Cynthia Beavers receives her All-Great Northern Conference certificate from Rhinelander High School girls’ basketball coach Ryan Clark during the team’s banquet Sunday, March 8 in Rhinelander. (Photos by Jeremy Mayo/River News)
Rhinelander High School girls’ basketball team varsity award winners pose for a photograph. Pictured, from left to right, are Megan Brown, Cynthia Beavers, Sophia McGinnis and Kenedy Van Zile.
3/12/2020 7:34:00 AM Seniors honored at RHS girls' basketball banquet
Coach Ryan Clark had a lot to be grateful for following the Rhinelander High School girls' basketball team's most successful season in more than two decades. That gratitude was shown Sunday night during the team's year-end banquet at the Cedric A. Vig Outdoor Classroom.
The Hodags went 19-6 this season, completing their second straight undefeated Great Northern Conference championship while making their first trip to the WIAA sectional round this century. Much of that success Clark owed to this year's senior class of Kenedy Van Zile, Cynthia Beavers, Sophia McGinnis and Lexi Morrison.
"You guys did more than you can ever imagine for our program, so I thank you for that," he said. "This year was a great ride. I think you had great perspective. You guys gave everything you had during the moment. I thought you owned the moment over and over."
Three of those four seniors picked up individual awards from the team during the banquet. Beavers picked up the team's toughness award and was also named the team's most improved player. Van Zile won the Hodag award and McGinnis took home the team's hustle award. Sophomore Megan Brown was the team's defensive player of the year.
The awards were decided upon by the coaching staff.
The toughness award is the one the team considers to be the most prestigious. Assistant coach Tara Gremban, who spearheaded the team's strength and conditioning efforts this season, highlighted the rigorous workouts the team went through before presenting the award - and a pair of golden boxing gloves - to Beavers.
Gremban said the award signified not just physical toughness, but mental toughness as well. She added that Beavers has grown in both categories since transferring to the program from Three Lakes at the start of the 2018-19 season.
"Cynthia is a tough kid by nature but if you watched her body language coming into our program last year, I'd say, 'Yeah, that's not tough.' Where she came from, from last year to this year (is remarkable)," Gremban said. "Whether it was in a battle for the basketball or a bad call or when she rips a rebound out of the air, turns around and punches it full speed with two defenders hip to hip just to finish without an expression on her face, full court. Your body language and the level of toughness you brought to the basketball court, I have so much respect for you."
That toughness bore out in Beavers' numbers as she was a unanimous first-team all-conference selection and co-conference player of the year with Van Zile. She averaged 15.6 points, 6.7 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 3.8 steals per game for the Hodags and was a team-best 32.4% from 3-point range. The increase in production helped lead to the most improved award.
"If you look at her stats from last year to this year, she's almost doubled in every category," Clark said. "She was obviously new to our team last year, but I've just had so many people say to me, 'I just love to watch that kid play. She just brings it. She's feisty. She's powerful.' I knew she would but I think she exceeded those expectations a little bit. For most improved, I think this was just hands down. That's an impressive accomplishment because she already was a first-team all-conference player and I think she had a fantastic season."
Van Zile, who was named to the WBCA's Division 2 All-State team on Monday (see related story page 14), led the Hodags, scoring 21.3 points per game while adding 4.0 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 4.1 steals per conference. Along the way she not only became the leading scorer in RHS girls' basketball history, but the team's all-time leading scorer with 1,670 points - surpassing Mike Flory's previous school mark by 104 points.
In presenting her with the Hodag award, Clark said Van Zile was truly the face of the program during her four-year career.
"You've been with me for four years and you've had great enthusiasm all the way through," Clark said. "You came to every practice, even when you're sick. You had so many expectations on you and had such a great year, great career. You made my job very, very easy."
McGinnis made spot starts for the Hodags this year, but was a key part of the team's rotation. She averaged only 1.6 points per game, but had 2.3 rebounds, 2.0 deflections and 1.3 steals per game off the bench.
"She probably doesn't have the same athleticism as some of the other kids on the court, but will just make up for it with hustle, toughness and great anticipation," Clark said of McGinnis, the hustle award recipient. "She had so many play this year in the back of the press where she's deflect a pass or she'd come meet (the ball) and she's steal it. I just thought she came a long way and I thought whenever she was on the floor I would get this from her."
Brown, who received honorable mention in the GNC thanks largely to her defensive prowess, averaged 2.9 points, 3.0 rebounds, 1.8 deflections and 2.1 steals this year - all while primarily drawing the assignment against the opposing team's best player.
"She's a great defender. To have someone who can guard a team's best player - especially their best guard - allows everyone else to be protected," Clark said. "I don't have to put Cynthia on somebody and pick up fouls, or Rebecca (Lawrence) or Kenedy. I can hide them a little bit and tell Megan, 'Not only do we need to defend this kid. We need to shut this kid down.'"
In addition to team award, Clark presented academic excellence awards to the team based on first-semester grade point averages. Freshman Ava Lamers (4.000), sophomore Annika Johnson (3.945 semester/4.012 cumulative), junior Rebecca Lawrence (3.965/3.877) and McGinnis (3.793/3.932) took home the awards.
Jeremy Mayo may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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