Wisconsin Sports Network is proud to showcase the WSN High School Basketball Awards.
The finalists for the top senior defenders have been selected. Winners are announced the week of the state tournament.
Makenzie Holzwart, Howards Grove – Holzwart has been a huge part to the Tigers success this season. The 5-foot-8 point guard leads the team with 3.8 steals per contest to go along with 16.3 points, 4.1 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game for coach Heidi Georgeff and the Tigers. Howards Grove is allowing just 29.1 points per game and the Tigers’ only loss this season was against Big East foe Mishicot. The Tigers host another Big East opponent in Oostburg on Saturday in a Division 3 sectional final with a trip to state on the line. Holzwart, a NCAA Division II Northern Michigan commit, has compiled 1,284 points and 362 steals in her career.
Bailey Lutes, Cuba City – Lutes plays at a high level on the defensive end of the floor and she was recently named the SWAL Player of the Year. The 5-foot-9 guard averaged 2.6 steals per game to go along with 12.4 points, 7.0 rebounds and 4.8 assists per contest for coach Brad Lutes and the Cubans. Lutes, a NCAA Division I University of Illinois-Chicago signee, finished her career with 707 points, 253 assists and 180 steals. She played her first two years at Sun Prairie before finishing her high school career at Cuba City.
Laura Nickel, Marshall – Nickel is looking to help lead the Cardinals to their third state tournament appearance in her career. Marshall, which captured D3 state titles in 2018 and 2019, face Lake Mills on Saturday in a Division 3 sectional final. Nickel has been a huge part of the team’s success and leads them in steals with 3.2 per contest. The 6-foot wing also averages 16.6 points, 9.1 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game for coach Doug Pickarts and the Cardinals. Nickel, a NCAA Division I Northern Illinois signee, has compiled 1,466 points, 735 rebounds, 285 assists and 219 steals in her career.
Sammy Opichka, Notre Dame – Opichka was named the FRCC Player of the Year and the league’s top defensive player. The Tritons, the top-ranked team in the D2 WSN Coaches Poll, have been dominating opponents this season and their smothering defensive has been a large part to their success. Opichka, a versatile 6-foot wing/guard, is averaging 17.4 points, 6.7 rebounds, 5.4 rebounds, 2.9 steals and 1.4 blocks per game for coach Sara Rohde and the 25-1 Tritons, winners of their last 23 games. Opichka, a NCAA Division I University of St. Thomas signee, has compiled over 1,200 points in her career to go along with her strong defensive play. Notre Dame’s defense is allowing just 35.2 points per game heading in to Saturday’s Division 2 sectional final against Freedom.
Kylie Schmidt, Mishicot – Mishicot is one win away from its second consecutive trip to the WIAA state tournament and Schmidt’s play on the defensive end of the floor to go along her strong offensive play are two big pieces to the team’s success. Schmidt, a 6-foot wing/forward, is averaging a team-best 3.2 steals per game for the Indians defense that allows just 31.8 points per game. She is also averaging team-highs with 16.7 points and 9.1 rebounds per contest for coach Mike Garceau and the Indians, which have won their last 16 games. Schmidt, a NCAA Division II Purdue Northwest signee, enters Saturday’s Division 4 sectional final against Randolph with 1,537 points, 864 rebounds and 227 steals in her career.
Rylee Stauner, Barron – Stauner helped the Golden Bears to a Division 3 regional final appearance with her strong defensive play. The 5-foot-6 point guard led the state in steals with 7.3 per game and has four games with at least nine steals. Stauner also tallied 6.7 points, 4.0 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game for coach Brittni Hover and the Golden Bears, which finished the year with a 15-3 record.
Callie Ziebell, Sparta – Ziebell is a strong post presence who blocks and alters many shots. The 6-foot-2 forward averaged 3.1 blocks and 2.4 steals per game to go along with 18.2 points and 12.1 rebounds per contest for coach Tracy Lindley-Schendel and the Spartans, which played an abbreviated schedule, ending the year with a 5-8 record. Ziebell, a NCAA Division I Bradley signee, finished her career with 1,178 points, 829 rebounds and 205 blocks.