Central went from dead in the water to state champions, North Andover played in its first Division 2 North final in 21 years and defending Division 3 champion Pentucket put together another 20-plus win season
It certainly was another exciting year in girls high school basketball.
Without further ado, here are this year’s awards:
Top team: Central
The Raiders did look dead in the water Feb. 18 when they lost by 10 points to Division 3 Pentucket to end the regular season with an unimpressive 16-5 record.
But Central dominated the postseason, winning its four Division 1 North playoffs games by an average of 24.5 points per game.
Central then won a 55-51 over favorite Braintree in the Division 1 semifinal and posted a 53-48 victory over Holy Name in the title game. The Raiders — led by Stonehill-bound star Casey McLaughlin — out-hustled every opponent down the stretch.
Most improved player: Kelsi McNamara
The Pentucket sophomore, who averaged 5.1 points per game last year, was much improved this winter. She averaged 10.5 ppg, 3.0 apg, 3.5 spg and converted 33 3-pointers.
She was named MVP at the Central Catholic IAABO Board 130 Tournament.
Most inspirational: Karisha Jimenez
For several months last year, the basketball court at Lawrence High was Jimenez’s home as she and her family lost their own home during summer 2011 after being unable to pay the rent. The state moved them into the Best Western in Haverhill.
Jimenez continued to play last year though. She and her family overcame their difficult situation and now live in a three-floor building on Alder Street in Lawrence. Jimenez took on an even bigger role this year for Lawrence High as a co-captain.
Most improved team: Methuen
The Rangers went 12-10, including winning a first-round Division 1 North playoff game against Peabody.
Methuen earned its first playoff berth since the 2009-10 season and won three games against MVC Large opponents after failing to win a division game in each of its first two seasons in the MVC Large.
Much of the success had to do with 5-10 senior forwards Amanda Petrow and Abby Galloway-Burke.
Petrow averaged 13.1 ppg, and 11.3 rpg. Galloway-Burke averaged 10.4 ppg and 8.4 rpg.
Meanwhile, Murphy Carroll netted 45 3-pointers in 21 games.
Unsung hero: Morgan Lumb
The North Andover senior received her fair share of press and will be attending Hartford on a basketball scholarship. So she didn’t go under the radar like most players who win the unsung hero award.
That said, she received this award because some people might not realize just how talented this girl really is and just how great a season she had to cap off her tremendous career.
North Andover went 1-5 without Lumb this year and 14-4 with her. She led the Scarlet Knights to the Greater Lawrence girls Christmas Tournament title and led the program to its first Division 2 North final berth in 21 years.
Comeback Player of the Year: Alex Norgaisse
After missing her entire sophomore year with an ACL injury, the Brooks junior and Haverhill resident was back this winter and played well. Her best performance was an 18-point effort against Cushing Academy.
Look for Norgaisse to be even better next year.
Most exciting player: Casey McLaughlin
The Central senior was as exciting a player as there can be over the final few weeks of this season as she led the Raiders to the Division 1 state title.
She consistently was all over the court: rebounding, fighting for jump balls, boxing out, scoring points, forcing steals, etc.
She averaged 17.5 ppg and poured in 27 points in the championship game, a 53-48 victory over Holy Name.
Best story: Salem
The Salem program finished 13-10 overall and 12-8 in Division 1.
Second-year coach Annie Alosa certainly had her girls playing well and hard. Salem hit its stride in January when it went 4-2 and junior guards Brenna Blakslee (17.3 ppg that month) and Emily Hickey (19.0 ppg in January) led the way.
Alosa was hired at just 24 years old. Before she came on board, the Blue Devils had won just 14 games combined over the previous two seasons.
The Blue Devils went 8-14 during Alosa’s first year and some Salem fans were skeptical — but nobody should be skeptical anymore.
Salem should be one of the top teams in Division 1 next year with some legit talent returning and a coach who works her players extremely hard.
Best interviewee: Alex Nagri
For all reporters who attend a Central Catholic game next year, if you want a good quote, find Nagri.
Nagri is an extremely aggressive player for being only 5-2. She has a similar enthusiasm when being interviewed.
Newcomer of the year: Allie Sirmaian
The 5-5 Salem freshman guard averaged 6.26 ppg and netted 29 3-pointers.
Similar background award: Abbie Karalis and Alyssa Goulet
Watch out for these two. The both had nice freshmen years and also have similar backgrounds.
Karalis is a 5-6 North Andover guard who had some fine games off the bench, including netting 11 points against Dracut and 10 points against Andover.
Goulet is a 5-8 Greater Lawrence forward who averaged 5.5 ppg. She is the daughter of Reggies Hall of Famer Sandra Michaud while Karalis is the daughter of North Andover Hall of Famer Sharon Zagorski Karalis.
Coolest play: Devon Caveney
It’s quite an achievement to score 1,000 career points. But to do it the way Caveney, an Andover senior, did it is downright cool.
Caveney was fouled while converting a 3-pointer for her 1,000, 1,001 and 1,002 points. The game broke for a few minutes so Caveney could celebrate with her coaches and teammates. Then, she returned to sink point No. 1,003 on her foul shot.
Most exciting game: North Andover beats Central
North Andover’s Morgan Lumb brought the ball downcourt under extreme pressure from Central Catholic, finally passing to a wide-open Megan Collins, who put in a head-on layup with 1 second left to give North Andover a stunning 45-44 victory in the Greater Lawrence Christmas Tournament championship.
Best name: Dakotah Vondrasek
Not only does the Timberlane 5-6 senior guard have the best name, but she also has talent.
Her talent certainly was on display Jan. 25 when Vondrasek broke free off a set play for a layup with 8.9 left, then pressured the ball and forced a turnover on the inbounds pass to close out a 43-42 Timberlane victory over Dover. She finished that game with 23 points.
Best sister combo: The Schiebels
Senior twins Kelsey and Amanda Schiebel of Windham know how to shoot.
Kelsey set the Windham girls basketball program record for points in a game (30) and 3-pointers in a game (8) Jan. 8 in the Jaguars’ 49-42 win over Oyster River.
While sister Amanda isn’t a prolific a scorer as Kelsey, she did net a team-high 13 points in Windham’s loss to Portsmouth in the Division 3 semifinals.
Most clutch: McLaughlin and Walsh
Both Central senior Casey McLaughlin and Raiders junior Courtney Walsh share this one.
McLaughlin poured in 27 points in a state title game. Nobody should ever doubt her ability to perform in the clutch.
Walsh, meanwhile, hit some huge free throws in the final seconds against Braintree to seal a Division 1 semifinal victory.
Upset of the Year: Pinkerton over Londonderry
Most didn’t see this one coming — the Astros rolled 55-44 over Londonderry despite being without its top defensive player, Sam Breslin, who was sidelined.
Brandi Bonneau guarded star Aliza Simpson, who was an Eagle-Tribune Super Teamer last year and has been offered scholarships from UNH and Holy Cross. Bonneau held Simpson scoreless in the first half and to just four points in the first three quarters.
Hats off award: John Fagula
Hats off to the Londonderry coach who won his 600th game of his coaching career Feb. 19.
He has a 171-63 record in 10 years at Londonderry and a 603-135 overall record in 30 seasons.
FAB 5: 1. Central 22-5 2. Pentucket 24-2 3. Londonderry 17-6 4. North Andover 15-9 5. Andover 18-7 Honorable mention: Pinkerton 18-4, Windham 18-6, Whittier 22-4