Three years ago, a pair of future high school basketball phenoms were about to enter high school.
Three years later, their programs would be elevated to incredible heights, for one a level it hadn’t been at in a quarter century, the other never at all.
And for all of the individual statistics put up by Christian Pekarek and Joelle Ertl, that is where their greatest value can be found: their teams’ success.
Boys Player of the Year
Pekarek was the sixth man as part of Upsala’s first state tournament team as a freshman on a veteran-laden team.
Two years later, there may not have been five better players in all of Class A as he spearheaded an unbeaten run through the regular season and trip to the semifinals as the Cardinals placed fourth at state.
This winter, Pekarek took the reins on a much younger squad and helped lift them to nearly the same level, as Upsala went 24-3 overall and unbeaten in Prairie Conference play, averaging 29.1 points, 4.7 rebounds, 4.7 steals and 4.6 assists per game.
Pekarek became one of the few players in state history to surpass 2,000 points this winter, finishing with 2,168 for his career.
In a testament to his offensive consistency, there was only one game in which he didn’t net at least 20 points this season.
That night’s total? Merely 18.
In addition to that, his all-around game allowed him to also pull in 454 rebounds and distribute 413 assists while wreaking havoc defensively with 348 steals.
Girls Player of the Year
It had been 32 years since Holdingford had won 20 games in a season at the start of this winter.
That trend would continue as the Huskers pulled out nine of its wins by single digits, leading to a 20-6 record, runner-up finish in the Central Minnesota Conference and spot in program history.
Ertl’s dynamic ability with the ball in her hands led to her scoring 21.8 points per game while passing out 4.3 assists, earning her the conference’s player of the year award. She also added 6.6 rebounds and 5.0 steals per game.
For her career, Ertl closed with 1,689 points, 522 rebounds, 333 steals and 288 assists.