After it was determined there would be no awards banquet, the Effingham Flaming Hearts basketball team announced its award winners for the 2019-20 season.
Other than the statistical awards, the award winners were based on a team vote.
“What’s nice is the coaching staff being able to sit back and gauge and you like to see that the players are seeing the same things you are,” said Effingham head coach Obie Farmer. “There’s not an award on there that I didn’t think any of the kids didn’t deserve. They went to the right places.”
Taking home the award for Offensive Most Valuable Player was Parker Wolfe, who displayed quite the scoring prowess, averaging 21.3 points per game on 43 percent shooting. Wolfe also earned a share of the Defensive Most Valuable Player Award, showing he can harass any team’s primary ball handler up and down the floor.
“[Wolfe] is like our junkyard dog,” said Farmer. “He’s one of those hard-nosed tough kids. He plays hard and is successful at both ends. He’s an all-around good player.”
Jacob Stoneburner earned a share of the Defensive Most Valuable Player as well as the winner of the Toughness Award.
“He’s a guy that typically introduces contact,” Farmer said. “It doesn’t feel as bad on you as the guy getting run over. So if you’re the aggressor, it feels better for you than it does for them.”
Earning the Hustle Award was Dylan Ritz, who gave the Hearts quality minutes last season when they needed it.
“Anytime Dylan was in the game, we could always count on him to get a couple of rebounds and get a couple of layups because he ran the floor hard,” Farmer said. “He played hard defense. He was always a lift for us off the bench. He could defend post players even though he was giving up 50 pounds every time he did. He’d ballhawk guards.
“It was always, ‘Dylan, can you go in and do this?’ and he would just say ‘yes coach’ and do it 100 miler per hour as hard as he can go. All of the kids will do what we tell them to do, but Dylan did it at 100 miles per hour all the time.”
Tate Niebrugge earned the Most Improved Player award in his senior season.
“He was an absolute killer in practice, he’d drill them from 40 feet away,” Farmer said. “He was hitting some here and there early, but Newton backed way off of him and that got to his head a little bit. But it got to a point where I said if you don’t shoot you’re coming out.
“A few games later against T-town at Salem, he lit it up. He had 17 points and hit three after three and we figured we’d broken through a wall there.”
Niebrugge also took home the Leadership Award.
“He was almost like an extension of our coaching staff,” Farmer said. “Tate being a senior, he was probably the most mature player we had on the team. And he had enough sense for basketball to know the reason we were doing certain stuff. He would be the one to pull guys back in.
“If things weren’t going our way, he’d be the guy to go over and pick us up mentally and emotionally. He did a great job of carrying our boys to the court and making sure they were staying focused and doing what we had to do.”
Rounding out the varsity awards was Brayden Pals earning the Outstanding Sophomore Award. Pals started to see a more prominent role starting in the Effingham/Teutopolis Christmas Tournament against Sacred-Heart Griffin.
“We knew [Pals] had the ability to shoot the ball,” Farmer said. “With his height, he was going to draw a post player. Post players don’t close out as long, especially when they thought he was a post player as well.
“We put him out there and when guys didn’t close out, he had the green light to shoot a set shot. Against SHG, we put him in the corner on their press. The post player is going to guard the block, so Brayden had four 3-pointers just sitting in the corner taking set shots and he killed them. His efforts were really the icing we needed on the cake to lift us above SHG.”
Junior Varsity and Fresh-Soph awards will be published in Monday’s edition of the Effingham Daily News.
While Drew Thompson was quite the outside scorer for the Hearts this year, he also was able to get to the free throw line and led the team in free throw percentage at 84 percent.
“At the beginning of the season I felt like he attacked more, but he’s always had the ability to get to the basket really well,” Farmer said. “That’s a dynamic to his game we were exploiting early in the season. He’s a player that has that extra dynamic.
“He’s one of those kids that takes a lot of pride in his game. He goes to the complex here in town and is there at 6 a.m. to lift and for a shooting work out before he goes to school. That shows his dedication to getting better.”
Nate Thompson led the Flaming Hearts in both rebounding with 260, including 92 offensive rebounds to go along with a team-high 34 blocks.
“A lot of times, Nate would attract the other team’s post player,” Farmer said. “Then they would have to get out there on the perimeter and box him out, but by the time they get there, Nate’s made a move and has gotten to the basket beating box outs.
“He also does a great job at reading where the ball is going to come off. He reads where the trajectory of the ball is coming off and he gets himself into a position to rebound. He takes a lot of pride in that. He never asks how many he scored, but rather how many rebounds he had, and that’s something that helps our game.”