Molly Kasper always will remember her initial season at the helm of the Eastview girls’ basketball program. It resulted in a third-place finish in the Class 4A state tournament, three months after giving birth to her first child.
“It was fun and exciting,” said Kasper, whose daughter, Ellie, was born on Christmas Day. “It’s been a learning lesson.”
The Lightning reached the state tournament for a fifth consecutive year. Eastview was the runner-up in 2015 after winning the title the previous year.
“We really grew as a team this year,” Kapser said. “We were one of two teams in Class 4A to finish the season with a win.”
The Lightning defeated White Bear Lake 53-48 in the third-place game. It came two days after falling to Hopkins 85-67 in the semifinals.
“It was a whirlwind of emotions,” Kasper said. “We were disappointed after losing on Thursday but had to focus on playing again Saturday.”
The Lightning will return four starters from the state tournament squad next season — junior guards Allie Pickrain and Rachel Ranke, and sophomore forwards Mariah Alipate and Megan Walstad. Pickrain replaced senior Erika Schlosser in the starting five when she suffered a torn ACL in early February.
Ranke, a Kansas State recruit, and Walstad were all-tournament team selections. Walstad averaged 17.7 points and six rebounds and Ranke 17.3 points and five rebounds in their three state tournament games.
“Our girls always feel they have a target on their back,” Kasper said. “We’re looking forward to seeing how good we can be. We still have a lot of work to do as a group and program.”
Shakopee quickly is changing the face of its wrestling program.
A year ago, the Sabres hired former Apple Valley coach Jim Jackson to head their program. The Sabers lost to eventual Class 3A state champion Apple Valley 34-24 in the Section 2 final.
Now Jackson is adding more star power, as former prep and collegiate standout Marcus LeVesseur will join his staff for the 2016-17 season.
LeVesseur won four high school and four collegiate championships.
He compiled a 218-12 record during his prep career at Minneapolis Roosevelt and Bloomington Kennedy.
He was 155-0 during his college career at Augsburg.
Gatorade’s top guns
Taylor Koenen of Shakopee and Gary Trent Jr. of Apple Valley, swept the state’s Gatorade Player of the Year awards for girls’ and boys’ basketball.
Koenen, a 6-2 senior guard, averaged 21.4 points, 8.4 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 3.1 steals per game for the Sabers (27-2).
She is headed to North Carolina.
A varsity player since eighth grade, Koenen leaves as the school’s all-time leading scorer (girls’ or boys’) with 2,364 career points. She also leaves as the program’s all-time career leader in rebounds, assists, steals, blocks and three-pointers.
Trent, a junior shooting guard, averaged 26.4 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game for the Eagles (30-2). They took third place in the Class 4A state tournament.
The 6-6 Trent shot 53 percent from the floor, 41 percent from three-point range and 83 percent from the free-throw line.
Winners were selected based on athletic production and impact during the 2015-16 season.
They also had to demonstrate high academic achievement and exemplary personal character, including volunteerism, sportsmanship and community leadership.
Belle Plaine senior guard Luke Narveson was named the boys’ basketball MVP of the year in the Minnesota River Conference.
Narveson averaged 22 points, 7.5 rebounds and 3.5 steals per game for conference champion Belle Plaine.
He also had 58 assists, 20 blocked shots and led the Tigers in charges taken for the season. He was named to the all-conference squad the past two seasons.
• Northfield senior Cassidie Parker won her third consecutive girls’ title at the Minnesota High School weightlifting state championships at Lakeville South High School. She won the 63-kilogram division by lifting 55 kilograms in the snatch competition and 72 kilograms in the clean-and- jerk. Parker had two attempts at 80 kilograms to break the clean-and-jerk state record but was unsuccessful.
• Lakeville South sophomore Alicia Vogel took first place in the 75-plus kilogram girls’ division. She had a lift of 70 kilograms in the snatch event before lifting a state record 96 kilograms in the clean-and-jerk.