STC shot-blocker Baier named Player of the Year Bengen named to First Team, Thompson to Second Team TAMA - There's no flashing light to warn you, no sign to deter you, no roadblock to stop you. But at the end of this lane, your shot attempt is ill-fated. South Tama junior center Madison Baier is there waiting, her long and lanky, 6-foot, 4-inch frame staring you in the face. And she wants nothing more than to swat your layup into the bleachers. Baier, the 2010-11 Times-Republican All-Area Girls Basketball Player of the Year, knows her own game and her team can feed off another rejection. It's the only thing on the basketball floor for Baier that feels anywhere close to as good as winning. "It feels awesome, it's amazing, I love it," Baier described of blocking shots, something she did 102 times this season during South Tama County's run to the Class 3A state tournament. "You'll see some girls who are their (team's) big scorers and they won't drive on me. You see that a lot that they won't drive and they won't shoot around me. "I've blocked girls and they won't shoot around me anymore and that makes me feel good because I know they're not going to try to score over me." Baier turned away an average of 4.1 shots per game this winter, helping the Trojans (22-3) to an 11-game win streak to start the season and eventually the school's first appearance in the 5-on-5 state tournament. Her role at the heart of South Tama's defense-first ways was every bit as important as the speedy guards around her doing their job on the perimeter, Baier said. "That way they can get out on the shooters and if they drive, I'm there," Baier said. "Blocking a shot is one of the best feelings besides winning. If I'm not doing so hot on the offensive end and I need to get going, I get a block and I get pumped up right away. "It can change my attitude right away and I love doing it." Baier is one of three returning first-team selections to the T-R's All-Area squad, joined by AGWSR senior Megan Pieters and East Marshall senior Tara Gray. Gray, last winter's Player of the Year, is a four-time All-Area pick and a three-time first-teamer. They are joined by first-time selections Lauren Bengen of Gladbrook-Reinbeck, Alexa Hotopp from West Marshall, and North Tama junior Kailey Kladivo. South Tama's standout post player finished the season ranked third in Class 3A and ninth in all classes with her 102 blocks. She led the Little Hawkeye Conference in blocks, was second in rebounding (8.9 per game) and fourth in scoring (12.5 points per game). "She blocks a lot of shots when she just goes up and down," said STC head coach Nate Roberts, the All-Area Coach of the Year. "What's fun for her is to put the ball into the stands. "One of those games when she really listened was against Benton, she was doing a good job of going straight up and down and in the huddle I told her it was time to go get 'em. She went out and blocked four or five shots and just commanded the middle." Baier came up one blocked shot shy of a triple-double during the Trojans' first loss of the year, collecting 11 points, 10 rebounds and nine blocks in a 50-37 setback against La Porte City Union. Baier had nine double-doubles of points and rebounds this season while also blocking at least two shots in 23 of 25 games. She scored a career-high 25 points in STC's first of three meetings with arch-rival Grinnell, a flashback that puts an instant smile on Baier's face. "They fronted me and I got around and nobody came to help all night long," she said. "If I was in and I got fed every time I probably could have had 100. They're my main rival, and I just want to be able to say 'We won and you lost.' We're rivals, we always have been, and I'm sure they feel the same about us in Grinnell." Baier fully expects the Tigers to remain on STC's schedule next year, when the school begins its foray into a new conference - the North Iowa Cedar League. She is readily aware that a great big bull's-eye will align itself on her back and that of the reigning LHC champion Trojans. "Before every game we did the 'Interlude Dance' and our quote of the year was from Michael Jordan. 'If you do not come prepared to play me, I will dominate you.' That was our quote of the year, basically our motto." This season's hearty sample of success has driven Baier to return to AAU ball in the offseason for the first time since junior high. A lot of traveling was trying for Baier, a self-proclaimed homebody, but she has since grown out of that. Now she lends her services to Team Iowa, a Cedar Rapids-based AAU squad, in hopes of improving her game and gaining more notice from college coaches. "I'd like to get better at dribbling, more confident in it," Baier said. "My coach tells me I can do it but then I always think there's those little ankle-biters in there and every time a post puts the ball on the floor, they're always there to take it away. I just have to be more confident." South Tama's awards banquet was a busy one for Baier. Her accolades this season included first-team honors in the conference and district, and second team selection by the Iowa Newspaper Association, Iowa Girls Coaches Association, Des Moines Register and Iowa Sports Connection. She was an all-area team pick by the T-R, as well as by KGRN 1410 AM radio in Grinnell and KCRG-TV 9 in Cedar Rapids. "Maddy's a constant team player," said Roberts, the 3A Region 7 Coach of the Year by the IBCA. "She's rather see somebody else be successful than herself, that's what I really like about her. She's not a prima donna, she's a great player and a great kid." "I think she's just scratching the surface of what she could really do." Baier has been contacted by a number of universities regarding her basketball future, she says most prominently by Iowa, Drake and Marquette. First and foremost, however, Baier is hungry to accomplish what was left undone in 2011. "Our goal was basically to win every game and we almost accomplished it. Almost," she said. "The biggest memories of the season I have was that we beat Pella on their home court and we beat them on our court, and winning the conference I thought was the best feeling in the world until we made it to state. "We've already talked that we want more. That was just a taste of it, we got a little bite and we're still hungry. I'm starving actually."
Fact Box T-R All-Area Girls Basketball Team Player of the Year - Madison Baier, South Tama Coach of the Year - Nate Roberts, South Tamar
First Team Lauren Bengen, sr., Gladbrook-Reinbeck; Tara Gray, sr., East Marshall; Alexa Hotopp, sr., West Marshall; Kailey Kladivo, jr., North Tama; Megan Pieters, sr., AGWSR.
Second Team Courtney Amundson, jr., BCLUW; Kayleigh Eberline, sr., Marshalltown; Madison Eley, so., Colo-NESCO; Sarah Frisch, jr., Grundy Center; Dia Keahna, so., South Tama; Paige Thompson, jr., Gladbrook-Reinbeck.
Third Team Heather Hook, so., Grundy Center; Jamie Hlas, sr., GMG; Beth Mildenhall, sr., South Hardin; Abby Nuese, jr., East Marshall; Tiana Thompson, so., Meskwaki; Molly Underwood, sr., West Marshall.