Autumn Ackerman has been many things to the Pine River-Backus basketball program.
But the best way to describe Ackerman’s role on one of the area’s most successful teams is a security blanket.
Ackerman has been the most dependable, consistent and comforting players during the last five years.
She’s also a really good player. Ackerman became the first Tigers’ player, boy or girl, to reach 1,000 career points and 1,000 career rebounds.
She reached the rebounding milestone against the Pequot Lakes Patriots Dec. 18. The varsity veteran didn’t know it until she broke the scoring milestone Feb. 15 in a 77-26 victory over Park Rapids.
Ackerman became the seventh PR-B girl to reach the scoring mark on a fastbreak layup.
“I didn’t know I had a 1,000 in both categories, not at all,” said Ackerman. “Schwegel said I would be close to 1,000 points, but I never had any idea about the rebounds. It was a big shock. That night I got 1,000 points, they also announced I had 1,000 rebounds.”
Ackerman sits at 1,053 points, 1,129 rebounds, 328 steals and 183 blocks for her career. Those numbers are proof of her dependability and consistency. In five years, Ackerman has only missed one game because of illness. She will finish her career as the school’s all-time leader in games played and rebounds.
“The thing about Autumn is she went from playing on the seventh-grade team to starting varsity the next year,” said PR-B head coach Randy Schwegel. “She never played a game of junior varsity.
“I don’t see anyone replacing her for a long time on the offensive end and more so on the defensive end. She has just been there forever and she’s been steady the whole time. She is the best center I have ever had.”
Ackerman helped the Tigers to a 63-3 record against conference opponents during her career. PR-B won 40 straight conference games as of Thursday. Ackerman and her senior teammates won the conference title every year they have been on the varsity.
This season, Ackerman is averaging 15.4 points, 7.2 rebounds, 3.4 steals and 1.7 blocks to help PR-B to a 21-4 record heading into the Section 5-1A tournament.
“I don’t know if I’m surprised at what she’s accomplished, but I am pleased,” said Schwegel. “She has always been a really good rebounder, but she has become a really good defensive player. Offensively, she’s really kind of picked it up. One of the things we said at the beginning of the season is we needed her to score more points. She has. She’s right where she should be. She’s done everything I’ve asked of her. So, no, I’m not surprised. I’m just really happy for her.”
Ackerman has been a comforting figure in the back of the Tigers’ defense. Whether it’s blocking and altering shots or getting defensive rebounds, Ackerman is the key to the Tigers’ aggressive style of defense.
“I know that I’m more of a defensive person,” said Ackerman, who also runs cross country and plays softball. “That’s what I strive to be. That’s my big thing. I rebound and try not to let the other team score. I just do my best.”
Ackerman will have to be at her best if the Tigers are to finally reach the state tournament. PR-B received the No. 2 seed and will host No. 7 Northland 7 p.m. Thursday in the quarterfinals of the East Subsection 5-1A playoffs.
The PR-B girls have never been to state.
“It would be nice just to play different teams and see how far we can make it,” said Ackerman. “We work great as a team. It’s going to be sad when it’s over. We’ve all played together since third grade. We know how each other plays and we just get along so well.”
Other notable performances:
Basketball: Kayla Miller, Pequot Lakes, finished with 18 points and six assists against Crosby-Ironton and 21 points against Grand Rapids.
Jamie Jenks, Little Falls, finished with 21 points against Mora.
Emily Miron, Wadena-Deer Creek, finished with 35 points, 11 rebounds and seven blocks against Long Prairie-Grey Eagle.
Vanessa Lane, Pequot Lakes, finished with 20 points and 15 rebounds against Grand Rapids.
Teresa Moenkedick, Verndale, finished with 26 points against Pillager.
Jasmine McGillivray, Staples-Motley, finished with 22 points against Duluth East.
Nordic skiing: Maria Hauer and Mattia Hendrickson, Little Falls, earned all-state honors at the state Nordic Ski meet by finishing in the top 25.