EDITOR'S NOTE: The Swnews4u.com Athlete of the Week is a web-only feature that will publish each Thursday throughout the calendar year.
Briana Ernst, Sr., F, Belmont girls basketball
BELMONT — Senior forward Briana Ernst dropped in a career-high 32 points to send the Belmont Braves girls’ basketball team into the holiday break riding a four-game winning streak following an impressive 66–55 Six Rivers West victory over the Benton Zephyrs at BHS on Friday, Dec. 22.
Ernst scored 17 of her 32 points in the opening half to lead the Lady Braves (5–4 overall, 3–1 SRW) out to a 39–18 halftime advantage, and she added seven of her 15 second-half points in the final 1:45 of the game to hold off a furious rally by the Zephyrs (5–3, 1–3).
“We had a great start tonight. I told the girls in practice on Wednesday to start getting mentally ready for the game because the team that wanted to be here the most was going to win the game,” said Belmont head coach Alan Seabrooke. “In the first half, I felt like we played with more energy and more intensity than we have all year.”
Ernst, a 5’11” forward, poured in 17 of her points in the first half and senior Kassandra Palzkill, a 5’10” forward, added 10 points as the Braves (5–4, 3–1) dominated the lane on their way to a 39–18 halftime lead.
The Zephyrs battled back to within five points with just over two minutes remaining as senior Emma Lawrence scored 21 of her team-high 25 points in the second half. But a putback by Ernst following a missed free throw pushed the Braves’ cushion back to seven at 58–51. Then, Belmont connected on eight of their 10 free throw attempts in the final 1:20 to seal their fourth consecutive victory. Ernst sank 5-of-6 foul shots in that final stretch on her way to her game-high 32 points.
“We’ve kind of struggled with our free throws, but at the end of games we’ve been clutch and made them,” noted Seabrook.
HONORABLE MENTION (in alphabetical order):
Dakota Govier, Sr., F, Fennimore boys basketball
Senior forward Dakota Govier scored a season-high 16 points and grabbed a team-high 11 rebounds to lead the Eagles to a key 67–53 SWAL victory over previously unbeaten Cuba City (4–1, 2–1) last Friday night. Govier made 7 of 9 field goal attempts as Fennimore (6–1, 2–1 SWAL) shot 55.8 percent from the field and outscored the Cubans 42–28 in the second half after trailing by two at intermission.
Drew Hennessey, Jr., 182, Iowa–Grant/Highland wrestling
Hennessey (19–0) remained undefeated on the season going 5–0 to win the 220-pound title at last Saturday’s 23-team Badger State Invitational at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison. He received back-to-back byes to open the tournament, then recorded three straight pins, including a 1:03 fall over Neenah’s Marshall Kools in the championship match. The Highland junior’s performance helped the Panthers placed 10th as a team.
Abby Kaiser, Sr., G, Potosi girls basketball
Kaiser scored a team-high 16 points in Friday’s 55–39 Six Rivers West victory over visiting Highland Friday night to become Potosi’s all-time leading scorer. Kaiser, a four-year starter, now has 1,310 career points, one more than previous record holder and 1999 PHS graduate Jamie Nebel, who was in attendance Friday night. A year ago, Kaiser broke Nebel's single-game school record of 36 points, when she scored a career-high 39 points in an 82–55 route of Albany.