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First Team honors: Negaunee Miners’ Alyssa Hill adds Associated Press all-state to growing list of girls basketball awards

By DOUG DONNELLY

Adrian Daily Telegram

Bree Salenbien of Adrian Lenawee Christian has been named The Associated Press Division 3 Player of the Year, winning the award for a fourth straight year.

She won the honor in Class D as a freshman, Division 4 as a sophomore and junior and repeated this year in Division 3.

The senior, who scored more than 2,000 points in her career and has signed to play at Gonzaga, finished second in Miss Basketball voting.

Four Upper Peninsula girls made the 14-member all-state First Team, including Negaunee junior Alyssa Hill. The others from the U.P. earning that honor are senior Emma Anderson of Menominee, senior Elli Djerf of Calumet and senior Hallie Marshall of St. Ignace.

Just this past weekend, Hill was named to the All-Upper Peninsula Dream Team by the U.P. Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association, joining Anderson, Djerf, Escanaba’s Nicole Kamin and Ewen-Trout Creek’s Elise Besonen.

Also named Player of the Year in the Mid-Peninsula Conference and Dream Team in the West PAC, Hill averaged 17 points, 12.9 rebounds, 2.3 blocks and 1.4 steals per game while shooting 53 percent from the field. That included a 22-point, 10-rebound game vs. MHSAA Division 2 quarterfinalist Escanaba.

“She put in a lot of time last summer over the (coronavirus) pandemic of making herself stronger, making herself more versatile, being able to step out and play on the perimeter,” Miners head coach Mike O’Donnell said in the story on her All-U.P. honor, “which ultimately, I think, kind of made her year this year because she really got the focus, you know every team’s game plan was to stop her and I think if she was just a post player, it would’ve held her down a little bit.”

Lenawee Christian head coach and Bree Salenbein’s father Jamie Salenbien had somewhat similar sentiments about the state Player of the Year.

“When we play teams like we play and she’s facing matchups that people have thrown at her for four years and you still score 2,000 points, to me that’s something special,” Coach Salenbien said. “To me, that’s impressive. She can always be proud that she never backed down from anybody.”

Salenbien was at her best this season. The Cougars faced one of the toughest schedules in the state regardless of class. She averaged a career-best 25.6 points, 10. 5 rebounds and made 39 3-pointers. She also connected on 112 of 129 free throws and led her team in assists (78), steals (71) and blocked shots (46).

She did all of that coming off knee surgery. She was hurt in the final regular season game of her junior year, missed all summer while in therapy and rehabilitation, and opened the season on the first night teams could play this winter by scoring 29 points.

“There was always some questions because I hadn’t gone full go,” she said. “I had some questions myself about the contact piece of it and whether or not I would be able to go up and down the court. It took a few games but once things got going, I was good.”

Salenbien played all five positions at times, bringing the ball up the court against the press and operating near the basket when LCS needed a bucket.

“I had to take on a new role,” she said of this season. “It was hard because I didn’t know if I wanted to bring the ball up and distribute it or be the one who it was distributed to. It was definitely a new role for me.”

Lenawee Christian won state championships when Salenbien was a freshman and sophomore and was in the regional final last season when the season ended. This year, the Cougar squad had three new starters, but Salenbien still led the team to a 13-4 record and into the regional final.

She is joined on the first team by a pair of state champion Grass Lake players in senior Abrie Cabana and junior Lexus Bargesser. Grass Lake head coach Andrea Cabana was named the Coach of the Year after leading the Warriors to the school’s first state title in girl’s basketball.

Also on the first team from the Lower Peninsula are seniors Kenzie Bowers of Kent City, Sarah Marvin of Byron, Taylor Folkema of Western Michigan Christian, Kallie Harrison of Bloomingdale and Krystina Kasson of Kalamazoo Hackett, along with juniors Mya Petticord of Ypsilanti Arbor Prep and Grace Bradford of Maple City Glen Lake.

The one U.P. player making the Honorable Mention squad is Ally Schultz of St. Ignace.