By ANDY KIRKALDY
ADDISON COUNTY — It proved to be an interesting girls’ basketball season in these parts, even if only one team, Mount Abraham, ended up with a winning record.
But in the meantime, both Middlebury and Otter Valley doubled their 2008 win totals, the Tigers with the help of sophomore point guard Katie Ritter, who headlines this edition of the Addison Independent Girls’ Basketball All-Star Team as the Player of the Year.
Coach Jared Bailey’s Tigers jumped from 5-16 last winter to 10-11, counting a first-round Division I playoff setback. With a pair of dramatic wins over the Mount Abraham Eagles and a tougher schedule, MUHS, probably the deepest local team, is also the unofficial local champion this season. Two more Tigers are honored here, and all three will be back next year, when MUHS will move to D-II and could do some damage.
Coach Connie LaRose’s Eagles finished a respectable 12-10 after a quarterfinal loss at eventual D-II champion Burr & Burton, a game in which Mount Abe led late in the third quarter. In the regular season the Eagles also defeated Milton, a D-II semifinalist, in a memorable four-overtime game. Three Eagles make repeat appearances on this all-star team.
Coach Ray Counter’s Otters improved from 5-16 to 10-12, including a D-II playoff win on the road. Like the Tigers, the Otters have their eyes on next winter: Only one regular will graduate. Three Otters are recognized here.
Coach Billy Waller knew his Vergennes team would have a rebuilding season: All five starters from the Commodores’ final four team of last winter graduated, and VUHS won just three times. The team played better down the stretch, however, and many players will return. A sophomore guard made the Independent squad.
Overall, picks for this winter’s team blended offense, defense, attitude, versatility and leadership in almost equal measures. Selections were made based on observation and on consultation with coaches. Congratulations to the following:
KATIE RITTER, SOPHOMORE GUARD, MUHS, PLAYER OF THE YEAR. Notes: Earns top-pick status and a repeat appearance on this team with local high average of 12.2 points per game while adding 4.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 4.3 steals a night ... Coachable, hard-working team player with a positive attitude ... Point guard with size, speed, excellent ballhandling skills and floor vision, three-point shooting range, and the ability to finish ... Fine on-ball and smart off-ball defender with quick hands.
Bailey’s Quotes: “She’s consistent, night-in and night-out ... She rarely forces her offense. She gets her points within the flow of the offense and the game ... She’s a complete player. This is a girl who has led the team for two years in a row in every major statistical category ... She has a variety of skills ... If Katie had a bad offensive night, it didn’t mean Katie had a bad night ... She pushes herself to get better every day in the gym.”
PAIGE WENER, SENIOR GUARD, MOUNT ABE. Notes: Tireless defender and two-time Independent all-star who averaged 8.2 points on 48 percent shooting, team highs of 3.4 steals and 3.0 assists, and 4.0 rebounds ... Worked hard to get better at handling the ball and making decisions while sharing point guard duties this winter ... Effective in the paint as well as on the perimeter ... Read passing lanes well and led Mount Abe in steals.
LaRose’s Quotes: “She just leads by her work ethic ... She pushes herself, and by doing that she pushes others ... She has a never-say-die attitude. I love her defense. She plays defense until she drops ... She has the best post moves of anybody I had on the team ... She’s a kid who plays with a tremendous amount of heart.”
JEN LOYER SOPHOMORE GUARD, MOUNT ABE. Notes: Strong, highly-skilled guard who made strides in harnessing her abilities this year, averaging 10.1 points, 3.2 steals, 2.5 assists and 4.0 rebounds ... Repeat Independent all-star who has great anticipation making passes on offense and reading passing lanes on defense ... Has quick hands on defense and on the boards ... Strong finisher in the lane and accurate shooter from the arc.
LaRose’s Quotes: “She has the ability to read the court like only one or two I’ve ever had ... She can handle the ball in traffic with either hand ... She puts the ball where you want it when you make the cut you should make ... People who know the game recognize what she brings to the game ... She showed growth in all facets of the game this year.”
KRISTY PINKHAM, SOPHOMORE GUARD, OV. Notes: Blossomed in her second year on the OV varsity into the team’s most reliable contributor at both ends ... Averaged roughly 9.0 points, 4.0 rebounds, 3.0 steals and 2.0 assists ... Excellent all-around offensive and defensive player with a fearless attitude, speed, quickness and solid skills.
Counter’s Quotes: “Kristy is a competitor. She wants to do well at anything she does. She has that drive ... She is the best female athlete at Otter Valley right now ... She works to improve herself. She wants to be the best ... She really wants the ball in her hand when a team is coming at you with an all-out blitz. No fear ... I’m looking forward to the next two years, and I’m glad she’s on my side.”
JADE DINGLER, SENIOR GUARD, MOUNT ABE. Notes: Speedy repeat Independent all-star who led the Eagles with 10.2 points per game ... Added the ability to take the ball to the basket to her extensive shooting range ... Improved in all aspects of the game to average 2.7 steals, 2.4 assists and 2.3 rebounds ... Scored in double figures in five of Mount Abe’s final seven games.
LaRose’s Quotes: “Jade’s an extremely quick, athletic player. Physically, she’s strong ... She did a good job of attacking the rim this year ... She worked hard at defense ... Jade made some beautiful passes ... Nobody worked harder on her offensive game ... She’s a great kid, and she’s got a great attitude.”
JULIE KETCHAM, SENIOR FORWARD, OV. Notes: Tough, physical forward with a nose for the ball on defense, averaging a local high of 5.0 steals a game ... Slowed by an early-season injury, but still managed to average 8.0 points and 4.0 rebounds ... Aggressive offensive player and team leader who gave OV a needed inside presence.
Counter’s Quotes: “Julie this year showed senior leadership ... She’s a gamer. She’s there to play ... She really improved in her rebounding and in her defense ... She and Kristy were the ones who really attacked the basket.”
ALLISON PROVOST, SOPHOMORE GUARD, VUHS. Notes: Led VUHS with 9.6 points and 1.7 steals per game ... Good three-point shooter who adapted to being defended on the arc by taking the ball to the basket ... Improved defensively, especially off the ball, by learning to read opposing offenses ... Also averaged 3.3 rebounds and 1.7 assists.
Waller’s Quotes: “She’s diversified her game quite a lot. It wasn’t all just outside shots. She was able to drive to the basket and get to the foul line ... Late in the year she doubled her rebounding output ... She’s good at anticipating and jumping the (passing) lanes ... Her ballhandling was much improved ... She developed a feeling for driving and reading the situations.”
AMANDA SANDERSON, JUNIOR FORWARD, OV. Notes: Relentless worker who made the most of her ability to lead all local rebounders with 9.0 per game ... Versatile on-ball defender who could guard point guards or post players and averaged 2.0 steals ... Started to score more consistently late in the year and raised her average to 5.0 points.
Counter’s Quotes: “Amanda is the best defender on the team ... She may not be the quickest (defender), but she certainly is the smartest ... She’s a tough post defender. She may not have the height, but she really annoys them. She’s a non-stop worker ... Her work ethic is second to none ... Sometimes it was just amazing the rebounds she would pull down.”
NICOLE BROWN, SOPHOMORE CENTER, MUHS. Notes: Low-post scoring threat who averaged 7.3 points and 4.8 rebounds despite being slowed by a midseason injury ... Finished the season strong ... Markedly improved her catching and finishing ability, especially in transition ... Reliable defender who played smart positionally both on the ball and off the ball.
Bailey’s Quotes: “Her ability to catch and do something with the basketball increased exponentially in the course of the season ... She’s got quick feet for a forward. She’s pretty agile in the post ... She really changed a lot of shots and didn’t get in foul trouble on defense ... She moved really well off the ball on offense and defense.”
KAYLA WHITTEMORE, JUNIOR GUARD, MUHS. Notes: Hard-working team leader and co-captain who routinely succeeded at a critical assignment: guarding the other team’s leading scorers, forwards or guards ... Improved her shooting touch and averaged 5.3 points a game, also chipped in with 3.7 rebounds and 2.0 steals per night.
Bailey’s Quotes: “Whatever you asked her to do, she’d do it 110 percent ... We always asked her to guard opponents’ best offensive players ... She’s making something happen out there. She’s the quiet storm ... She’s the heart and soul of the team ... When you say what Middlebury basketball is about, you point to Kayla. She deserves every bit of recognition that comes her way.”