As the prep basketball season has come to a close it's time for me to hand out a few awards to some of the athletes who stood out to me throughout the year. Given that I am in the TV business I do not get to watch the majority of games because of deadline, so most of these awards are given to those who shined in the quarter or two when I was there shooting the game. I also don't get a chance to watch many teams outside of Missoula and especially outside of the west so I am going to limit my awards to western players only. Thanks for another awesome season the incredible state tournaments that were the definition of March Madness!
By Shaun Rainey
Girls player of the year:
Olivia "Livvy" Roberts- She led her Sentinel Spartans to back-to-back state Class AA championships suffering only one loss on the season. Roberts is a versatile player that has the size and strength to play the 5 spot, as well as the quickness and stroke to play out on the perimeter. She has talent, couple that with a hard work ethic and that makes for a dominating player.
Close second-Alycia Sims from Stevensville, who might have received the award if were not for sitting out a large portion of the year with an injury.
Boys player of the year:
Tres Tinkle-If there was any doubt in my mind who was going to be the player of the year going into the state tournaments, Tres put those to bed. He made ridiculous play after ridiculous play and led his team to the Class AA championship as a SOPHOMORE. Tres finds a way to put the ball in the basket in a variety of ways, like his insane shot to send the title game into overtime against Capital. He has great court awareness and has extreme poise especially for his age. The scary thing is that he has two more offseasons to improve his prep skills.
Close second-Ryan Edwards from Glacier, the big man was physically the most dominating player in the state but when it came to the head to head matchups Tinkle won 2-1.
Best "youngster" girls:
Lexi Duce, the sophomore from Hellgate was the bright spot on a young Knights team that struggled this season. The six footer has a great inside game and is a solid rebounder and ball handler for her size. She is surrounded by a lot of younger talent and I expect Hellgate girls to be much improved in the next two years, in large part because of Lexi.
Best "youngster" boys:
Jesse Sims-The forward from Stevensville was named the Class A state tourney MVP as he led his YellowJackets to a state championship. Sims, a 6-foot-4, 215-pound sophomore, averaged 18 points and 7.3 rebounds in three tournament games. He had 20 points and 10 rebounds in Stevensville's 73-59 championship victory over Billings Central. The dude is a beast and it will be fun watching him get even bigger and stronger in the years to come.
Most underrated girls:
Amanda Bearmedicine-The senior post from Sentinel doesn't get as much attention as Liz Harper or Livvy Roberts but she was equally important to that Spartan squad. She is the master of the turnaround shot and you can rely on her team needs one the most. She plays much bigger than her size and her fade away shot is nearly impossible to block.
Most underrated boys:
Devin Bray-The sophomore guard from Hellgate came out of nowhere when senior Brendan Jones went down with a knee injury. He is listed as 5'8, although I think that may be pushing it, and looks like he's 150 pounds dripping wet. But the kid can play. He is fearless, willing to take the big shot, and has that "IT" factor coaches talk about. He's part of the Super Sophomores for the Knights that should be favored to win the state title for the next two years.
Close second-Ethan Donaldson, Big Sky guard who always seems to get the job done and does it quietly.
Best girls coach:
Karly Tait+Karen Deden- The Flathead Bravettes did not look very good to start the season. They did not have any size and somehow Tait was able to get them to the state tournament. Karen Deedan won back to back titles with Sentinel with a Sentinel and although she had a lot of talent to work with we all know it can be hard to get that talent to play together. Just look at the LA Lakers for example.
Best boys coach:
Brian Ferriter-First year Big Sky Eagles coach took a one win team from a year ago to state. He brings energy, experience and stability to a program that has seen three different coaches in three years.
"Pain" player girls:
Dani Baker-The Big Sky guard suffered some sort of knee injury in the first half of the season. She sat out a few games and then returned with a knee brace. I believe one of her first games back was a crosstown matchup and I remember watching her in warming up and she was clearly limping and in a lot of pain. Yet, she buried a couple threes and hobbled back to the defensive end. She was clearly handicapped by the injury and we all know how frustrating it is to play hurt and she did it remarkably well.
"Pain" player boys:
Brendan Jones-The Hellgate Knights senior point guard dislocated his kneecap this year, which just sounds painful. He missed a handful of games but returned shortly where he split minutes with Devin Bray. He got even more banged up as the season progresses but didn't let that get him off the court as he was an intrical part in the Knights title run.
She got game:
Alycia Sims-The Stevensville center probably would have been the player of the year if it were not for injuries that kept her out for a chunk of the season. When she was hurt the YellowJackets were a completely different team, for example they scored 0 points in a quarter without her. She has great moves around the basket and can consistently knock down a fifteen footer. Although her days in a Stevi jersey are over, the good news is she is going to UM and will be a Lady Griz next year.
He got game:
Jared Schultz-The guard from Stevensville reminds me a lot of Big Sky's Cole Baker. Jared just looks at home when he is on the basketball court. He is a good shooter, a great ball handler and has an extremely high basketball IQ. He can curl off a screen catch and shoot, like no other player I have seen this year besides Tres Tinkle. I loved making the trip to Stevensville this year because I got to watch high quality basketball with Jared Schultz being the main contributor.
Close second-JJ Anderson-The Loyola Rams guard is really good. He is probably a better shooter than Schultz and might be the better player when he becomes a senior, but he too missed games because of a wrist injury so I decided to go with Schultz.
Best shooter girls:
Dani Baker-I didn't want to go with a the same player for two awards but Baker was simply the best and most consistent shooter I saw from the girls this year. Sadie Pilgeram from Helena Capital put on a shooting display when she played Sentinel in Missoula but that one game performance was not enough more me to put her ahead of Baker. Every time Dani shoots an open three I expect it to go in and that is always the sign of a great shooter.