Winning has its rewards.
All five starters on the Southeast Conference champion Fairfield Trojans received all-conference recognition.
Junior Nicole Buch and senior Sam Fritz shared the league’s Co-Most Valuable Player award.
Seniors Kylie Kurtz and Mikaela Lunsford each made Second Team, and senior Brooke McLain was named Honorable Mention.
Fairfield was a perfect 8-0 in conference play and 16-6 overall.
As for the conference Co-MVP selection, Trojan head coach Mick Flattery said, “I think it was a great choice. Nicole and Sami are both very deserving.”
Fritz earned first-team honors in 2016.
“This season, Sami came out of the gates incredibly hot for us,” Flattery said. “She scored 24 points in our first game of the season and then 27 and 25 in the next games.
“This was a special year for Sami: She scored her 1,000th career point and grabbed her 600th career rebound. For a gal her size (5-foot-8), that is really quite incredible.
“We needed her inside game and her outside game. She was so good at reading defenses. Whenever a smaller girl was on Sami, we immediately isolated her. But, of course, Sami also wasn’t afraid to take on anyone taller than her.”
Fritz averaged 16 points and eight rebounds per game. She shot 41 percent from beyond the arc and 51 percent overall. She was money at the charity stripe — canning 84 percent of her free throws.
“Eighteen times Sami scored in double digits and in eight of those games she had 20 or more,” Flattery said. “She was double-digits in rebounds eight times and had 13 rebounds in four different games.
“And when Nicole was out of the game, Sami was our backup point guard.”
Buch was conference MVP in 2016.
“Now, it’s pretty special that Nicole gets recognized again as an MVP,” Flattery said. “She was No. 1 in the conference in scoring (17 avg.) and No. 1 in assists (4) .
“She went over 1,000 career points this year and she averaged 40 percent from the 3. She was 76 percent from the free-throw line and averaged six deflections per game.
“Nicole scored her career high of 32 points against Notre Dame and 18 times she scored in double figures, and in eight of those games she was over 20 points.
“She is very well deserving of this honor and she was very tough to guard — and we sure look forward to having her back next season.”
As for Kurtz, Flattery said, “Kylie averaged 11 points per game and shot 53 percent from the 2, and 11 times she was in double figures — and three of those games she had more than 20.”
Kurtz scored a career-high 25 points vs. Mt. Pleasant.
“Kylie was gritty,” Flattery said. “She’d always take the assignment of guarding the other team’s top perimeter player. She played in every game and for some of that time she was playing with a broken nose. She would not sit out. That says how tough she was and how much it meant for her to put on that Trojan jersey.”
As for Lunsford, Flattery said, “I coached boys for 19 years and girls for the last six or seven and I told Mikaela after our final game, ‘You are as tough as any boy I have ever coached.’ And she was never dirty.
“She is just 5-foot-8 and always guarding the opponent’s best post. She was the linebacker for us, the catcher for us, our defensive communicator.
“She averaged five points per game and, quite incredible for a post, she tied for first in our league in assists. She shot 67 percent from the free-throw line. She scored 11 points in our road win over Keokuk and 12 against West Branch.”
Regarding McLain, Flattery said, “Brooke really stepped up her game this season. She knew her role and she hit some big shots in big games.
“In our big road win over Keokuk, Brooke made such great passing decisions. She was a quiet leader for us. She averaged four points per game and hit 71 percent of her free throws.
“She is a really good kid and a really good teammate.”