ND's Tolbert, Morrill sweep SEMO basketball honors

Thursday, March 25, 2010
Notre Dame senior Jane Morrill and junior Jacob Tolbert were named the SEMO Conference players of the year during Wednesday's Poplar Bluff Letter Club Basketball Banquet in Poplar Bluff, Mo. (BRIAN ROSENER ~ Daily American Republic)

POPLAR BLUFF, Mo. -- Notre Dame junior Jacob Tolbert had trouble carrying all of his trophies Wednesday night following the 52nd annual Poplar Bluff Letter Club Basketball Banquet.

Tolbert swept the individual awards, including the John Gibbs Award as the most outstanding player of the SEMO Conference, while senior Jane Morrill picked up her second Bob Gray Award.

"I'm honored definitely," Morrill said, "but it's definitely a team effort. I just can't get over that."

Morrill and the Bulldogs ran the table to win the program's third conference title since 2003 and finished second in the state in Class 4.

Tolbert, who also won the conference scoring and free throw awards, helped the Bulldogs finish in a three-way tie for the conference title.

"I'm just real excited to win," Tolbert said. "There's a whole lot of good players in this conference and for me to get the award, it's really exciting."

Sikeston, New Madrid County Central and Notre Dame made for an exciting conference race, marking the first time in 46 years three teams tied for the title. For the Bulldogs, it was just their second after winning in 2007.

Tolbert led Notre Dame with 18.7 points and 8.8 rebounds a game.

The 6-foot-7 junior shot 58 percent from the floor and knocked down 71 percent of his free throws on the season. In conference play, he averaged 20.5 points per game and scored 23 in a district final loss to Sikeston as Notre Dame finished 21-6.

He joined two-time winner Ryan Willen as the only Bulldogs to win the award, which has been handed out since 1984.

"It really motivates me to keep working hard and come back next year and improve, hopefully get even better," Tolbert said.

Morrill became the fifth female to earn the award twice after sharing it in 2008 as a sophomore with Dexter's Katelyn Heil, who also won it last year.

Morrill averaged 12.4 points, 6.7 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game while shooting 57 percent from the floor and 78 percent at the free-throw line. During the postseason, the 6-0 senior averaged 18.4 points a game, scoring 16 to go with eight rebounds in the state championship game, a 60-53 loss to Webb City.

"She was an impact player from her sophomore year on," Notre Dame coach Renee Peters said. "Unselfish player. This year she took the team on her shoulders at times and literally led the way up to Columbia for us."

Morrill, who has signed to play at Arkansas State, finished with 1,213 career points for sixth all-time at Notre Dame where she set the career blocks record and a season mark for free throws.

The things Morrill said she will remember the most about a 26-5 season, however, happened off the court.

"It's just a blast," Morrill said. "We're friends off and on the court. That's amazing.

"I'll remember that team. I'll remember each person and the year we had. That's what I'll think about."

Morrill and Tolbert headlined the All-SEMO Conference teams, which also were honored at the banquet at Poplar Bluff High School.

Central's Sadie Pittman earned the scoring award while Notre Dame's Allyson Bradshaw won the free throw award.

Peters, Sikeston's Gregg Hollifield and New Madrid Central's Travis Day were named coaches of the year.

Southeast Missouri State men's basketball coach Dickey Nutt was the guest speaker.

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