Three Lions all-state: Stewart leads state champions as first-team selection
It is fitting that undefeated state champion Bishop Ryan has the most players of any team represented on this year’s Class B all-state team as voted on by the North Dakota Associated Press Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association.
It is also fitting that the state tournament’s most valuable player, Ryan sophomore Hannah Stewart, leads three Lion selections with her spot on the first team. The 6-foot-2 forward averaged 21.9 points, 10.5 rebounds, 4.7 steals and 3.2 blocks for the 27-0 Lions.
“I think she’s just gotten mentally tougher,” said Julie Stewart, Ryan’s coach and Hannah’s mother. “She’s played with a lot of confidence this year and she played with a lot of consistency.”
Stewart recorded game highs of 27 points and 11 rebounds in the 54-50 championship win over Central Cass. Playing alongside second-team all-state selections Anika Rovig and Gabbie Bohl, Stewart demanded the most attention with her dominant physical play in the post and the development of her mid-range game.
“She’s got really good hands and I think that’s just really nice to have that sort of target,” Julie Stewart said.
Stewart is joined on the first team by Central Cass senior Hannah Breske, Hillsboro-Central Valley senior Taylor Henningsgard, Lakota-Adams-Edmore sophomore Fallyn Freije and Grant County senior Ashley Bentz.
Breske – the District 2, Region 1 and co-Class B senior-athlete of the year – helped the Squirrels to the state championship game for the third time in four years. She was a second-team selection in 2012 and finished her career with 1,546 points, 470 rebounds, 199 assists and 124 blocks. Breske will play for North Dakota State University.
“She’s just a phenomenal basketball player and a team leader,” Central Cass coach Ryan Mears said. “Just her love of the game and time she puts in you can really see.
“She never got rattled, never got too excited, never got too down. She was just always focused.”
Henningsgard, a 5-7 guard, shared the Class B senior-athlete of the year honor with Breske and is a first-team pick for the second time. Henningsgard averaged 14.2 points, 6.7 assists, four rebounds and 2.7 steals on her way to being named the Region 2 player of the year. She finished with 1,651 career points.
“The strength she has is in her ballhandling and her vision and her ability to keep everyone involved,” H-CV coach Rick Sondrol said. “She shoots a high percentage but she doesn’t take a lot of shots. Her passing is phenomenal.”
Freije, who joins Stewart as the only underclassmen voted first team, was also a first-team selection as a freshman. The Raiders’ top threat averaged 16.9 points, 9.5 rebounds and three blocks.
“This year, playing with her older sister, they had such a connection those two playing together,” L-A-E coach Jon Berg said. “It’s like they knew what they were going to do. Still having Fallyn coming back and everything she brings to the table is a huge building block there. Everything we do is going to be focusing on her one way or another.”
Senior sister Ashtin Freije was named to the second team.
Bentz rounds out the first team after averaging 20 points, 10 rebounds, six assists and six steals for the Coyotes, who won Region 5 and took eighth at state. She was a first-team selection in 2012 and second team in 2011.
“Being at the state tournament for the first time this year was really amazing and to make first team again this year is just kind of icing on the cake,” Bentz said.
Area second-team selections
Bishop Ryan is poised to make at least two more runs at state titles with the combination of 6-2 sophomore forwards Bohl and Stewart. Bohl is a first-time all-state selection and averaged 14.9 points, 5.7 rebounds and shot 64 percent from the field.
“She had a great year for us,” Julie Stewart said. “She has a scorer’s mentality, really uses her lower body well to get herself in scoring positions, which was especially evident in the state tournament.”
Rovig will have a chance to win a second straight title in her senior year. She established herself as one of the top guards in the state as a junior. She averaged 11.1 points and 7.1 assists.
“Anika’s court vision is just outstanding,” Stewart said. “She really has a feel for the game. Her basketball IQ continues to improve and she understands there’s still room for improvement as a whole group.”
Region 8 player of the year McKayla Haugeberg, a senior at Watford City, is also on the second team. Haugeberg averaged 15.5 points, 6.1 rebounds, 6.1 assists and 5.8 steals to pace the Wolves to a spot in the region championship. She finished with more than 1,000 career points.
“I think she’s well deserving of that,” WC coach John Zenz said. “She’s been a heck of a ballplayer for us this year and over the years. She’s definitely a team leader off and on the court. She leads by example. She basically contributes in all areas of the game.”
Benson County senior Sara Schwanke made the second team following a balanced year averaging 15.6 points, 6.2 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 3.1 steals and 1.7 blocks. Her turnaround jump shot was a key part of the sixth-place Wildcats’ state run.
“She’s not afraid of anybody or anything and she’s not afraid to go after you,” BC coach Kent Neppl said. “The turnaround jump shot is a hard thing to defend in girls basketball.”