Winning a state title is hard.
Winning a state title when two First-Team All-State players face off against two more First Team All-Staters is just plain fun.
That’s the position the Aberdeen Central girls’ basketball program found itself in less than three weeks ago. The Golden Eagles, led by Class AA First Team picks Brianna Kusler and Paiton Burckhard, defeated Sioux Falls Washington 75-64 in the championship game.
In doing so, the Golden Eagles not only won the first state championship in school history, but gave head coach Dawn Seiler her first crown, as well.
Kusler and Burckhard provided the backbone for the Golden Eagles throughout a 24-1 season.
Kusler, a Northern State signee, averaged 15.1 points and 7.1 rebounds and totaled 51 assists and 54 steals.
” ‘Kus’ is the ultimate competitor,” Seiler said. “She’s the hardest worker every day in practice and in games. She raises the level of her teammates because of her ability to set them up.”
Burckhard, a sophomore who put together her first full season after playing only half of her freshman campaign due to injury, averaged 17.1 and 8.7 rebounds, both tops on the squad.
“Paiton is just really coming into her own,” Seiler said. “She’s a great athlete and she’s somebody we’ve just seen the surface scratched. We’re just beginning to see her game. She’s a competitor, too. She loves the game so much and she’s willing to do what needs to be done for the team to be successful.”
The state championship match pitted the efforts of Kusler and Burckhard against those of Washington’s first-team selections Sydney Arrington and Anna Goodhope, who led the Warriors to a 22-3 record during the season.
Arrington, who will play at Bemidji State next season, averaged 13.6 points and 5.5 rebounds per game, second only behind teammate Goodhope.
“Syd is a true back-to-the-basket post player,” said Washington head coach Jamie Parish. “She is able to score with both hands and works very hard on the offensive boards. Syd tore her labrum in October and played the entire season with her shoulder in a brace and will have surgery after Easter break. Her toughness was an example to her teammates.”
Goodhope, a North Dakota State commit, complemented Arrington’s post presence with a sharp-shooting outside presence, averaging 16.1 points and 6.3 rebounds per game.
“Anna is one of the most unique players I have ever coached,” Parish said. “She was able to shoot the three, drive to the rim, and post up. She improved her rebounding and passing as she matured during the last two years. She will be greatly missed.”
Other first team selections included Anna Brecht of Sioux Falls Lincoln and Sarah Carr of Huron.
Brecht turned into Class AA’s most prolific scorer, averaging 23.5 points per game while pulling down 5.5 rebounds per contest during her junior season. A Wisconsin-Green Bay commit, Brecht is just 183 points shy of breaking Lincoln’s all-time school scoring record, set in 1985.
The Patriots finished the regular season with a 16-7 mark and just missed a spot in the state tournament.
“Anna is a unique player, she is an amazing jump shooter,” said Lincoln head coach Matt Daly. “She is working hard to become and all-around player and will be a great D-I player.”
Carr averaged 19.2 points and 11.3 rebounds per game for the Tigers and finished her career with more than 1,200 points. The Tigers went 4-18 during the season.
“Sarah Carr is the true definition of a gym rat,” said Huron head coach Wade Stobbs. “She spent a lot of time in the gym working on her game. She would spend her open period at school in the Nordby Center shooting and working on different things to make herself better. Sarah has worked hard to get to where she is at.”
Second team selections included Katie Messler and Rachel Townsend of Sioux Falls O’Gorman, Izzy VanVeldhuizen of Sioux Falls Lincoln, Samantha Slaughter of Harrisburg, Sara Tvedt of Brookings and Abigail Johnson of Rapid City Central.
Class AA All-State
Anna Goodhope, Sioux Falls Washington, Sr.
Brianna Kusler, Aberdeen Central, Sr.
Paiton Burckhard, Aberdeen Central, So.
Anna Brecht, Sioux Falls Lincoln, Jr.
Sarah Carr, Huron, Sr.
Sydney Arrington, Sioux Falls Washington, Sr.
Katie Messler, Sioux Falls O’Gorman, Sr.
Izzy VanVeldhuizen, Sioux Falls Lincoln, Sr.
Samantha Slaughter, Harrisburg, Jr.
Sara Tvedt, Brookings, Sr.
Rachel Townsend, Sioux Falls O’Gorman, Sr.
Abigail Johnson, Rapid City Central, Jr.