BISMARCK, N.D. - Two sets of teammates highlight this year's North Dakota Class A girls all-state basketball team.
Leading the way are Lilly Keplin and Lauren Ware, who led 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 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.
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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.
"Lilly is very talented naturally offensively, but she made a tremendous amount of progress defensively during her career," Metz said. "She's leaving the program leading in a number of statistical categories."
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.
"Lauren's a special player and a special person," Metz said. "She works very hard and is always willing to listen and learn."
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. A second-team all-state pick last year, she averaged 16.1 points, four assists, three rebounds and 2.5 assists, helping Mandan to a fifth-place finish at the state tournament.
"Megan and Kennedy have been very beneficial to our program the last five years," said Mandan coach Abby Thomas. "They spent a lot of extra time in the gym developing their games and it paid off. They both are extremely talented players and they've meant a tremendous amount to our program through the years.
"They did a nice job showing what needs to be done to become a good player."
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 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 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 per game, but Jacobson said she also brings plenty of intangibles.
Reile's a great teammate. She doesn't look to get herself involved, she looks to get her teammates the ball," Jacobson said. "She's a very unselfish ballplayer. She makes everybody around her better."
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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.