Courtney Nelson has led a charmed life on the basketball court.
The Kamiakin High School senior has poured in time and effort, and was rewarded with a dominating career that was capped with a fourth-place finish at the Class 3A state tournament earlier this month.
“I would definitely say I’m one of the luckiest girls in the area,” she said. “Not only saying I went to state three years in a row, but also placed two of the years. I’m definitely grateful for my season.”
Nelson averaged 16.5 points, 6.5 assists, 4.0 rebounds and 2.5 steals per game this season. It was a remarkable season for a remarkable player.
For that, she has been named the Tri-City Herald All-Area Most Valuable Player.
“She has just been the leader and the captain all year long,” Kamiakin coach Lane Schumacher said. “Her basketball skills are great, but her people skills are great, too. She is a natural leader, and they follow her lead. She was a real pleasure to coach all year.”
The Braves finished third in the Mid-Columbia Conference — though tops among Class 3A teams — and then captured the District 5/8 Tournament title, knocking off two Spokane teams.
Kamiakin then manhandled Lakes of Tacoma to advance to the state tournament at the Tacoma Dome.
The Braves lost their opener 46-39 to Seattle Prep, but they bounced back to defeat Mercer Island and University High of Spokane to take home fourth place.
“They really bonded as a team,” Schumacher said. “It was just a great season. It was fun to be around the girls. They worked so hard. I was glad to see them win those last two games at state to cap it off and end on a high note.”
Schumacher was in his first year coaching not only the Braves, but girls basketball. The former Columbia Basin College men’s coach and high school boys basketball coach is the Herald’s All-Area Coach of the Year.
While he had two of the top returning players in the league in Nelson and junior Sira Toure, he had to replace longtime coach Tammy Hutchison and graduated guard Khadidja Toure, who is playing at Oregon State.
Nelson was on the first team as a junior and made the second team as a sophomore. She will play at NCAA Division II Northwest Nazarene in Nampa, Idaho, next season.
“I took two days off,” Nelson said of her time since the state tournament. “I’ve been working out and shooting with my friends.
“It was weird not being with my team every day.”
Toure and Chiawana’s Delaney Hodgins are the guards on the first team. Toure averaged 14.7 points, 5.0 rebounds, 3.0 steals and 2.0 assists per game.
Hodgins, a junior who scored a career-high 33 points in an overtime loss to eventual Class 4A state champion Mead in a sub-regional, was on the second team as a sophomore. She averaged 16.4 points per game this season and was among the leaders in rebounds, steals and assists for the Riverhawks.
Joining Toure and Hodgins on the first team are Walla Walla sophomore forward Mikayla Ferenz, Grandview senior forward Payton Parrish and Hanford junior center Colette Gall.
Ferenz and Gall were on the second team last season, but both have continued to improve as they led their teams to the district tournaments. Parrish, who was on the third team last year, averaged 24.8 points and 9.1 rebounds per game. She led the Greyhounds to within a game of the state tournament.
The second team is Chiawana senior guard Bianca Gonzales, Richland senior guard Britney Pringle, Kiona-Benton senior guard Bailey Schroeder, Connell senior post Michelle Schultz and Kennewick senior post Panisesi Taimani.
Sunnyside sophomore guard Jordan Rodriguez, Kamiakin sophomore guard Holly Ellison, Walla Walla sophomore wing Madi Doepker, Columbia (Burbank) senior post Harley McBride and Prosser senior forward Sydney Mercer are on the third team.
MVP: Courtney Nelson, senior, forward, Kamiakin
Coach of the year: Lane Schumacher, Kamiakin
Delaney Hodgins, junior, guard, Chiawana
Sira Toure, junior, guard, Kamiakin
Mikayla Ferenz, sophomore, wing, Walla Walla
Payton Parrish, senior, wing, Grandview
Colette Gall, junior, post, Hanford
Bailey Schroeder, senior, wing, Kiona-Benton
Bianca Gonzales, senior, guard, Chiawana
Britney Pringle, senior, guard, Richland
Michelle Schultz, senior, post, Connell
Panisesi Taimani, senior, post, Kennewick
Jordan Rodriguez, sophomore, guard, Sunnyside
Holly Ellison, sophomore, guard, Kamiakin
Madi Doepker, sophomore, wing, Walla Walla
Harley McBride, senior, post, Columbia (Burbank)
Sydney Mercer, senior, wing, Prosser