Once in a great while a player will come through a program that changes the culture, and for McCook Central/ Montrose, Morgan Koepsell has been that player.
The 6-foot-2-inch senior was named the Class A girls’ basketball player of the year by the South Dakota Basketball Coaches Association.
The first team had six different teams represented, but the class was heavy on experience. Sophomore Madysen Vlastuin from Lennox was the only non-senior to make the team.
In addition to Koepsell the other seniors were Lexi Wadsworth of Hamlin, Aislinn Duffy from St. Thomas More, Haleigh Melstad from Vermillion and Carly Granum from Sioux Valley.
The honor of player of the year was given to Koespell after averaging 15.3 points per game, 11.4 rebounds per game, 3.4 assists per game while shooting 54 percent from the field. She led the Fighting Cougars to a fourth-place finish at the state tournament.
“Morgan is a special player that doesn’t come through a program very often,” MCM head coach Doug Durfee said. “She has continued to improve every aspect of her game throughout high school and has developed into a tremendous all-around player. She has not only led our team in statistical categories, but has also been a great team leader both on and off the floor.”
Joining Koespell on the first team was Aislinn Duffy from St. Thomas More, who led the Cavaliers to not only a 63-54 win in the state tournament semifinals over Koespell’s Fighting Cougars, but also had 26 points in the state championship game win against Madison.
It was the fifth straight title for STM.
The 6-foot senior averaged 13.8 points per game, 7.0 rebounds per game and shot 64 percent from the field.
She handled the pressure of being the latest in a long line of Duffys that have had success at STM, according to head coach Brandon Kandolin.
“I thought Aislinn continued to mature, grow and learn how to make herself a presence near the end of the season and the championship game was a great finish for her,” he said. “For Aislinn, she knows that she has expectations, but she came into her own. Each player I’ve had has brought something different and unique in their talents, and I thought she did a great job of being a presence inside and being able to score outside offensively.”
Another player who had a lethal combination of inside and outside scoring ability was Hamlin’s Lexi Wadsworth.
The 5-11 senior grabbed her 1,000th career rebound this season, on her way to averaging 19.5 points per game, 10.9 rebounds per game, 3.4 assists per game and shot 49 percent from the field.
Hamlin head coach Tim Koisti said her rebounding prowess is a metaphor for how she has played her entire career.
“I think that showcases what she brings to our team. Rebounding is purely hustle and heart. Those are the qualities Lexi brings to every game and every practice,” he said. “She has passed them on to her teammates, and that is a huge part of the success Hamlin has had.”
The Northern State commit leaves the Chargers with quite a legacy.
She graduates with the program record in points (1,730), rebounds (1,018), field goals made and attempted (588-1,166) and free throws made and attempted (488-657).
Sioux Valley’s Carly Granum is also leaving high school with many records, as one of the top shooters South Dakota has seen in a long time.
She graduates with a school record for 3-pointers with 337, is first in Class A history and second all time in the same category, and broke a record set in 2006 for most 3-pointers in a season with 122.
This season she averaged 20.5 points per game, 3.3 rebounds per game and shot 53 percent from behind the 3-point line.
“Carly is the best catch-and-shoot shooter in the state,” Sioux Valley head coach Jamie Granum said. “Teams really have no choice but to face guard her, as she needs little space to get her shot off. To shoot it at over 50 percent facing the defenses she did is unbelievable. She is the definition of a floor stretcher as her range has improved every year.
“Carly isn’t going to wow anyone with speed or quickness, but she moves well without the ball and really got good at coming off screens ready to shoot in a small space.”
Lennox’s Madysen Vlastuin still has a long way to go in her high school career, but the 6-foot sophomore is already making a name for herself as she was also voted to the first team.
Like many players on the first team, Vlastuin’s main attribute was her versatility, on her way to a 17.1 points per game, 8.5 rebounds per game and 42 percent from the field this season.
“What has impressed me the most about Madysen is her versatility on both ends of the floor. At 6-foot, she handles the ball skillfully and can score from the perimeter or the paint, depending on what is asked of her,” Lennox head coach Adam Quail said. “Defensively, Madysen is able to guard multiple positions and is one of the best rebounders in the state.
“She puts a lot of time in during the offseason, so it’s fun seeing that hard work pay off on the court.”
She also helped the Orioles win the Dakota XII Conference championship.
Vermillion head coach Jon Brooks describes Haleigh Melstad as a winner, and in leading the Tanagers to the state tournament that would seem to make sense.
The 5-9 senior averaged 16.3 points per game and grabbed 4.4 rebounds per game.
“She is one of the hardest working kids I’ve ever been around,” Brooks said. “She is always trying to find her way into the gym to work on her skills. Haleigh has always been a great scorer, but this year she was a great rebounder and took on a much larger role defensively for our team.
“She competes every day in practice and every time she steps on the floor for a game. Her desire to win is something I will always remember. I couldn’t be more proud of what her and her teammates have accomplished over the past five years at VHS.”
2018 Class A Girls
All-State Basketball Team
As voted on by the South Dakota Basketball Coaches Association
Morgan Koespell – SR, McCook Central/Montrose, Class A Player of the Year: 15.3 ppg, 11.4 rpg, 3.4 apg, 54% FG
Lexi Wadsworth – SR, Hamlin: 19.5 ppg, 10.9 rpg, 49% FG
Madysen Vlastuin – SO, Lennox: 17.1 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 42% FG
Aislinn Duffy – SR, St. Thomas More: 13.8 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 64% FG
Haleigh Melstad – SR, Vermillion: 16.3 ppg, 4.4 prpg, 38% FG, 57 steals
Carly Granum – SR., Sioux Valley: 20.5 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 2.2 apg, 51% FG, 53% 3-point FG
Jessi Giles – SR. Madison: 15 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 4.9 steals per game
Peyton Wingert – SR, Dakota Valley: 19.1 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 42% FG
Grace Imbery – SR, Aberdeen Roncalli: 15.3 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 3.1 apg, 46% FG
Tiara Flying Horse – SR. McLaughlin: 26.8 ppg, 9.4 rpg, 3.1 apg, 4.1 spg, 1.4 blocks per game
Kayde Fernholz – SO, Miller: 17.1 ppg, 12 rpg, 3.1 apg, 4.0 spg, 63% FG
Caelyn Valandra-Prue – FR, Todd County: 19.1 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 47% FG
Mandee Williamson – SR, Belle Fourche: 13.8 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 46% FG
Ashlyn Macdonald – SR, West Central: 11.2 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 1.4 apg
Tori Glazier – SR, Custer: 21 ppg, 8 rpg, 2 apg, 40% FG
Morgan Hammerbeck – SO, Winner: 16.8 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 3.8 apg, 2.9 spg, 49% FG
Marveen Ross – JR, Crow Creek: 19.4 ppg, 6.9 rpg, 3.0 apg, 47% FG
Bailey Kortan – SR, Bon Homme: 17.9 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 2.3 apg, 2.6 spg