BISMARCK — Two sets of teammates highlight this year’s North Dakota Class A girls basketball all-state team.
Leading the way are Lilly Keplin and Lauren Ware, who led Bismarck Century to its second straight state championship earlier in March. Both were named first team all-state for the second year in a row.
“Lilly and Lauren are great basketball players, great people and great teammates,” Century head coach Ron Metz said. “When I’d take them off the floor, usually one at a time because we didn’t want to have them both sitting, they were their teammates’ biggest cheerleaders.”
Joining Keplin and Ware on the first team are Megan Zander, the Miss Basketball winner, and Kennedy Harris from Mandan, along with Maggie Manson from West Fargo Sheyenne and Fargo Shanley’s Reile Payne. Zander, Harris and Manson are seniors. Payne is a junior.
Named to the second team were Taryn Dieterle of Valley City, Jalyn Helstad of Williston, Dickinson’s Gabby Jung and Jessica Mertens and Mattea Vetsch from Devils Lake.
Keplin, the runner-up for Miss Basketball, averaged 21 points, six rebounds and two assists per game. She stuck to her commitment to play at UND despite getting attention from the likes of Minnesota, Kansas State and Boise State during her senior season.
Ware, a 6-foot-5 junior, is drawing Division I interest from Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, Oregon and Oregon State among others. She surpassed 1,000 points and 300 blocks for her career. For the season she averaged 18.1 points, 11.5 rebounds and four blocks, earning all-state honors for the third time. She's a three-time all-state selection.
Zander and Harris were varsity regulars for the Braves since the eighth grade.
Zander, a versatile 6-foot wing player, earned first-team honors for the second year in a row. She averaged 19.1 points, 11.3 rebounds and three steals per game. Zander, Keplin and Manson have signed with UND.
Harris, a 5-5 point guard, signed with Northern State of the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference. A second-team, all-state pick last year, she averaged 16.1 points, 4.0 assists, 3.0 rebounds and 2.5 assists, helping Mandan to a fifth-place finish at the state tournament.
Manson was named to the first team for the second year in a row. A varsity player for five years for the Mustangs, she helped the program grow from 0-22 five years ago to a fourth-place finish at the state tournament in her final season.
“I don’t really think I can adequately sum up what Maggie’s meant to our program and how much she’s done for us,” said Sheyenne head coach Brent Hintz. “I don’t think you can replace a player like her. You just try to move forward and find another way.”
The 5-9 guard averaged 15.3 points, 3.5 assists, two steals and two rebounds per game. She finished her career with 1,599 points. Her impact goes beyond the numbers, her coach said.
“She has a very high basketball IQ. She understands and sees things most kids her age don’t,” Hintz said. “She took pride in helping build this program. She was always willing to help with young kids at camps. She loves being in the gym. Our seniors helped lay the foundation we can build on.”
Payne earned all-state honors for the second year in a row. A varsity player since the eighth grade, she already has surpassed 1,500 points.
“Reile is a terrific all-around player,” Shanley head coach Steve Jacobson said. “She can play any position on the court, basically.”
Payne posted sterling per-game averages of 20.7 points, 9.8 rebounds, 4.9 steals and 4.1 assists, but Jacobson said she also brings plenty of intangibles.
The second team:
Dieterle averaged a double-double for Valley City. The 6-0 senior accounted for 19.1 points, 10.1 rebounds and 4.9 assists per game.
Helstad helped Williston, the No. 7 seed in the West Region, make a surprise run to the state tournament. The University of Jamestown recruit averaged 14 points, nine rebounds and two assists for the Coyotes.
Jung, a North Dakota State commit, was the second-leading scorer in the West Region. The 5-10 senior averaged 19.5 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game for Dickinson.
Vetsch and Mertens helped Devils Lake advance to the state championship game for the first time since 2007 before losing to Century.
Vetsch, a 5-7 guard, averaged 11.6 points, 4.6 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 2.2 steals per game, earning all-state honors for the second year in a row.
Mertens, a 5-9 junior guard, averaged 12.6 points, five rebounds, 4.9 steals and 2.6 assists per game.