PIERZ -- Even with a different supporting cast, Sheila Stegora is helping the Pierz Pioneers to an excellent season as the star forward for the girls' basketball team.
Last year, as a sophomore, Stegora helped the Pioneers get to the Class AA state girls' basketball tournament for the third time in school history. As the team's leading scorer, she propelled them to a 23-4 record. Although she was the focal point of the offense, Stegora had five seniors surrounding her to make her better.
"Having four new people in the starting rotation, everyone has had to step up and take a new role," said Stegora. "I'm used to having that leadership but I've taken on that role now."
This year Stegora is once again the leading scorer for Pierz, but she's been asked to do more than put points on the board.
"She's really become an all-around player," said Pierz coach Rick Sczublewski. "She's been a definite leader and a go-to player. She really picked up her rebounding. Last year she averaged six per game and now she's up over eight a game."
On the season, the junior has collected nine double-doubles. She leads the team in assists, steals, blocks and is second in rebounds all while leading the Pioneers in scoring.
"Last year I had Cyndi (Kimman) who was the main rebounder. Everyone had their roles," said Stegora. "This year I tried to focus on having an all-around game. I tried to focus on that a little bit more."
Before the season began, Stegora was ranked as one of the top 100 female players in the state of Minnesota by Minnesota Basketball News.
"It's more like an incentive to try harder," Stegora said about the recognition. "It's a positive and it helps me to remember my role."
This year she will be on the ballot for all-state consideration as one of the top 25 players in Class AA.
"There's only been three games where Sheila's been held under double digits in scoring and those have all been losses," said Sczublewski. "She has an instinct for the game. She's very unselfish for a kid that is as talented as she is."
Last week, Stegora used that unselfishness to help Pierz notch two more wins to move to a 17-7 record on the year.
In an overtime win last week against Big Lake, Stegora's final shot with 14 seconds left moved the Pioneers into the win column with a 61-59 victory. She finished with 17 points, 10 rebounds, six assists, four steals and six blocks.
In a 63-54 win Friday over Kimball, Stegora added 19 points, 11 rebounds and six assists.
"Last year she was more of an outside shooter," said Sczublewski. "She's more diverse. She would prefer to stay outside and shoot, but she's going inside now. She's been more aggressive.
"When we were on a down steak I noticed her free throw shots were down and that's because she wasn't going inside as much. She's started to do that again."
Stegora has had streaks of 17 and now 12 made free throws in a row. On the season Stegora is shooting 67 percent from the line and 47 percent from the field.
She's averaging 15.6 points, 8.2 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 4.1 steals and 2.5 blocks a game.
"I think she's the type of kid you can't take out of the game when it's on the line," said Sczublewski.
Other notable performances:
Basketball -- Kerby Johnson scored 28 points and teammate Marissa Browne scored 21 points for Wadena-Deer Creek in a loss to Pequot Lakes.
Aitkin's Jennifer Straughn scored 27 points in a win over Rush City.
Verndale's Raya Kern recorded a double-double with 17 points and 13 rebounds in a loss to Campbell-Tintah. Teammate Kayla White also had a double-double with 16 points and 11 rebounds.
Pillager's Nacole Carlson finished with 22 points, 15 rebounds, five steals and three blocks in a 55-37 loss to Bertha-Hewitt. Carlson added 16 points, eight rebounds, five steals and five blocks in a win over Lake Region Christian School. Carlson scored 15 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in a loss to Henning.
Crosby-Ironton's Kati Galovich scored 31 points Thursday in a loss to Pine River-Backus.
Sarah Laposky of Pine River-Backus scored 30 points in a 68-52 win Thursday over C-I. She added 34 points in a win Friday over Verndale.
Becky Anderson of Little Falls scored 23 points Friday to beat Willmar.
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