The Granbury Lady Pirates followed the course of their star player this basketball season – to a point.
Lilley Vander Zee spent much of her senior season with a back injury, and the team subsequently got off to a 5-9 start.
During that time, however, the rest of the team gelled without Vander Zee, learning how to do things without the 6-4 all-state University of Texas signee in the lineup.
And when she returned, they became the team most anticipated, challenging for the District 7-4A championship – pushing state semifinalist Aledo to the brink twice in district before losing a pair of close contests.
Subsequently, Vander Zee was named the District 7-4A Most Valuable Player. Also, the Granbury coaches were honored as Coaching Staff of the Year.
Those were two of eight accolades delivered to the Lady Pirates by the coaches in the district. Senior guard Ashley Bonugli and junior guard Morgan Northcutt were named to the first team, and senior forward Shelby Cline was chosen for the second team.
Also, senior forward Kali Jones, junior guard Lauren Clough and sophomore guard Breanna Crain are honorable mentions.
“I appreciate the award. Tradition has it that it goes to the district champion,” said Andrews of the coaching honor. “And that would have been just fine this year because Rusty (Johnson) and his staff at Aledo did a fantastic job with a young team. And they did a fine job at Trimble Tech with their young team.
“But it is also nice to see that they didn’t rubber stamp the award.”
Aledo (30-8) won the district and advanced to the state semifinals, the Ladycats’ first state tournament in their history. Trimble Tech (26-7), the district runner-up, had to forfeit a bidistrict win over Crowley because of an ineligible player.
Granbury (22-14) advanced three rounds into the playoffs, getting eliminated by Aledo.
Vander Zee averaged 17 points and nine rebounds and was a force to be reckoned with under the basket.
“She was a deterrent,” said Andrews. “If you went in for a layup, you had to contend with her.”
This is the third time in four seasons Vander Zee has received a superlative all-district award. Last season she was the 7-4A Offensive Player of the Year, and in 2010 she was the 8-4A Newcomer of the Year as a freshman.
Northcutt (10.6 points, 2.6 rebounds, 1.8 assists) and Bonugli (6.5 points, 4.8 rebounds, 1.8 steals, 2.0 assists) were second-team selections last season. This is Cline’s first time to be honored after she pulled down nearly five boards per game.
Andrews said a large reason Cline was honored was for things that don’t show up on the stat sheet.
“She has a great heart. She gives everything she has on every play,” said Andrews. “Every coach wants a player like her.”
Aledo’s 6-4 sophomore Justis Szczepanski-Beavers was named Defensive Player of the Year, and her senior teammate Mallory Powell was chosen Offensive Player of the Year. Trimble Tech sophomore Desirea McGinnis was picked as Newcomer of the Year.
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All-District 7-4A Girls Basketball Team
Player of the Year
Lilley Vander Zee, sr., P
Coaching Staff of the Year
Ashley Bonugli, sr., G; Morgan Northcutt, jr., G.
Shelby Cline, sr., F
Lauren Clough, jr., G; Kali Jones, sr., F; Breanna Crain, soph., G.