First ?Top 10? selections honor efforts of area athletes

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN BY BRIAN HUXMAN
To recognize the enjoyment they brought area basketball fans this season and the contributions they made to their school, the Free Press has selected its first ?Free Press Top 10? high school basketball players in the newspaper?s circulation area.



The 10 boys and 10 girls were selected on the basis of their on-court performance and input from their coaches. The are listed alphabetically.



BOYS? TOP 10



— Grant Brubacher, Hillsboro. The junior point guard continued to improve his own play as well as his teammates? as the season progressed.



When teammate Tyson Ratzlaff was forced to sit out, Brubacher stepped up his scoring to compensate. He led the team in scoring and was the ball handler coach Darrel Knoll needed for his team to be successful.



— Eric Carlson, Centre. The senior came on strong late in the season and, along with teammate Brad Hajek, led the Cougars to a late flurry of close, competitive games after a slow start to the season.



Carlson played both inside and outside and was effective in all facets of the game.



— Winston Goertz-Giffen, Goessel. Averaging more than 17 points a game, this junior was the leading scorer not only for Goessel, but for all boys? teams in the Free Press area.



His athletic ability and uncanny knack for the basket helped take the Bluebirds within one victory of a state tournament berth.



— Brad Hajek, Centre. This sharp-shooting senior led the Cougars in scoring and his long-range jumper helped stretch the opposing defense.



— Justin Hett, Marion. Hett stood tall in the middle for the Warriors this season and provided consistent play on a team which struggled early. The 6-2 senior averaged nine points and six rebounds per game, and often guarded the opposition?s best post player.



?Justin was a fun player to coach because he worked hard every day,? coach Chris Moddelmog said. ?This last year, he worked hard to improve his offensive skills, and he became more of a scoring threat and a better shooter. We will miss him next season.?



— Jake Hoppes, Canton-Galva. Hoppes gave the Eagles a consistent inside game this season, scoring almost 11 points per game. With his size and athleticism, he came on strong late in the season.



He and Jake Warren gave the Eagles an effective inside-outside combination this season.



— Landon Jordan, Goessel. An athletic junior, Jordan provided stability for the Bluebirds and stepped up his game when it counted most, including 47 points in Goessel?s two sub-state games.



Jordan averaged more than 11 points per game and was a threat on offense each time down the floor.



— Tyson Ratzlaff, Hillsboro. Although hampered by a broken foot, Ratzlaff proved why he is considered one of the top players in Class 3A. His athleticism, court awareness and on-court leadership helped make the Trojans a tough competitor this season.



Ratzlaff averaged 13 points a game. Before his foot injury forced him to miss several games, the senior led his team in rebounds, assists and steals.



— Jeremy Sheffler, Peabody-Burns. A junior, Sheffler helped lead a resurgent Warrior team to a competitive level after several years of frustration. Sheffler was described by his coach as being a leader both on and off the court.



The junior averaged twelve points, five rebounds, two assists and two steals per game. He led the Warriors in scoring this season.



— Jake Warren, Canton-Galva. Warren was the Eagles? floor leader this season and top scorer for the second year in a row. He used his athletic build and quickness to drive to the basket while his sharp outside shooting made him a double threat. The senior scored more than 14 points per game.







GIRLS? TOP 10



— Renee Ecklund, Centre. Teammate Erica Hatterman had a great season, but she was helped inside by the solid play of this junior forward, who averaged 10 points and eight rebounds per game.



?Renee has stepped her game up to help us fill the void from our graduates of last year,? coach Greg Wyatt said. ?She is a finesse player who can shoot it from the outside or take it to the basket.?



— Tara Goerzen, Goessel. Only a freshman, Goerzen improved throughout the season and will be a key player in Goessel?s future. Goerzen hit 52 3-pointers this season and averaged 11.5 points a game. She scored 26 points in one game this year and led Goessel in steals with three per game.



— Erica Hatterman, Centre. A preseason all-state selection, Hatterman put together an impressive senior season. She averaged more than 20 points per game and has been a four-year varsity player.



?Erica has done just about everything possible to help us be successful not only this year but for the past four years,? coach Wyatt said. ?She is a very intense competitor. There probably isn?t enough I can say about her play.?



— Jill Hein, Hillsboro. The athleticism of this sophomore has yet to be harnessed, but when Hein played within herself this season, few defenders could contain her.



The 3-pointer became her weapon of choice, and Hein hit as many as four in a game. She averaged almost 10 points per game. Look for Hein to become the Trojans? key player next season. She could be as good a performer as the Trojans have had.



— Andrea Jones, Peabody-Burns. Jones led the Warriors to their first win in two seasons early this year as the program took a solid stride toward respectability.



Jones was the leading scorer for Peabody-Burns, averaging six points per game.



— Angela Kroeker, Hillsboro. The top scorer and spiritual leader for the Trojans, Kroeker averaged more than 17 points and led Hillsboro to an MCAA Mid Division crown and state tournament berth.



The senior guard gave the Trojans a consistent offensive weapon, at times taking over games with drives to the basket and solid free-throw shooting. Her ability on defense is often overlooked.



— Melissa Moffitt, Marion. Averaging just under seven points per game, Moffitt led her team in scoring and was a solid, consistent contributor. She led her team to four wins this season.



— Renata Pavlikova, Goessel. This senior foreign exchange student from Slovakia made a major impact this season, averaging seven points per game and leading the team in assists. She was second on the team in steals and finished the year with 27 3-pointers on 33 percent shooting.



— Dana Regier, Canton-Galva. The Eagles? senior leader, Regier led her team in scoring, averaging more than nine points per game. Canton-Galva competed in a difficult league, playing games against Moundridge, Pretty Prairie and Little River, all state qualifying teams in class 2A and 1A.



— Annika Schulze, Goessel. The Bluebird?s second-leading scorer, Schulze was a senior foreign exchange student from Germany. Schulze averaged nine points and led the Bluebirds in rebounding with almost five a game. She also led Goessel in blocked shots.

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