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Comets’ shining star

After historic season, Engle named T-R’s Player of Year

T-R ILLUSTRATION BY NOAH ROHLFING - BCLUW High School junior Allison Engle poses for a photo in the Comets’ gymnasium upon being named the 2020-21 Times-Republican All-Area Girls Basketball Player of the Year, the first Comet to receive the award in its 17-year history.

CONRAD — BCLUW girls’ basketball had anything but a straightforward season in 2020-21.

The Comets started the year behind many of their opponents after five of the team’s top seven players were stuck in quarantine, leaving the team unable to make the most of its practices.

After a slow start to the season, the Comets turned things around after the winter break and ended up with a historic postseason run to the Class 1A regional finals.

Possibly the biggest reason the Comets made it so far is the Times-Republican’s Area Player of the Year — junior Allison Engle. Engle, who was on the All-Area first team in 2019-20, is the first-ever BCLUW girls’ basketball player to receive Player of the Year honors.

Engle averaged 15.6 points, 7.1 rebounds, 2.5 steals and 2.2 assists per contest in her second year as a starter for the Comets.

After getting thrust into a larger role than expected in her sophomore season due to a season-ending injury to a key player before the year, Engle said she knew heading into the 2020-21 season that she would be given a big leadership role.

“It’s a lot, but I like the leadership and I like taking it on,” Engle said. “It’s fun to be able to incorporate the team in that and involve others, and it’s fun to see how the team has learned to communicate throughout the year.”

Engle’s push into the spotlight was accompanied by fellow junior Chloe Walters, who Engle has been playing basketball with since elementary school. The camaraderie present between the duo was key to BCLUW’s offense waking up in the second half of the year.

Playing point guard in 2019-20 prepared Engle for life with the basketball in her hands, but becoming the focus of the opponent’s attention required an adjustment to her mindset as teams started to trap and double-team her in the backcourt. As the Comets’ play improved, legendary BCLUW coach Dave Lee noticed Engle making the extra pass more often and trusting her teammates — particularly senior Betula Messerly — with bringing the ball up the court and getting into the offense.

“It was something I was prepared for, but you’re also not ready for it until it happens to you,” Engle said. “But my teammates were great about adjusting. Betula, I knew I could throw it to her and she could get it up the court and Lizzie or anybody was capable of taking care of the ball, so that was really great. Coach Lee would adjust what he could to try to get me the ball, but if he couldn’t he knew I had other players that could get the ball in the hoop.”

This was very noticeable once the postseason started, as the Comets started an unexpectedly deep run. After a routine win over Valley Lutheran in the first round of the postseason, BCLUW visited Clarksville as an underdog. Engle scored 13 points, grabbed six rebounds, dished out five assists and stole the ball four times while catalyzing a 23-0 run for the Comets in the third quarter that put things away. Walters scored 21 points in the game.

“She’s really developed into a person that works just as hard at practice as she does in the ballgame,” Lee said. “That’s what’s letting her be a better player. I thought the last three or four weeks of the season, she really just took over and made the team better. It was during those same times where she was struggling a little bit with the offense herself, but she still made the team so that we were still winners and able to do things so that we were competing well. So I really applaud her in what she’s done to bring the whole team together and really to share the ball with them.”

The next matchup was against NICL West rivals AGWSR. Engle said the matchup against the Cougars always means a lot, and after losing two games against them during the regular season, this game meant even more to the Comets.

Engle was face-guarded for the entirety of the game but used her ability to create space to get the ball and find teammates for open shots. The Comets completed a 40-36 win over AGWSR to reach a regional final against Class 1A No. 1 Bishop Garrigan.

BCLUW lost 63-31, but Engle said the experience of getting that far in the postseason has only made the team more hungry for success.

“It was just a good experience,” Engle said. “It was cool. Like, we wanted to make it to the state tournament and that would be super cool but we still made it super far and to play a team that good was still really fun and a really fun opportunity.”

In her senior year, Engle will once again be the center of attention for opposing defenses. But after a historic junior year, the Comets’ point guard feels ready for the task at hand.

2020-2021 Times-Republican All-Area Girls Basketball Teams

Player of the Year — Allison Engle, jr., BCLUW

Coach of the Year — Dave Lee, BCLUW

FIRST TEAM

Katie Clark, jr., Gladbrook-Reinbeck

Saari Kuehl, sr., Gladbrook-Reinbeck

Deandra Navarro, sr., Meskwaki Settlement

Katy Reyerson, so., West Marshall

Lily Roberts, jr., Marshalltown

Chloe Walters, jr., BCLUW

SECOND TEAM

Geanna Bear, jr., Meskwaki Settlement

Megan Cooley, so., Gladbrook-Reinbeck

Rylee McLean, sr., North Tama

Betula Messerly, sr., BCLUW

Morgan Neuroth, fr., East Marshall

Lauren Solberg, so., West Marshall

THIRD TEAM

Abby DeBoef, sr., North Tama

Carissa Musgrave, sr., South Tama

Kiki Pfantz, so., West Marshall

Delaney Runner, so., East Marshall

Emily Vaughn, sr., GMG

Sophie Younkin, jr., Marshalltown

Former T-R All-Area Players of the Year

2019-20 – Olivia Terrones, sr., East Marshall

2018-19 – Jessica Musgrave, sr., South Tama County

2017-18 – Isabelle Gradwell, sr., West Marshall & Hailey Wallis, jr., Grundy Center

2016-17 – Isabelle Gradwell, jr., West Marshall

2015-16 – Katie Lindeman, sr., Grundy Center & Gabby Reyerson, sr., West Marshall

2014-15 – Shayla Dean, sr., Colo-NESCO

2013-14 – Caitlyn Riese, sr., Colo-NESCO

2012-13 – Dia Keahna, sr., Meskwaki Settlement

2011-12 – Madison Baier, sr., South Tama County

2010-11 – Madison Baier, jr., South Tama County

2009-10 – Tara Gray, jr., GMG

2008-09 – Jessica McDowell, sr., AGWSR

2007-08 – Jessica McDowell, jr., AGWSR

2006-07 – Allison Volkens, sr., Gladbrook-Reinbeck

2005-06 – Allison Volkens, jr., Gladbrook-Reinbeck

2004-05 – Chelsie Luhring, sr., Grundy Center

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