At random points during the girls basketball season, Faith Lutheran senior Julia Benko would surprise her teammates and coaches by bringing cupcakes to practice.
“She’s a really good baker,” Crusaders coach Jennifer Karner said. “It’s one of her hidden talents.”
Benko’s talents on the court are less of a secret. The standout point guard helped Faith Lutheran win its first state championship last month and was named Most Valuable Player of the Division I-A Sunset League.
“She was special, for sure,” said Karner, who was chosen Sunset League Coach of the Year. “She was our floor general. When she’s on the court, good things happen, whether it’s her scoring or getting the ball to teammates to score.”
Benko averaged a team-leading 13.1 points and 3.6 assists for the Crusaders (21-8) and thrived on proving her doubters wrong. Karner cited the regular-season finale, when Benko missed her first three shots and was then left open by the Pahrump Valley defense to shoot from the outside. Benko finished with 26 points, including six 3-pointers.
“It was like she said, ‘You think I can’t do this? Watch me now,’ ” Karner recalled.
Benko, who was joined on the all-league first team by teammates Sam Leonard and Taylor Hammer, scored eight of her 17 points in the final two minutes of the third quarter to help the Crusaders defeat Elko in a state semifinal.
In the state final against Spring Creek, she missed all 12 of her shots but contributed five points, seven rebounds and two assists in the 49-40 victory.
“Even when she was having a bad game, she was really good about saying, ‘What can I do?’ and listening to the coaches’ advice,” Karner said. “She’s very coachable and just has that drive to want to win.”
Clark senior guard Sir Washington earned the boys Sunset League MVP. The 6-foot-3-inch Eastern Washington signee averaged 14.6 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.0 assists for the Chargers.
Chad Beeten, who led Clark (29-3) to the Southern Region and state final, was Coach of the Year in the Sunset League.
Desert Pines point guard Julian Jacobs, a Southern California recruit, earned the boys Sunrise League MVP after averaging 17.1 points, 6.0 rebounds and 6.9 assists.
Mike Uzan was voted Sunrise Coach of the Year after leading the Jaguars (28-3) to the Division I-A Southern Region and state championships.
Virgin Valley junior Abbie Barnard took the girls Sunrise MVP. She averaged 16.3 points, 3.7 rebounds and 2.4 assists for the Bulldogs (18-7).
Boulder City’s Kirk Frantz, who led the Eagles (18-8) to a share of the league title and a berth in the state tournament in his first season, was the girls Sunrise Coach of the Year.
Contact reporter David Schoen at email@example.com or 702-387-5203. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidSchoenLVRJ.