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2020 OBSERVER All-Stars

Dunkirk’s Kymi Nance chosen as 2020 OBSERVER Player of the Year

Dunkirk senior guard Kymi Nance celebrates during the Class B crossover game against Southwestern at Buffalo State College earlier this year. Nance was selected as the 2020 OBSERVER Player of the Year in high school girls basketball. OBSERVER Photo by Braden Carmen.

OBSERVER Sports Editor Braden Carmen and Sports Reporters Anthony Dolce and Christian Storms have selected the 2020 OBSERVER All-Stars for girls basketball in the winter sports season. Listed below are the players honored from the OBSERVER coverage area, which includes 11 high schools: Brocton, Cassadaga Valley, Chautauqua Lake, Dunkirk, Forestville, Fredonia, Gowanda, North Collins, Pine Valley, Silver Creek and Westfield. The boys basketball All-Stars will be revealed at a later date. Players are listed within the designated teams in no particular order.

Player of the Year: Kymi Nance, Dunkirk

From a game-winning buzzer-beater, to a 16-point quarter facing a double-digit deficit at rival Fredonia, to becoming the program’s all-time leading scorer, and finally, a 38-point performance down 20 to come back to win a Class B crossover game at Buffalo State College, Kymi Nance had a season for the ages for the Dunkirk Lady Marauders this year. She is as deserving as anyone has ever been to earn the title of OBSERVER Player of the Year in 2020.

“Kymi does so many things to make others better. Her upside is tremendous,” said Dunkirk coach Ken Ricker. “It’s well-documented how hard I am on her. If you can be hard on your stars, you can do things that haven’t necessarily done before — and we did that.”

Nance was a First Team All-Star in the CCAA West 1 Division and led Dunkirk to a 24-1 record this season, including a Section VI, Class B1 championship — the first in the Dunkirk program since 1991. While her teammates — who are all represented on the OBSERVER All-Stars — had a lot to do with the team’s success, as well, Nance had a part in all the moments that Dunkirk’s storybook journey will be known for. Her senior season etched her name in the books as a local legend for years to come.

Dunkirk senior Jessica Beehler goes up for a layup during a game against Fredonia at Dunkirk High School earlier this year. Beehler was selected as an OBSERVER First Team All-Star. OBSERVER Photo by Ron Szot.

First Team:

Dunkirk senior Jessica Beehler

The do-it-all Dunkirk senior point guard who often said her team “won’t ever stop” certainly took those words to heart on the floor every time out for the Lady Marauders. Dunkirk’s triple-double machine made a compelling argument for Player of the Year honors after guiding the high-scoring Lady Marauders offense with countless assists, rebounds and steals to add to her impact on the score sheet. Beehler’s absence in league play last year showed her worth, and after she put together a fully healthy senior season, the Lady Marauders had arguably their best season in program history. Her selection as a First Teamer was a no-brainer.

Dunkirk senior Nadara O’Dell

Dunkirk’s high-scoring offense would not have been what it was this season if not for Nadara O’Dell. The second member of the team to reach 1,000 career points this season, O’Dell was always right where she needed to be for an easy layup in transition. Her relentless effort to run the floor alongside Beehler and Nance paid off in her favor, as she regularly found herself atop the score sheet night after night. Her season not only earned her CCAA West 1 Division Player of the Year honors, but it also made her an easy selection for the OBSERVER First Team.

Dunkirk senior Nadara O’Dell looks to pass during a game earlier this year at Dunkirk High School. O’Dell was selected as an OBSERVER First Team All-Star. OBSERVER Photo by Ron Szot.

Fredonia senior Nagely Vazquez

New coach Dan Vona put an emphasis on half-court basketball for the Fredonia Lady ‘Billies this past season, and no one thrived in that system better than Nagely Vazquez. The 5-foot-11 senior dominated in the post at times this past season and led Fredonia to a winning record in the regular season, despite playing in a tough league. Individually, Vazquez led the team with 267 points (14 per game) and 131 rebounds on the season. She scored at least 20 points in four league games this season, including both games against Dunkirk. Vazquez also racked up double digits in rebounds nine times and had seven double-doubles with points and rebounds during the season. Her presence down low was the biggest improvement from last year to this year, and it warrants her a spot on the OBSERVER First Team.

Silver Creek sophomore Abby Rice

Silver Creek’s super sophomore continued her impressive pace from prior years with another stellar season, even after it was in doubt from the beginning. Rice returned from an offseason injury and posted the most total points (394) of any sophomore in the CCAA. She ranked in the top 10 in the CCAA in points, rebounds (177) and assists (120) while leading her team in all three categories. She also had a team-high 46 blocks, which was more than half of her team’s total on the year.

Rice scored in double digits in all but one of her team’s 22 games this season, and the one she missed was against Class C2 Sectional Champion Holland, where she was one point and one assist shy of a triple-double. She reached 20 points or more in a game nine times, including a season-high 32 points against Randolph on Jan. 23. Rice also recorded a triple-double against JFK with 16 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists.

Fredonia’s Nagely Vazquez (15) looks to pass during a game against Maple Grove at Fredonia High School earlier this year. Vazquez earned First Team honors on the OBSERVER All-Stars for the 2019-20 girls basketball season. OBSERVER Photo by Ron Szot.

With two years left to play, Rice is well on her way to becoming the first 2,000-point scorer in Silver Creek school history — boy or girl. The only thing that might stop her is health, but she proved that she is capable of clearing that hurdle once already. The sky is the limit for the star of the Lady Knights.

Chautauqua Lake sophomore Lily Woodis

Chautauqua Lake repeated as Section VI, Class C1 champions this season, and the biggest reason why was Lily Woodis. After the departure of Kate Fardink, Woodis took over as the Lady Thunderbirds’ top option in outstanding fashion. She finished the year with 366 points in 23 games, while also adding 119 rebounds and 63 assists, both good for second on the team. She had team-high 26 points in the Sectional Championship against Falconer, proving that while only a sophomore, no moment was too big for her. Things will likely only improve for here with two more years left to play.

Second Team:

Dunkirk senior Amari Carter

Silver Creek’s Abby Rice drives against Cassadaga Valley during a Section VI playoff game at Cassadaga Valley High School earlier this year. Rice earned First Team honors on the OBSERVER All-Stars for the 2019-20 girls basketball season. OBSERVER Photo by Christian Storms.

Not many athletes in Chautauqua County would match up against a future Division-I athlete like City Honors’ Kyra Wood in the postseason and not be intimidated. Amari Carter is not most athletes around here. When the task was its toughest all year, Carter had the kind of performance that proved why she belongs on the OBSERVER All-Stars. As one of the most dominant rebounders in Western New York, Carter played a huge role for the Lady Marauders this season, especially on the defensive end. Offensively, Carter had the ability to overpower opponents in the post, and toward the end of the postseason run, she even added a 3-pointer to her arsenal. While she often took a back seat to her teammates on the score sheet, her impact this season was clearly felt.

Dunkirk senior Olivia Smith

There are few things more dangerous on a basketball floor than a knock-down shooter in a groove. Dunkirk’s Olivia Smith found her groove quite often for the Lady Marauders, especially this season in the fast-paced Dunkirk attack. She was responsible for 18 points on six 3-pointers in the Lady Marauders’ win over Iroquois at Buffalo State College to earn the Section VI, Class B1 championship. Smith was the first of her five teammates to commit collegiately and will continue her career as a student-athlete at Niagara County Community College.

Fredonia senior Kazlin Beers

Kazlin Beers has been the point guard for the past several seasons of Lady ‘Billies basketball, and she’s been the same type of player since she was a freshman. For her, that starts on the defensive end. Beers is one of the most tenacious defenders in Western New York, and is never afraid to violently rip the ball out of an opposing player’s hands. She can also shoot, drive, and dish off some nice passes, all while being an absolute nightmare to play offense against. Beers doesn’t always stuff the scoresheet with points, but she is almost always doing something to give her team an edge.

Chautauqua Lake sophomore Lily Woodis (33) saves the ball from going out of bounds during a game in Dunkirk. Woodis is an OBSERVER First Team All-Star. OBSERVER Photo by Ron Szot.

Gowanda junior Miya Scanlan

While Scanlan might not be the best basketball player on these lists, there is no doubt she is one of the best athletes on it. The difference in watching the Gowanda Lady Panthers with and without Scanlan is like night and day. Already a Division-I athlete committed to play lacrosse at Jacksonville University, Scanlan’s athleticism translates seamlessly to the hardwood. Scanlan’s athleticism allows her to be plugged into any role on the basketball court, but usually you will find her handling the ball and orchestrating the offense. If statistics were provided by Gowanda, you would see that an unbelievable percentage of their points scored are either by Scanlan or were directly assisted by her.

Chautauqua Lake sophomore Alexis Jacobson

In a league with plenty of great point guards, like Beehler and Beers, the next great point guard in CCAA West 1 may be Alexis Jacobson. Similar to Beehler and Beers, Jacobson does it all for her team, both on the offensive and defensive ends of the floor. While she was third on the team in scoring with 170 points, she facilitated the offense to the tune of 143 assists on the year. She also had 114 rebounds on the year and a team-high 68 steals, nearly twice as many as anyone else on the team. Jacobson, like teammate Lily Woodis, is only a sophomore, with plenty of room to grow over the next two years. With back-to-back Section VI championships already to her credit, she’s obviously off to a great start.

Honorable Mention: Fredonia senior Anna Buchanan; Silver Creek senior Kiera Brennan; Chautauqua Lake junior Rebecca Henry; Cassadaga Valley junior Kaylee Pattyson and senior Meghan LeBaron.

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