Here’s a close look at the 2015-16 Enquirer All-Area girls basketball team, as selected by area coaches and the Enquirer sports staff:
Fuller had a breakout junior campaign for Athens, putting together a well-rounded season in which she was the Indians leading rebounder and passer.
The junior forward led Athens to a 16-6 record as the three-year varsity member earned first team All-Big Eight Conference honors after averaging 9.8 points, 7.7 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.9 blocks per game.
“Noelle is my most versatile player,” said Athens coach Calvin Quist. “She can play any position on offense and guard any position on defense. She has an excellent basketball IQ and is a very unselfish player.”
Wheeler may have sacrificed some personal statistics to better her team, as she played out of position in leading Athens to a 16-6 record and a Class D district championship.
The sophomore point guard averaged 10.9 points, 4.0 rebounds, 1.1 assists and 1.4 steals while earning first team All-Big Eight Conference honors.
“Jillayne is my best offensive player,” Quist said. “She did an excellent job running our team at the point guard position, even though she is a more natural shooting guard. What I admire about Jillayne the most is her outstanding attitude and desire and work ethic to become the best player she can become.”
No girls basketball player at Bellevue has ever had a year like Whitcomb did in 2015-16 in what was a record-breaking sophomore season.
While leading Bellevue to a 17-7 record and a Class D district championship, Whitcomb broke the program’s single-season scoring benchmark with 403 points. She averaged 16.8 points, 6.2 rebounds, 3.8 steals and 2.3 assists while earning Class D honorable mention All-State honors from both the Associated Press and the Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan.
“Bailey’s work ethic and leadership skills are unparalleled,” said Bellevue coach Kayla Whitmyer. “Bailey continually pushes herself to be a better athlete and person and this has manifested itself through her vast improvement she showcased this year. She is a kid every coach wants on her team; she never settles for mediocrity and leads our team with confidence and poise.”
As teammate Bailey Whitcomb posted a record-breaking season at Bellevue, Shannon ensured that no opponent could focus solely on one player.
The junior guard gave the Broncos a formidable one-two punch along with Whitcomb, helping the Broncos win a program-record 17 games. She averaged 9.5 points, 2.0 steals and 2.0 assists while earning second team All-Southern Central Athletic Association honors.
“Casie is a tenacious defender,” Whitmyer said. “She sets the tone for our team with her grit and determination. She leaves every last drop of effort on the court and perseveres through adversity with resilience.”
One half of Climax-Scotts’ identical twin sister combo with Taylor Macomber, Sydney Macomber made opponents pick their poison on defense.
The senior guard helped the Panthers to a 20-3 season and a Class D district championship by leading the team at 3.2 assists per game along with 7.6 points, 3.6 rebounds and 3.4 steals per game.
“Sydney receives less recognition than her twin sister mostly because she scores fewer points. However, we asked her to first be our floor leader, and second, shoot when the opportunity presented itself,” said coach Josh Vick. “However, in our fast-paced attack, the ball didn’t always see its way back into Sydney’s hands. That means, when she did score, usually she had to create it on her own… Alongside her sister Taylor, Sydney was the face of our team. When teams prepared to face us, they game planned to stop the twins.”
Taylor Macomber could shoot the 3-ball with the best of them, but she was much more than a gunner for Climax-Scotts.
The senior guard led the Panthers to a 20-3 record, a Class D district championship and a regional runner-up finish by averaging 13.5 points, 4.7 rebounds, 4.5 steals and 2.6 assists per game. She shot 57-of-153 (37 percent) from beyond the arc and had an impressive assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.23 while earning Class D honorable mention All-State honors from the Associated Press.
“Taylor is a complete player in a small package – she says she is 5’4” but I say only with high heels on,” Vick said. “All jokes aside, Taylor is a stud on both ends of the floor. She will guard the opposing teams best player, then come down on offense and stick a three ball right in their eye.”
The varsity lights were never too bright for Rzepka, who scratched the surface of her potential in a standout freshman season for Coldwater.
The combo guard/forward led the Cardinals to a 14-9 season and was voted team MVP. She averaged 10.1 points, 5.0 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 2.3 steals per game while earning All-Interstate Eight Conference honors.
“Malorie brought a level of intensity and competitiveness at both ends of the floor, both during practice and in games, that seemed to spread throughout the rest of the team,” said coach Ken Smoker. “Her defense and quick scoring ability was a big key in each of our five fourth quarter-comeback victories. She is an extremely coachable kid who has the possibility of becoming much better if she continues with the work ethic she exhibited this season.”
Nusbaum was the straw that stirred the drink for Gull Lake, creating opportunities for herself and her teammates.
The senior guard was the unquestioned floor leader for the Blue Devils during a 13-9 season. A third-year varsity member, she averaged 10.5 points while leading the team in assists (2.5 per game) and steals (3.0 per game).
“Lauren is our leader in every sense of the word,” said coach Mike Balcom. “She is the ultimate team player, often sacrificing her own stats for the success of the team. She often drew the best defender of our opponent. Lauren has been leading by example on this team since last season ended. Her dedication to our team and to her teammates is off the charts.”
Homer was hit hard by graduation losses from a 2014-15 team that advanced all the way to the Class C state quarterfinals. But McCone stepped up in breakout sophomore season that ensured the Trojans will be in good hands for at least the next two seasons.
McCone led the Trojans to a 20-4 overall record and a Big Eight Conference championship. She knocked down a team-best 49 3-pointers and led Homer in scoring at 11.7 points per game while adding 2.0 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 3.2 steals per game.
In her third varsity season, Delmotte emerged as a leader for Marshall and played a pivotal role in the Redhawks Class B state championship season.
The forward and lone senior came through with some big shots during the state tournament, and finished the year averaging 8.6 points and 4.6 rebounds per game while shooing a stellar 76 percent from the free throw line. She has committed to Kellogg Community College where she will play both volleyball and basketball.
“Emily improved tremendously this year,” said coach Sal Konkle. “ She earned a starting role this year. She led our team at the free throw line. She is a very versatile athlete. She improved in every physical aspect of the game but her improvement in her understanding of the game really helped our team this year.”
The bigger the games, the better Konkle played.
The versatile junior guard and third-year varsity player helped the Redhawks in a variety of ways during a 26-1 season. In the Class B state championship game, she scored a team-high 13 points to lift the program to its first state title. For the season, she averaged 8.5 points, 4.6 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 3.4 steals on her way to earning honorable mention All-State in Class B by the Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan.
“Jill is a competitor,” said coach Sal Konkle. “She is our most physical and gritty player who does all the little things. She led us in steals, deflections and charges taken. She is a floor leader with a high basketball IQ. She is able to score off the dribble or from the perimeter.”
It’s difficult to separate the play of Carlee Long from that of her identical twin sister, Taryn Long, as the duo worked so well off one another.
Carlee Long had the ball in her hands more often than not as the Redhawks point guard, breaking pressure and keeping the team in an offensive rhythm. Defensively, she was simply a pest to opposing guards. During Marshall’s Class B state championship season, she averaged 5.1 points, 2.2 assists and 1.7 steals.
“Carlee has started at point guard for two years. She averages less than two two turnovers a game,” said Konkle. “She is fierce competitor and an outstanding defender. She leads our team by example and has a work ethic second to none. She has improved her shooting and ball handling which helped her lead from the point.”
Taryn Long was one of Marshall’s best defenders during a state championship season, but it was her improvement on the offensive end that really put the Redhawks over the top.
The junior guard frustrated opponents on the defensive end, as she and identical twin sister Taryn Long could seamlessly switch who they were guarding when fighting through screens. Offensively, she hit some big shots down the stretch and averaged 4.5 points and 2.5 assists per game to help Marshall to a 26-1 season and its first Class B state title.
“Taryn is a two-year varsity player. She moved to a starter this year and as her confidence increased so did her offense,” said Konkle. “On the other hand, she has always been an incredible defender. She and her twin Carlee set the tempo for our defense. Taryn had two outstanding games in the state semi’s and finals. She has improved her ball handling and shooting which benefited our team.”
Tucker had a great junior season in leading her team to a Class B state championship, but it was her two late free throws in the state semifinals that prompted one tv analyst to suggest that “the people of Marshall should build a statue to Nikki.”
Tucker’s two free throws with 1.4 seconds remaining lifted Marshall to a one-point semifinal victory over Bay City John Glenn. The junior forward finished the season averaging 12.5 points, 8.0 rebounds, 2.0 steals and 2.0 assists per game on her way to earning Class B first team All-State honors from the Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan and honorable mention honors from the Associated Press.
“Nikki had a tremendous postseason in which she averaged a double-double,” said Konkle. “She is an inside and outside threat and a tremendous leader on the court. Her defense is definitely underrated as she is a tremendous defender in the post.”
Feldpausch could do it all for the Eagles, as evident by the triple-double (17 points, 10 steals, 10 rebounds) she posted against rival Maple Valley.
The junior guard helped Olivet to a 13-9 record, averaging 12.8 points, 3.4 steals, 3.3 assists and 4.2 rebounds per contest.
“Solid player who just loves to play the game,” said coach Rob Fleming. “Competes very hard at both ends of the court and all the areas in-between.”
Jenny Smittendorf (Athens); Payton Robinson (Bronson); Abby Parks (Calhoun Christian); Kendall Galloway (Coldwater); Keagan Bower, Anessa Broker, Kali Tyler (Colon); McKenzie Hennessy (Climax-Scotts); Morgan Champion, Samantha Mohn, Lindsey VanderVeen (Delton Kellogg); Madelyne Standley (Galesburg-Augusta); Grace Clancy, Imani Morrow, Ashton Whitman (Gull Lake); Megan George, Courtney Willson (Homer); Natalie Tucker (Marshall); Elayna Hoyt, Stephanie VanMeter (Marshall Academy); Logan Kyre (Olivet); Zoe Aseltine, Payton Hines, Katie Spalding (Quincy); Jordynn Lloyd, Alexis Newbold, Elizabeth Schreur (Tekonsha); Autumn Carpenter, Rachel Wing (Union City)
Nick Buckley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 269-966-0652. Follow him on Twitter:@NickJBuckley