Lumberjacks hoops stars honored

TUPPER LAKE – Two Tupper Lake basketball stars and one coach were honored recently for their outstanding efforts during the regular season.

Senior Katie Stuart was named most valuable player of Section X’s North Division for the second year in a row in girls basketball. Junior Mitch Keniston was named co-MVP in the North Division, while Lumberjack coach Steve Skiff was named coach of the year for the boys’ team. It was the third time in Skiff’s 32-year career that he earned that distinction.

Both Keniston and Stuart were explosive scorers who contributed in all aspects of the game, particularly on defense and rebounding.

Stuart was the point guard on offense while often playing near the basket on defense. Keniston was a forward/center on both ends of the floor.

Both players regularly led their teams in scoring and came up with key baskets in big games. Stuart finished the regular season averaging 19.1 points, 8.5 rebounds, three assists, 4.6 steals and 3.2 blocks per game.

Stuart was so profilic as a scorer that she was often able to carry the offense by herself, a role that was sometimes necessary because she was surrounded by a young team. Stuart was the only senior on the squad and only returning starter.

Lumberjacks coach Jenn Cook said she sat down with Stuart prior to the season and told her that she had to have an MVP-caliber type season for the team to be successful. Stuart would not only have to play well, but she had to take on the role of a mentor to her younger teammates.

“This year, she had those new kids and to me that makes her even more valuable,” Cook said. “For what she did and taught her teammates this year, that speaks volumes to what kind of kid she is and the MVP-caliber season she just had.”

The Tupper Lake girls basketball team finished the season with an 11-8 overall record.

For the boys’ squad, Keniston averaged 19 points and nine rebounds.

“I thought, without a doubt he was the most valuable player,” Skiff said. “He’s the focal point of our offense and our defense. And some of those incredible wins we had – the overtime wins, and we had a few of them – he came up with one big play after another. That’s what makes you a most valuable player. You make the big plays, in the big games in the big moments, and he did that for us quite a bit this year.”

As for the coach of the year honors, Skiff said he was proud to get it. He coached his team to a 10-9 overall record (8-4 in the North Division) and earned the No. 1 seed in the Section X, Class C playoffs. The team lost in the first round of sectionals to a tough Canton squad that is expected to move up to Class B next year.

“This was a fun team to work with,” Skiff said. “You don’t know what to expect when you have that much youth on your team, and they just won some really big games. I’m proud to be a part of it. And like I said, I’m looking forward to next year, and I wish our seniors the best. It’s a nice honor.”

Allison Richards and Nash Botala received the league sportsmanship awards.