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- Crews are working on the new Drury Hotel (10/21/16)4
- Benton man accused of statutory rape, selling pot (10/20/16)1
Willen, Morrill earn SEMO Conference honors
POPLAR BLUFF -- Jane Morrill and Ryan Willen now have more in common than being post players for their respective basketball teams at Notre Dame Regional High School.
They picked up hardware Wednesday night as the SEMO Conference players of the year during the 50th annual Poplar Bluff Letter Club's basketball banquet.
Morrill, a 5-foot-11 sophomore, shared the Bob Gray Award with Dexter junior Katelyn Heil, who also nabbed a trophy as the conference scoring leader at 18.7 points per game.
Morrill averaged 15.5 points per game and set the school record with 87 blocked shots.
"She's a lot better as a sophomore than I was," said Willen, a 6-8 senior who picked up all-conference honors for the third straight year and took home the John Gibbs Award for the second year in a row.
Last year, he shared the top player honor with Charleston's Justin Clark and Sikeston's Michael Porter, a junior who won the conference scoring award this year at 19.7 ppg.
"I was a little surprised because there are a lot of good players in our conference," Willen said. "I consider myself one of the better players in the conference, and I was hoping the people who did the voting would think so, too."
While Notre Dame finished behind conference co-champions Jackson and Sikeston, Willen led the Bulldogs to a district win over Sikeston and eventually the Class 4 state championship. He took the team to state averaging 23.3 points and 8.4 rebounds per game.
"Ryan Willen, from what I saw, is amazing," Morrill said. "Since he's a post player like I am, I just try to learn from some of the things he does, but he's amazing."
Morrill applied the things she's learned so far in her first season on the varsity level. She led the Bulldogs to the title at the Saint Francis Holiday Classic in December, making teams more cognizant of her location on the floor.
"After a while, I noticed that other teams were double-teaming me a lot," Morrill said. "I could tell the difference in competition from JV. It was much more up-tempo and I have to be a lot more physical, but it was a blast."
Morrill said one aspect of Willen's game she may try to work into hers is perimeter shooting. Willen, who will play Division I ball next year at Lafayette, hit nearly one 3-pointer per game.
"I used to work on the 3s when I was in grade school," Morrill said. "I tend to work on it in practice, but not during the games. I need to include that, too."
Morrill will return along with three other starters for Notre Dame, and she would like to have one more thing in common with Willen -- a state championship.
"I think Notre Dame will have a good team for the next two years," Willen said of the girls squad. "I hope I can come back in two years and watch them win a state championship."
All-SEMO Conference basketball
Ryan Willen, Notre Dame, senior
Jake Leet, Jackson, senior
Michael Porter, Sikeston, junior
Jay Raulston, Poplar Bluff, sophomore
Antonio Riggens, Charleston, junior
Spencer Goodman, Jackson, senior
Brian Parham, Charleston, senior
Hunter Grantham, Jackson, senior
Austin Greer, Notre Dame, junior
Kony Ealy, New Madrid County, sophomore
Jaysa Blackwell, Doniphan, senior
Kelci Keith, Jackson, senior
Ashlee Taylor, Dexter, junior
Aereill Davis, Poplar Bluff, senior
Katelyn Heil, Dexter, junior
Jane Morrill, Notre Dame, sophomore
Wendi Zickfield, Cape Central, junior
Shameka Williams, New Madrid, sophomore
Emily Brumitt, Notre Dame, junior
Monika Gray-El, Sikeston, sophomore