Prep girls basketball: Marquette’s Viitala repeats as GNC Player of the Year

MARQUETTE – Two years on varsity, two years named Player of the Year in the Great Northern Conference.

That about sums up the high school basketball career so far for Marquette Senior High School junior Hunter Viitala.

Viitala, a 5-foot-8 guard, earned the GNC’s top award for the second straight year on Tuesday in a vote of the league’s coaches.

She averaged 21.2 points, five rebounds, 5.2 steals and 2.4 assists per contest for the 20-game regular season, according to her coach, Ben Smith. Her numbers were slightly higher when looking at just league games, too, he said.

“Obviously, her number are really good across the board,” said Smith, who was named the GNC Coach of the Year for the second straight season. “But there’s a whole lot she does that isn’t recorded on the stats sheet.

“She always plays hard and sets the tempo for us defensively, whether it’s getting a deflection or forcing an opponent into bad decisions.”

A junior like every other player on league champion Marquette’s regular-season roster, Viitala was also named to the GNC All-Defensive Team.

She should anticipate more awards, considering that she was named to last year’s Upper Peninsula All-Class “Dream Team” by the U.P. Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association and was second in the group’s Class ABC Player of the Year balloting.

Four of Viitala’s teammates also earned league honors for a team that went 7-1 in GNC games and 19-3 overall, bowing out of the MHSAA Class A district tournament in its second game after opening with a win at Gaylord.

Lizzie Kurin, a 5-9 forward, was named to the GNC First Team after earning Second Team honors a year ago.

“Lizzie is a very, very versatile player,” Smith said. “She can play the post, play the wing or play the guard. She fits into any role she is asked to fill, and she does it seamlessly.”

Teammate Destiny Beckwith made the Second Team this season, while Maddie Connon and Shayla Huebner were honorable mentions.

Kingsford junior Amber Larsen was named Defensive Player of the Year.

Oddly enough, only one team had two representatives on the league’s First Team – last-place Escanaba (1-7) with senior Lynsey Collins and junior Michelle LaFave – since Viitala didn’t make the First Team as Player of the Year.

Here are the rest of the honorees, listed with class and school. Both First and Second teams had ties so six players made each squad:

First Team – Maddy Anderla, sr., Menominee; Jess Beaudry, sr., Gladstone; Amber Larson, jr., Kingsford.

Second Team – Bridget Becker, jr., Gladstone; Callie Jensen, sr., Gladstone; Amanda Pedersen, sr., Menominee; Allia Stewart, sr., Menominee; Maria Wiltzius, jr., Kingsford.

Honorable mention – Lexi Christian, sr., Menominee; Ashley Cook, sr., Escanaba; Sydney Gafner, sr., Escanaba; Paige Owens, sr., Menominee; Courtney Qualley, jr., Kingsford; Alexis St. Cyr, jr., Gladstone.

All-Defensive Team – Collins, Escanaba; Jensen, Gladstone; Pedersen, Menominee; Stewart, Menominee.