There's something about the annual Cliff Warkins Memorial Varsity Girls Cardinal Classic that brings out the best in Wethersfield senior guard Sarah Hansen.|
The 5-foot-3 standout stood tall in December 2011, setting a tournament record with nine 3-pointers in a game and going on to earn Most Valuable Player honors, thoiugh the Lady Geese lost to Knoxville in the championship game.
in the 2012 tournament, Hansen wasn't about to let a title slip away. In Wethersfield's rematch with Knoxville in last Saturday's Warkins finals at Erie, this week's Area Pacesetter for The Dispatch and The Rock Island Argus hit six 3-pointers and scored 33 points -- including a key seven-point first-half swing to break a tie at 15 -- as the Lady Geese pulled away to a 55-27 victory and their second crown in three years.
"I was really happy, but I knew we couldn't give up because of how Erie came back to beat Knoxville,'' said Hansen. "We just kept working hard. Once we got it down to a minute left to play, we started feeling really happy. I wanted us to get back-to-back titles in 2011, but when we didn't get that, I promised myself we'd get it this year.''
Her performance in the finals not only capped a second straight MVP performance for Hansen, but also has her and her teammates aiming high as Wethersfield (16-3) takes an 11-game winning streak into the second half of the season. It is just one game behind Lincoln Trail Conference co-leaders Annawan and Stark County.
"That was the first step,'' she said of winning the Warkins crown. "Now, we still have the LTC Tournament to look forward to, and, of course, there's regionals. We've got to focus on that now.''
Netting 131 points and draining 24 treys in her five game at Erie now has Hansen at 24.5 points per game,. Scoring, though, is just one part of her game. She also dishes out three assists and snares 4.5 steals per night.
"The team definitely rallies around Sarah,'' said Wethersfield coach Becky Ince. "In fact, I think there are times where she's too unselfish. With the way she can shoot, there are times I tell her she's got the green light, that if she's open, she can shoot. But she's a pretty humble athlete; she wants the team to succeed, and she'll try to do whatever she can to make the team as successful as it can be.
"She has high expectations, and sometimes we put a lot of pressure on her as far as being the leader of the team. We tell her she can't have an off-night -- her shot might be off, but not her defense or her attitude. That's a lot to expect from a 17-year-old, but Sarah really accepts that role and does a great job with it.''
Hansen believes that team chemistry, as much as physical skills, constitute the makeup of a winner.
"We are family, off and on the court,'' she said. "Team chemistry will win us games, along with the way we play and how badly we want it.''
And after finishing second to rival Annawan in the LTC regular-season and tournament races last winter, not to mention falling to the Bravettes in the Class 1A sectional finals, Hansen is taking aim at creating memories that won't be tarnished.
"Coach tells us all the time that Annawan beat us three times last year, and that's what gets us motivated,'' said Hansen. "They're one of our biggest rivals, and we don't want to lose to them again, especially with most of us being seniors. We want to have a good memory of our last season.''
AREA PACESETTER SARAH HANSEN
Favorite food: ``My mom's spaghetti.''
Favorite movie: August Rush.
Favorite music: Country.
Favorite school subject: History.
Favorite athlete: Former Wethersfield boys' basketball standout Nathan Kohler.
Role models: ``My Dad, and my Poppa (grandfather Larry Hansen).''
Pre-game ritual: ``Before every game, I put a necklace on Coach (Becky) Ince, the same one. That, and I have to straighten my hair.''
Parents: Todd Hansen, Neponset; and Karen Hansen, Peru.
IN THE RUNNING:
Hannah Nimrick, Riverdale: Tallied 69 points and nearly 40 rebounds in four Lady Prophets Tournament games to help lead the Rams to first place.
Dylan Schultz, Orion: Netted 83 points in five Cliff Warkins Memorial Cardinal Classic games, earning tournament Most Valuable Player honors for the runner-up Chargers.
Martel Hunter, Monmouth-Roseville: Earned MVP honors at the Macomb-Western Holiday Tournament after helping lead the Titans to second place.
Trevor Lay, Wethersfield: Earned All-Tournament honors at the Warkins Cardinal Classic in Erie after netting 86 points in five tourney games for the bronze-medalist Flying Geese.
Cassidy Clark, Orion: Helped the Chargers to third place at the Lady Prophets Tournament with 86 points in four tourney games.
Shelby Calderone and Riley Strandgard, Sherrard: Together with previous Area Pacer Carly Adams, earned All-Tournament honors at the Monticello Holiday Tournament as the Tigers repeated as champions.
Courtney Cobert, Erie: Her solid all-around play earned the junior guard All-Tournament honors at the Warkins Classic and helped the host Cardinals to the bronze medal.
Donovan Oliver, Kewanee: The freshman standout earned MVP honors after helping lead the Boilermakers to second place at the Marseilles Holiday Tournament.
Parker Neuhalfen, Bureau Valley: The All-Tournament sophomore standout netted 95 points in five Warkins games to help the Storm to first place in their debut at the Erie-based tournament.
Kristen Parsons, Wethersfield: Averaged double-figure scoring to earn All-Tournament honors at Warkins and help the Lady Geese to first place.
Tanner Matlick, Mercer County: Collected 66 points in five Warkins Classic games as the Golden Eagles won four out of five.
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