By Zach James Herald Assistant Sports Editor
The Clinton Herald
---- — CLINTON — Despite Prince of Peace having a middle-of-the-road record in Tri-Rivers Conference play this past season, coaches were very high on Irish senior Karli Atkinson.
Atkinson was the lone Irish player who found herself on the All-Conference East first team, along with two Marquette Catholic players.
The first team includes the state’s leading scorer, Shelby Hembera from Cedar Valley Christian, Lizzie Meier of Easton Valley, a pair of Marquette Catholic juniors, just to name a few.
“She deserves to be in that group,” said Irish coach Scott Maddasion. “She was a great asset to our program, and she never quit or gave up.”
Atkinson was the team’s second leading scorer, but led the team in points a game with 8.7. The Irish senior led the team in rebounds with 166 rebounds and 40 assists.
“The numbers she put up considering she missed five games, that’s outstanding,” Maddasion said. “She almost averaged a double-double, so that shows you how determined she is.”
Maddasion points out that Atkinson may not be the most vocal of leaders, but what she did bring to the Irish this season is leading by example.
“No matter what she was asked of her to do, she’s going to do it with the best of her ability, and the other girls saw that, and fed off of that,” Maddasion said. “She didn’t have to be vocal, because her actions were a lot louder; every coach wants someone like that on their team.”
Maddasion said that there is a possibility that Atkinson will play at the next level — Clarke College and Coe College have both expressed interest in Atkinson.
Meanwhile, up in Bellevue, Marquette coach Jim Kettman was pleased to find out that juniors Nicole Blum (unanimous selection) and Blake Banowetz were on the East first team following a 16-7 campaign.
Blum led the Mohawks in scoring, assists and steals. Blum scored just under 14 points a game for the Mohawks, had 48 assists and 53 steals.
“She had a pretty good season, and I think she definitely deserved the honor,” said Mohawks coach Jim Kettmann during a telephone interview. “She really likes the game, she wants to get better; she shoots outside all the time when she gets the chance in the summer.
“I’m looking for big things out of her next year,” Kettmann said.
Kettmann gave Banowetz high praise, but says there’s one thing about her he’d like to see this summer into the fall.
“She had a pretty good year, but she doesn’t know how good she can be,” Kettmann said. “She sometimes is too unselfish; she was more willing to give it up and shoot it.
“She’s come a long way, and someone was going to have to step up after our seniors left last year, and Blake did just that,” Kettman said. “The thing is, Blake and Nicole have a lot of room to grow yet this summer, and I’m excited to see how much progress they make.”
Banowetz averaged nine points a game for the Mohawks and was second in rebounding with 137 rebounds behind second-team honoree Grace Sieverding.
Kettmann was also named one of the two coaches of the year in the East division as well.
“I think what happened was that (the committee) looked at our record, and we did have a pretty good season, but I was surprised,” Kettmann said.
Meier was the lone River Hawk to find herself on the first-team while Gabby Vasconcelos was named to the East second-team. Brooke Smithson is placed in the honorable mention category to round out the Easton Valley honorees.
“I think she is the kind of kid you would love to coach,” Kettman said of Meier. “She looked like she knew how to play the game; I think Lizzie is well deserving of a first-team honor.”
The second-team representatives from Prince of Peace are seniors Lauren Pittman and Andrea Aquilani.
“Lauren had the most varsity experience going into this year having played the last three years at the varsity level,” Maddasion said. “She’s been there, done that. She stepped up and she hit the ground running with our point guard position when we didn’t have a true point guard.”
Pittman was second to Atkinson in steals with 34.
Aquilani was the Irish’s deep shooter as she made 38 of the team’s 50 3-pointers this season.
“She was our spark,” Maddasion says of Aquilani. “One thing that she really wasn’t known for is that she was a great ball handler. She helped Lauren get the ball up the floor, and that was overlooked, because it wasn’t necessarily anything flashy, but she was a tremendous help in that regard.”
Jackie Kokjohn received honorable mention status while Marquette’s Anne Nolting did as well.
Calamus-Wheatland had three girls receive honors — Rebecca Vanderheiden (first), senior McKenna Luepker (second), and sophomore Nina Cray as honorable mention.
ALL TRI-RIVERS CONFERENCE
Shelby Hembera, jr., Cedar Valley Christian; Lizzie Meier, sr., Easton Valley; Rebecca Vanderheiden, jr., Calamus-Wheatland; Nicole Blum, jr., Marquette Catholic; Brianna Schurbon, sr., Midland; Alaina Martensen, sr., Midland; Karli Atkinson, sr., Prince of Peace; Blake Banowetz, jr., Marquette Catholic.
Morgan Peterson, jr., Midland; Gabby Vasconcelos, sr., Easton Valley; Grace Sieverding, sr., Marquette Catholic; Andrea Aquilani, sr., Prince of Peace; Lauren Pittman, sr., Prince of Peace; McKenna Luepker, sr., Calamus-Wheatland.
Brooke Smithson, jr., Easton Valley; Mackenzie Peterson, jr., Midland; Nina Cray, so., Calamus-Wheatland; Jackie Kokjohn, sr., Prince of Peace; Anne Nolting, jr., Marquette Catholic; Emily Masterson, fr., Cedar Valley Christian.
Coaches of the Year — Nathan Becker, Midland; Jim Kettmann, Marquette Catholic.
Nicole Miller, jr., North Linn; Taylor Huber, so., Alburnett; Nicole Kudrna, sr., Maquoketa Valley; Andrea Hughson, sr., East Buchanan; Sarah Matus, jr., Springville; Brooke Wooten, sr., Maquoketa Valley; Libby Falconer, sr., North Linn.
Madison Miller, sr., Alburnett; Kaylee Naber, jr., East Buchanan; Danielle Heiken, jr., Lisbon; Abby Jay, jr., Maquoketa Valley; Maddie Boer, jr., North Linn; Megan Wagaman, so., Springville.
Sam Ross, jr., Alburnett; Ashley Iehl, sr., Central City; Kylee Cooksley, so., East Buchanan; Paige Felderman, sr., Lisbon; Megan Mensen,so., Maquoketa Valley; Morgan Boer, so., North Linn; Tracy Kliburg, sr., Springville.
Coaches of the Year — Scott Moenck, Maquoketa Valley; Brian Wheatley, North Linn.