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54 point performance ends successful girls season

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Photo by Winona Daily News

Photo by Winona Daily News

Photo by Winona Daily News

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Byron senior Ayoka Lee had a near record performance dropping 54 points as Byron defeated Cotter 76-54 at the Rochester Civic Center arena in a quarterfinal match-up in the sectional tournament.

Coach Pat Bowlin said, “In my 35 years of coaching I had never coached against an offensive player as tough to stop as Ayoka.” Despite initial attempts to double-team her, she still scored 29 points in the first half. Then, in the second half when they tried to guard her one-on-one, she still scored 25 points.

Josie Huelskamp, a senior leader on the team, said that playing against Ayoka Lee was extremely difficult because she was so tall and it was hard to intercept the passes to her.

The state record for girls basketball is 58 set by Kay Konerza of Lester Prairie in 1982.  Lee is signed to play at Kansas State next year. Byron has since advanced to their first State tournament appearance in their girls’ program history.

Despite the loss, the Ramblers had a successful season, exceeding expectations with a team that featured many young players.

The team will lose seniors Josie Huelskamp and Mallory Cunningham.  Huelskamp was the team’s best defensive player and all provided spark to the the offense with left handed drives and three point shooting.

Huelskamp said that it was a “really fun season” and she felt that her team was always well-prepared for their games. She also felt that they were a strong team, not just a group of strong individuals. A few of her highlights from the season were a win against St. Charles, one which a strong second-half performance won them the game, and two games against Caledonia, both of which they lost but in which they played very well and gave Caledonia a hard time.

Cunningham said, “This basketball season was fun to be a part of because the team meshed well together for the wide range of ages we had.” She is certain the program will continue to succeed due to the amount of young, skilled players they have growing into positions of leadership.

Coach Bowlin reflected on the season, saying “It was an outstanding season. We won 19 games and even better yet were competitive in all of our games except 2.” He said that the team exceeded expectations given that they had lost two seniors who had combined for 6 all-conference selections.

As for losing Cunningham and Huelskamp, Coach Bowlin said, “Mallory is the ultimate team player and her quiet leadership and example of being a great teammate was huge for our team. Josie is one of the best defensive players in Cotter history and was a strong offensive player as well. She was also a terrific leader.”

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54 point performance ends successful girls season