 points per game and led the Panthers in field goals made (84) and steals (46).
Earney was a consistent threat on the offensive end for Ellsworth and was someone the opposition had be aware of on both ends, considering her knack for making steals on defense.
Earney's top-scoring nights were both MBC wins, as she dropped 27 points each night in wins over Osceola and Baldwin-Woodville. She also hit on 73 percent of her free throws on the year, recording 52 successful shots from the free-throw line.
"Autumn had some outstanding games for us during her sophomore campaign, and when she played well, we either won or were in our games until the very end,” Janke said. “As our season progressed, she learned how to get some higher percentage shots from in close, and that is going to be an area where she'll continue to develop. Her athletic ability makes her very difficult for opposing teams to match up with her defensively.”
Janke said Earney has what basketball coaches refer to as 'good length', referring to her ability to use her long wingspan to reach loose balls.
“She gets her hands on a lot of passes and is going to be a force over the next two seasons in the MBC, we believe,” Janke said.