THS standout named player of year
Ali Pistora may have won this year's Lawrence Journal-World All-Area Girls Basketball Player of the Year award, but it's not the award the Tonganoxie High junior cherishes most.
Pistora's brother, Zack, a senior on the Tonganoxie boys basketball team, frequently challenges her to one-on-one matchups in the family driveway. The winner claims bragging rights in the Pistora household. Believe it or not, the little sister wins more than half of the time.
"Sometimes I let him win so he feels good about himself," Pistora said. "But sometimes I really let him have it. He thinks he is pretty good, but it feels pretty good when I beat him."
The competitive nature that Pistora shows in the driveway also shows on the more conventional basketball.
After advancing to the Class 4A state tournament last season, Pistora was the only returning starter this year and helped lead a team of sophomores and juniors.
She did so to the tune of a return trip to the substate title game, where the Chieftains narrowly missed going back to state by one point. THS suffered a 53-52 loss to Kansas City Sumner on the Sabres' home court. Still, Pistora, who led Tonganoxie in scoring at 13.9 points per game, was happy to earn recognition as the area's top player and was pleased with how her team played this season.
"I am honored to win it, and I know the rest of my teammates take pride in it as well," Pistora said. "We didn't finish the season how we would have liked, but we still had a good season. It feels good to win it."
Pistora's coach, Randy Kraft, gave her most of the credit for the team's success this year.
"It really helps when you have a good point guard like Ali Pistora," Kraft said. "She is probably the most unselfish player I have ever coached. She would much rather pass the ball and set her teammates up than score. She is the kind of player that makes everyone around her better."
Pistora was a sophomore in 2004-05 when she shared the starting lineup with four seniors. That team advanced to state, finishing fourth in the eight-team field.
Those seniors departed, leaving Pistora as the most experienced player on this year's team.
"I felt a little bit of pressure, because everybody was keeping their eye on me because they knew that I knew what it feels like to go to state," Pistora said. "I had to step up, but I actually feel like most of my teammates did all of the work. I trusted them completely as far as running the plays and everything and they did a great job.
"The award is as much theirs as it is mine."
Joining Pistora on the first team were Eudora senior Carrie Lister, Ottawa senior Megan Ramsey, Oskaloosa senior Megan Reed and Baldwin junior Kelsey Verhaeghe.
Tonganoxie junior Rachel Bogard led the second team. Perry-Lecompton senior Megan Blosser, De Soto junior Jackie Goleman, Santa Fe Trail junior Brooke Pryor and Mill Valley freshman Carly Santulauria joined Bogard on the second team.
Honorable mention selections were Elizabeth Baska, Tonganoxie; Nikki Snider, Michelle Deluna and Erin Kracl, Eudora; Kira Gonzalez, De Soto; Ali King and Taylor King, Oskaloosa; Katelyn Miles, Baldwin; and Amanda Shaver and Rachael Thompson of McLouth.