Gradwell, Willems share NICL West’s top honor

Isabelle Gradwell and Mandy Willems

For the first time in three years, the NICL West Division’s Outstanding Player didn’t play for the conference champions.

Neither of them.

Seniors Isabelle Gradwell of West Marshall and Mandy Willems of AGWSR were named the league’s top players in a vote by conference coaches, even after Grundy Center claimed at least a share of the NICL West title for the third year in a row.

Gradwell repeats as the league’s Outstanding Player after claiming the honor all to herself last winter, when West Marshall, AGWSR and Grundy Center shared the conference crown. This season, Gradwell led the NICL West in scoring at 20.1 points per game, tied Willems for the lead in 3-pointers made (43), led in assists (58) and blocks (29) while ranking third in rebounding average (7.4) and fourth in steals (36).

Willems, meanwhile, was second in scoring (19.0), tops in free-throw percentage (88.6 percent), second in assists (48) and third in steals (37). The Cougars finished second to Grundy Center in the final league standings, while West Marshall was third.

T-R GRAPHIC

Grundy Center, the conference champions at 11-1, were led by a pair of repeat first-team selections in juniors Hailey Wallis and Brooke Flater. Wallis, a unanimous pick for the second year in a row, finished fourth in the conference scoring race (13.8), fifth in 3-pointers (19) and tops in steals (47). Flater finished seventh in scoring (10.5) and fifth in rebounding (6.8).

Gradwell and Willems were both unanimous selections and repeat first-teamers as well.

BCLUW senior forward Lauren Anderson was the only other unanimous choice to the first team after averaging 9.8 points and 8.8 rebounds for the Comets.

Rounding out the first team were junior guards Aubrie Fisher from AGWSR and Kayla Cripps from West Marshall. Fisher finished third in the conference scoring race (14.2) thanks to 27 3-pointers, while Cripps averaged 9.9 points and 2.3 steals per conference contest.

This marks the third all-conference selection for Flater, Gradwell, Wallis and Willems, with Flater collecting second-team honors as a freshman and the other three earning honorable mention two years ago.

AGWSR’s Laurie Gann was named the conference Coach of the Year, the first for

the Cougars since Bruce Dall in 2011.