Apollo-Ridge's Tipton, Kittanning's Knepshield named Leader Times Basketball Players of the Year
Apollo-Ridge's Tre Tipton, Kittanning's Emily Knepshield named Leader Times Basketball Players of the Year
Boys player of the year
Apollo-Ridge Junior, Guard
Of all of the outstanding basketball players from Armstrong County this season, none of them quite do it all like Tre Tipton.
The junior was, in title, the point guard for an Apollo-Ridge team that finished 19-4 and advanced in the postseason for the second straight season. The numbers Tipton posted, however, showed the ability to excel in any role on the floor.
Tipton was the Vikings' leading scorer at 14.7 points, their leading rebounder with 8.7, and their leading assist man with 5.4.
The 6-foot-1 multi-sport star also got it done on the defensive end with team-leading totals of 81 steals and 28 blocks.
Perhaps most impressive is the way Tipton elevated his game this season.
A year after the Vikings' run to the 2013 WPIAL semifinals, Tipton had more responsibility placed on his shoulders this year. He responded by increasing his averages in points, rebounds, assists and steals, all while missing three games with injuries.
Those across-the-board numbers are why Tipton is the Leader Times' Boys Basketball Player of the Year for 2014.
What part of your game do you feel improved most this year?
I feel like I improved my shooting. I worked real hard on doing the right things with my shot so that I could make the shots I needed to help my team. It took a long time, and it's still a work-in-progress to get to where I need to be.
You do so many things for your team, but what gets you most fired up?
I just get excited whenever I make a play on the court, whether it's a big dunk or playing defense and locking somebody up. If I had to (pick one), I'd definitely say a dunk.
What was your highlight of the season?
The highlight for me, although we didn't win and I didn't play in the game, was (at home) against Summit Academy. It was a close game (68-67), and they did as well as they could. I was so proud of my teammates.
You're already getting scholarship offers in football, so is basketball a nice break?
I love football, but basketball is my first love. Football is what it looks like will take me to college, but basketball, I just love every part of it. When you've had a bad day, it's nice to just go out and shoot around.
How do you divide your time between football, basketball, track and school work?
It's been difficult, but this year I really had to buckle down and be the student-athlete that I know and my family knows I can be.
With yourself and other key players back, how high are expectations for next year?
Some people might look in at our team and not expect much, but we know what we're capable of, and we have very high expectations next season.
The Wolves' leading scorer at 13 points per game and the Cager Classic MVP, he shot 46 percent from the floor this season.
A double-double man at 19.3 points and 10.6 rebounds per game, he led the Bulldogs to their first appearance in the District 9 final in 23 years.
His shooting led to a 16.0 points-per-game average and was a big reason the Wildcats reached the playoffs for a third straight season.
With averages of 18.1 points and 7.0 rebounds per game, the senior nearly lifted the Blue Devils to a third playoff appearance in his four-year high school career.
The Sabers' point guard scored 15.7 points per game and had 3.8 assists per game, a number held down by the Sabers' shooting struggles.
Girls player of the year
Kittanning senior, Guard
Sometimes it's not the flashiest player but the steadiest one who makes a difference, and for Kittanning, that steady hand was Emily Knepshield.
Knepshield was a four-year starter and three-year captain for the Wildcats, and the senior point guard was the heart of a team that finished the year 15-8 and won its first playoff game before losing in the WPIAL tournament to eventual state champ Blackhawk.
With an average of 10.6 points — less than one-tenth off the team lead — and 6.4 assists, she orchestrated the Wildcats' offense. Defensively, she finished the year with 75 steals, and despite standing just 5-foot-5, she also was the team's third-leading rebounder.
In a loss to Hampton on Feb. 6, Knepshield became Kittanning's third girls player and fifth player overall to score 1,000 points in her career, which ended with a total of 1,029.
Knepshield's play this year has earned her a spot in some of Western Pennsylvania's top all-star games this spring — the Roundball Classic, Hoops for a Cure and the A-K Valley Cager Classic. It has also earned her the title as the Leader Times' Girls Basketball Player of the Year for 2014.
With only two seniors (forward Sydney Cloak was the other) on the team, how good was it to see the underclassmen improve?
We had a lot of injuries last year, so a lot of them got playing time then. This year, everyone seemed to fit right back in their roles.
You play very much as a pass-first guard, so how much did your teammates help?
It was a lot of fun playing with them because they all have their own qualities. Tiffany (Montgomery) was always there to shoot 3s, Alaina (Thomas) drives more and cuts to the basket, and there was always Emily (Klingensmith) in the post.
What was your highlight of the season?
When we made playoffs was probably it. It was an incredible journey along the way — just a great season overall.
Was reaching the 1,000-point plateau ever a distraction?
I didn't want to think about it. I just kept playing loose and enjoying myself.
Have you been surprised by all the all-star selections?
I was really surprised there were so many.
Are you happy with the way your senior season went on the court?
Absolutely. I got to play with some of my closest friends, and we had a great season.
With only you and Sydney graduating, what do you expect from your former teammates in the final year of Kittanning basketball before the merger with Ford City?
I definitely expect great things from them, and I think they'll have a great year. I know they're capable of doing good things.
A high-energy player, she led the Wolves to their second-ever playoff win with averages of 8.7 points, 3.6 rebounds and 3.0 steals per game.
The area's top post player was also the Sabers' leader with 13.8 points and 7.8 rebounds per game.
The Sabers' do-it-all player had 11.4 points and 5.6 rebounds per game and shot 45 percent from the floor and 80 percent at the line.
Now a two-time all-state third-team selection, she led the Bulldogs with 19.8 points, 6.4 rebounds and 4.3 steals per game.
In her second season, her scoring jumped nearly nine points to 15.1 per game, and she also grabbed 5.5 rebounds per contest.