By STEVE THOMAS
Typically, an all-state athletic team is not the preserve of underclassmen.
But then there's nothing typical about all-state athletes. They're chosen because of their atypical abilities.
So it is that the state Class A girls all-state basketball team chosen by the North Dakota Associated Press Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association features three underclassmen.
The team features three underclassmen sophomores Sarah Jacobson and Cassie Askvig, junior Alexis Klabo and two seniors, Paige Peterson and Keisha Engelhardt. Jacobson and Klabo were unanimous picks.
Jacobson, state champion Fargo Shanley's point guard, is the only repeater on the team.
Engelhardt, a Bismarck forward, and Peterson, a Jamestown post, were Miss Basketball finalists.
Askvig, a Minot forward, was the driving force behind the Magicians's surprising drive to the state championship game. Klabo, a junior forward, led Fargo Davies to a fourth-place state tournament finish.
The second team includes two Bismarck Century players, Macy Lynch and Jordyn Jossart. Cassidy Thorson of West Fargo, Dierra Diegel of Valley City and Madison Walford of Devils Lake make up the remainder of the second team. Thorson was a Miss Basketball finalist.
Jacobson, five-foot-9, led the East Region in scoring (21.7), assists (6.8) and 3-pointers (59. She was credited with 42 percent efficiency on both 3-pointers, and field goals and averaged 2.9 steals. She's a two-year starter.
Shanley finished the season 23-2, winning its final 16 games.
"She's very intense and highly motivated," Shanley coach said Tim Jacobson said of his sophomore standout. "... She's one of the smarter basketball players I've coached — boys or girls. I've had some really good point guards throughout the years, and she sits right up at the top with the really good ones."
Klabo, 6-2, was the No. 2 scorer in the East Region (21.1) and ranked third in rebounding (9.9). She was a 47 percent shooter from the floor and averaged 2.8 assists and 2.5 steals. She blocked 27 shots.
Klabo missed most of her sophomore season with a foot stress fracture, but returned to lead the Eagles to a 17-8 season.
"The thing with Alexis is she can play any of the five positions on the floor for us," Davies coach Tonah Safranski said. "... She can bring the ball up for us, she can slide down and post up or shoot the ball from the perimeter. She's a good all-around player for us. ... She's a quiet leader on the floor who does a lot for us."
Askvig, 6-1, led the West Region in blocked shots (75), was second in scoring (17.9), third in rebounding (9.3) and fourth in field goal shooting (54 percent). She swished 41 3-pointers, shooting 38 percent from outside the arc.
She helped he Majettes to eight wins in their last 11 games to finish 16-9.
"She's a young lady who's set some pretty lofty goals for herself. I think one of her goals was to help get the team to the state tournament and another goal was to become a first-team all-state player," Minot coach Todd Magnuson said. "When she was double- and triple-teamed she was good at finding someone who was open. ... When you've got a 6-1 girl who can step up and shoot the 3, post up and do things inside and block shots on defense that's huge."
Peterson, 6-0, was the West Region's top scorer (18.7) and rebounder (13.5) and ranked third in field goal accuracy (55 percent). She helped the Blue Jays regroup after a 5-7 start and qualify for the state tournament, finishing 12-12.
Coach Andy Skunberg said Peterson expanded her offensive game between her junior and senior years.
"Paige developed more of a 15-foot shot. The last couple of years she was kind of a block-to-block player but over the summer she worked on expanding her range and that showed up during the season," Skunberg said.
"She knows here way around the hoop very well," Skunberg continued. "... She does a great job of posting up. Our guards are used to that. The guards throw the ball up anywhere near her and she's good at grabbing the ball and she has soft hands around the rim. She plays a very good post game."
Engelhardt, 5-9, was the West Region's No. 2 rebounder (10.4), No. 3 scorer (17.3)) and No. 4 free-throw shooter (78 percent). She shot 44 percent from the floor, averaged 2.5 assists and 2.4 steals while leading Bismarck to a 22-3 season.
The most telling statistic indicated her ability to get to the free-throw line. One-third of her points were scored at the charity stripe.
"The thing probably most people don't know is she plays a position where she's undersized by three or four inches every single night," coach Dallas Hinderer said. "Yet she was one of the leaders in our league in rebounding and points. That comes from skill, hard work and determination. ... What impresses me is how hard she plays the game."
The second team:
Cassidy Thorson, a 5-11 senior, averaged 15.7 points, 6.6 rebounds and 3.2 assists for a West Fargo team that went 21-4 and finished sixth in the state. She was voted the East Region senior athlete of the year.
Macy Lynch, a 5-11 senior forward, scored 14 points and grabbed 5 rebounds a game for Century, which placed fifth in the state. She shot 45 percent from the floor and connected on 35 3-pointers. and averaged 2.9 steals.
Jordyn Jossart, a 5-9 junior guard, averaged 13.1 points, 3.7 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 2.7 steals. She shot 46 percent from the field while helping Century to a 21-4 mark.
Dierra Diegel, a 5-10 senior forward, led Valley City to a 15-9 season and a spot in the state tournament. She sank 40 3-pointers and averaged 19.5 points, 5.1 rebounds, 2.5 assists and a region-leading 4.1 steals.
Madison Walford, a 6-1 senior center, averaged 17.4 points and 10.1 rebounds a game for Devils Lake, which had a 5-15 season. She shot 42 percent from the floor and blocked 32 shots.