By Todd Mishler/Contributor
(Published March 24, 2007, 4:14 p.m.)
He became his school's first winner, while she continued her school's recent monopoly of the award.
Regardless, Whitewater's Michael Zweifel and Elkhorn's Markie Schmidt sparkled on and off the court, which earned them Player of the Year honors on the 2007 All-Walworth County basketball teams as chosen by coaches and members of the media.
Zweifel, a four-time all-Southern Lakes Conference performer, is the first Whippet to gain the title in the 10-year history of voting. Schmidt became the third Elkhorn representative to win the girls top honor and gave the Elks that distinction for a fourth consecutive season after Sarah Paul's three-year run.
The 6-foot-1-inch Zweifel spearheads a boys first team that also features 5-11 Jake Larsen and 6-5 Scott Wedige, both Elkhorn seniors; 6-6 Josh Flikkema, a senior at Faith Christian; and 6-8 Alex Bondar, a junior at East Troy.
Joining Schmidt on the girls side were seniors Kayla Chapman of East Troy (5-8), Taylor Larson of Lake Geneva Badger (5-5) Liz Amici of Whitewater (6-0), and junior Kelly Supernaw of Delavan-Darien (5-10).
Zweifel, who also starred in track and football, averaged a league-leading 22.8 points per game on the hard courts, adding 4.8 rebounds and 3.3 assists in helping the Whippets (19-5) to three postseason victories and a berth in the WIAA Division 2 sectional finals, where they lost to Monroe.
He finished his career with 1,543 points (17.7 average), second behind only current Whippets coach Hugh Gnatzig in school annals, which was only one impressive statistic that opposing coaches couldn't help but notice.
"Michael was one of the best guards that I've seen in my years in the Southern Lakes Conference," Elkhorn's John Handel said. "He could do it all. Scoring over 1,500 points in his career tells you how good he really was."
"He was unbelievable at getting his own shot and then drilling it," East Troy's Darin Lottig said. "He had great quickness and was a great player."
Zweifel downplayed his gaudy statistics and said that his team's rise from the ashes of the SLC standings was much more important than any individual accolades.
"It's nice to be recognized, but it shows what four years of hard work can do," Zweifel said. "I did a much better job of attacking the big guys and taking the ball to the rim. But the other guys worked hard last summer, went to camps and played a lot of basketball, and that paid off because we steadily improved.
"I'm definitely going to miss basketball because this past season was the most fun by far after three years of losing," added Zweifel, who's going to play football at UW-River Falls starting next fall.
Gnatzig knows what Zweifel meant to his program's resurgence.
"Michael helped us finally enjoy some success because he's an unselfish person who works hard every day and makes those around him better," Gnatzig said. "He's a kid who would like to pass a lot more, but his first three years I needed him to score a lot because he was the best weapon we had. He was a good scorer, and that's because he practiced shooting every day. He'd be in the gym or the Williams Center shooting after games. He never took a day off."
That attribute also paid dividends for the 6-0 Schmidt, who led Jim Henriott's Elks to a 10-2 record, which placed them behind Jefferson and ahead of Division 1 state qualifier Milton in the SLC standings.
"Markie was good with her back to the basket and was a strong rebounder, but this past season she could beat defenders off the dribble and was confident in shooting from 12 to 15 feet away, and that allowed her to take over games," Elkhorn coach Jim Henriott said. "She improved because she worked so hard last summer and fall, attending John Waring's Pace Setter program, where she put in countless hours to get better."
That determination earned her an NCAA Division I scholarship to Sacred Heart (Connecticut). Schmidt averaged 19 points and 14.8 rebounds per contest as Elkhorn reached the Division 2 sectional semifinals. Schmidt made the Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association all-state first team and the Associated Press third unit.
Schmidt finished her prep career with 13.1 and 11.2 scoring and rebounding averages, respectively, and opposing coaches are glad that they don't have to game plan against her anymore.
"Markie was one of the most athletic players I have seen and that showed in her game," Delavan-Darien coach Keiya Square said. "She seemed to get every rebound and scored from the inside and out."
"Markie was impressive on the boards," Whitewater's Judy Harms said. "She's athletic, talented and carried herself with class on the court."
Like Zweifel, Schmidt said she wasn't a one-player show and credited her teammates for her success.
"It's such a great honor because I looked up to those who won it before," she said. "With Sarah (Paul) and Stefanie (Rudar) gone, I wanted to be more of a team leader and worked on my shooting, rebounding and passing. But the best part was that we surprised everybody, even ourselves, and surpassed expectations. A lot of the kids really stepped up. But the main thing is that we've always had good team chemistry and unity, and that helps make everybody better."
The rest of this year's first-team selections displayed many of those abilities as well.
Bondar led the Trojan boys, who finished 12-0 in loop action and 18-3 overall, in scoring at 14 ppg and in rebounding with six per outing while shooting 70 percent from the floor.
Flikkema finished his final season with a 20-point scoring average and 10.5 rebounds, gaining WBCA honorable mention all-state laurels. He will play in the organization's Division 4 all-star game after finishing his career with a 17.8 scoring average and lifting the Eagles (18-5) to the regional finals.
Larsen was the Elks' spark plug again, averaging 16.3 points and 4.2 assists as they finished second in the SLC at 9-3. He was an honorable mention all-state choice and will play in the WBCA's Division 2 all-star contest.
Wedige was another big reason why Elkhorn fashioned a 16-6 overall mark, averaging 15.1 points and 7.7 rebounds. He finished his prep career with 715 points and 413 rebounds.
As for the girls, Amici led the Whippets to a 5-7 league finish and 13-8 overall mark, topping the team in scoring (13.3), rebounding (6.2) and blocked shots (1.3) while battling such foes as Schmidt, Jefferson's Lin Zastrow, the state's Player of the Year, and Milton's Kassi Blumer.
The Trojans slipped to 4-9 and 9-14, but it wasn't because of Chapman. She earned honorable mention all-state recognition after scoring 21.9 points and hauling down 6.5 rebounds per contest.
Larson was a three-time Lakeshore Conference first-teamer. She capped her senior campaign with a 15.1 scoring average, finishing her Badger career with 1,049 points.
Supernaw scored at an 11.7 clip and averaged 6.9 boards per outing, helping the Comets to a 5-7 conference record and 11-11 overall mark. She made the all-SLC second team for a second straight time.
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