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THE SPORTS REPORTS: TOWANDA'S BENNETT TOPS BAKER'S DOZEN AS ALL-REGION 'GIRLS ATHLETE OF THE YEAR' (2022-07-10)

The Sports Reports
Towanda senior Porschia Bennett was among the best in the region in all three sports — soccer, basketball, and track & field — she played, and is The Sports Reports’ 2021-22 All-Region “Girls Athlete of the Year.”

In the fall, Bennett was the NTL “Defensive Player of the Year,” and a second-team All-Region selection on the soccer pitch. She consistently used her speed and size from the fullback position to snuff out opposing attacks.

On the hardwoods this winter, Bennett was a first-team All-Region selection, and led Towanda to the District 4 championship game.

She averaged 16.9 points, 6 rebounds, and 4.5 steps per game, helping Towanda to an unbeaten NTL season, and an NTL Showdown title.

She finished her career with more than 1,000 career points, and 500 career rebounds.

In her premier sport, track and field, Bennett won another state title in the high jump, and established a new District 4 record in the event at 5-feet, 8-inches. She was the All-Region “Track & Field Girls Athlete of the Year.”

Bennett finished things off by helping their 4x400 relay to a fourth-place finish in the state, in a new school-record time.

The focus for the year-end awards is on three-sport athletes, but there are some athletes recognized who thrive in two sports. Occasionally, someone will make the grade for just one sport.

The 2021-22 Baker's Dozen All-Region “Girls Athletes of the Year”
Porschia Bennett, senior, Towanda:
See above.

Caydence Macik, senior, Athens: Macik excelled in three sports, earning first-team All-Region honors in softball, second-team on the hardwoods, and third-team on the soccer pitch.

A strong-armed shortstop who batted lead-off for the majority of the season, Macik hit .578 (37 hits in 64 ABs) with 37 runs scored, eight doubles, one triple, 10 home runs, 24 RBI, and nine stolen bases. She walked 13 times, and had a .649 on-base percentage, a 1.078 slugging percentage, and a 1,727 OPS.

Macik, who graduates third on Athens’ all-time scoring list (1,283 points) and also grabbed more than 600 career rebounds, was an offensive force for the Lady Wildcats, despite being keyed on by opposing defenses. She averaged 16 points, 7 rebounds, three steals, and 1 assist per game, and shot 45 percent from the field.

Physical and athletic with good size, Macik returned after a year away from the program and anchored the Lady Wildcat defense on the soccer pitch.

Shannon Maloney, junior, Notre Dame: A three-sport star, Maloney was a first-team all-state and All-Region “Player of the Year” on the soccer pitch, and a third-team All-Region selection on the hoop hardwoods.

In the fall, Maloney allowed just three goals all postseason long, and only one before the state semifinals. It was Maloney’s first year as Notre Dame’s goalie.

In basketball season, Maloney averaged 15.6 points a game this year and grabbed 174 rebounds, 53 on the offensive end. She had 60 assists 49 steals and 25 blocked shots as she did a little bit of everything for Notre Dame this year.

On the softball diamond, Maloney was an all-IAC center fielder, and she hit .412 with five doubles, 14 RBI, 16 runs scored, and 14 stolen bases on the season.

Jenna DiNardo, junior, Corning:
DiNardo is a three-sport standout, earning first-team All-Region honors on the hoop hardwoods, and second-team honors on the volleyball hardwoods.

A strong force for the Hawks this season this fall, DiNardo was one of the best setters in the region. She helped Corning reach the sectional playoffs, tallying 209 assists, while adding 83 points and 20 aces.

During basketball season, DiNardo was a force on defense, averaging five steals and seven rebounds per game. The junior added a team-high 14 points a game and five assists a game as she did everything for the Hawks.

In the spring on the lacrosse field, DiNardo reached 100 career goals this year as a junior and the Virginia commit was the lacrosse “Offensive Player of the Year” for Southern Tier Sports Report.

Sarah Lawson, sophomore, Corning: A star in three sports, and a state medalist in multiple sports, along with being an All-American, Lawson was the All-Region Girls Cross Country “Runner of the Year,” and the All-Region Girls “Track Athlete of the Year.”

In the fall, Lawson had a huge year, earning a state medal in Class A after winning the STAC and Section 4 titles. She finished 16th at the prestigious Eastbay Regional meet. She helped guide her team to a STAC title and a Section 4 Championship.

During the winter sports season, Lawson had a top-10 finish at the state meet, and followed that up with an All-American finish this winter. At states Lawson was 10th in the 3000 meters in a time of 10:07.58. She also helped the Hawks 4x800 relay finish 11th in the state.

Lawson then went to nationals where she took fifth in the 5,000 meters to earn All-American honors.

Lawson was undefeated in the 3,000 meters this spring in the STAC West. She was a state medalist in the 3,000, taking sixth at States in Division 1 and seventh in the Federation race with a time of 9:56.99 this year.

Lawson was also part of the 4x800 relay team that qualified for states. She didn’t run the race at states, after running the 3,000 the day before.

Kennedy Westbrook, junior, Waverly:
Another outstanding three-sport athlete, Westbrook excelled on the hoop hardwoods, the soccer pitch, and on the track. She was a first-team All-Region performer on the soccer pitch, and earned second-team honors on the hardwoods and the track.

Westbrook, who can score from 3-point range or by taking the ball to the bucket, averaged 15.4 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 4 assists per game. She also knocked down 33 3-pointers.

She was normally tasked with defending the opposition’s top backcourt player, and averaged 4.2 steals and 4 deflections per game.

On the pitch, Westbrook was a versatile performer with a strong leg. She was a shut-down defender for the Lady Wolverines at stopper, but was able to move up field frequently, and saw some action in the offensive end — scoring 14 goals and dishing out eight assists on the season.

On the track, Westbrook was a member of Waverly’s 400-meter relay that qualified for States by winning the Section IV State Qualifier. She was also on the third-place 1,600-meter relay.

Individually, Westbrook placed third in the 200-meter dash at the Class C Championships. At the IACs, she was second in the 200- and 400-meter sprints. At the IAC South Large School Divisional meet, she won the 200-meter dash,.

Hannah Walker, senior, Athens:
A dynamic athlete, Walker excelled on the soccer pitch and was a first-team All-Region selection. She was a second-team All-Region selection on the track.

 On the pitch, Walker is a skilled all-around player, and a fierce and physical competitor who makes everyone around her better. She scored 18 goals and dished out 16 assists on the season.

On the track, Walker finished second in the 300-meter hurdles at the District 4 Track & Field Championships, while finishing fourth in the 200-meter dash, and sixth in the 100-meter hurdles.

On her way to Districts, Walker won both the 100- and 300-meter hurdles at the NTL Championships. She placed fourth in the 200-meter dash, and was on the second-place 1,600-meter relay.

During swim season, Walker qualified for the District 4 Championships in the 50-yard freestyle.

Emma Coolidge, senior, Wellsboro:
Coolidge was a rare four-sport standout for the Hornets, excelling in soccer, basketball, softball, and track & field.

Coolidge was a steady force in the middle for a Lady Hornets’ soccer club that struggled to score, tallying just six goals and finishing the season with two wins.

She continued her strong, defensive presence into basketball season, taking on the opposing team’s top player on most nights. She scored 11.1 points per game, grabbed 7.5 rebounds per game and had 74 assists and 74 steals.

Coolidge pulled double-duty in the Spring, racking up some impressive numbers at the plate..She hit .510 (25 hits in 49 ABs) with five home runs, 18 RBI, and 21 runs scored. She had an .878 slugging percentage and a 1.457 OPS.

After winning an NTL title in the shot put, as well as a runner-up finish in the javelin, Coolidge placed 10th in the javelin at the District IV Championships.

Coolidge was second-team All-Region in softball, and third-team on the hoop hardwoods.

Hayley Beebe, junior, Newark Valley: 
Beebe was an IAC all-star in all three sports, All-Region in soccer and basketball, and also all-state on the hardwood.

Beebe was a strong defender on the pitch, but still managed to score five goals and dish out one assist for NV.

On the hardwood, she averaged 7.7 points on a team which boasted three players who scored in double digits frequently. She also grabbed 3.8 rebounds and dished out a team-high 2.8 assists per game. Defensively, Beebe was constantly an in-your-face menace to opponents. She led the Cardinals with 4.3 steals per game and nearly 65 percent of her rebounds came at the defensive end of the court.

She also anchored the outfield for the softball team, covering a lot of ground as NV’s center fielder and was an IAC all-star.

Atalyia Rijo, senior, Corning: Rijo qualified for the Indoor Track & Field Championships, but makes this list based on her prowess on the softball field.

Rijo started her year as a state qualifier in the 60 meter dash during the indoor track and field season.

That was all a prequel to what happened in the spring.

Rijo capped her fantastic career by being named the Gatorade New York Softball Player of the Year and she was the all-STSR softball player of the year.

Rijo hit .585 with seven home runs. She led the area with 43 runs this year and stole 10 bases. Rijo was tied for the area lead with 20 extra base hits — eight doubles, five triples and the seven home runs. She had a .675 on-base and a 1.185 slugging percentage for a 1.860 OPS.

She was All-Region “Softball Player of the Year.”

Emmi Ward, senior, Canton:
Ward was the NTL “Player of the Year” in soccer and softball. She was the All-Region Soccer “Defensive Player of the Year,” and was a second-team All-Region selection on the softball diamond.

On the pitch, she anchored a strong Troy defensive backfield as the sweeper, leading the Trojans to their first outright NTL title in more than a decade.

On the diamond, Ward hit .457 with 38 hits, 37 runs scored, 20 RBI, and 28 stolen bases. She had a .639 on-base percentage. Ward’s best asset was on the base paths, where she could single handily turn a walk or single into a run, evident by their 1-0 extra inning win over Montgomery.

Paige Manchester, junior, Towanda: Manchester was a first-team All-Region and NTL “Player of the Year” on the basketball hardwoods, and a second-team All-Region volleyball selection.

During hoop season, Manchester led the Lady Knights to their second undefeated league season with averages of 16.9 points, 7.9 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 3.0 steals, and 1.4 blocks per game. Her ability to be a 6-foot, 2-inch playmaker and shotmaker has terrorized teams these past few seasons. She also has a knack for guarding the passing lanes, and is one of the better rebounders in the area.

On the volleyball hardwoods, Manchester was one of the top hitters in the NTL, with more than 250 kills on the season. She also had 73 blocks, and 170 digs.

Lauren Gilbert, senior, Owego: Gilbert was a four-sport performer, but made her ones on the softball diamond, where she was a second-team All-Region performer.

Gilbert was a defensive stalwart in field hockey and was the first player called on to take penalty corner shots on goal.  She was also a key rebounder in the Indians’ hoops effort.

The diamond was Gilbert’s sanctuary. She posted an 11-6 record with a 1.85 ERA, and 134 strikeouts in 102 innings. She hit .485 with six doubles, two triples, six home runs, and 27 RBI.

In sectional play, the second-team all-state pick posted a 0.83 ERA, allowing just two earned runs while striking out 21 batters. At the plate, she accounted for seven of Owego’s 11 postseason runs — belting the game-winning home run in a 2-1 upset of top-seeded defending champion Susquehanna Valley and a solo shot against eventual state runner-up Chenango Valley to ignite a rally which helped send the championship game into extra innings.

She was also one of the top performers for the school's fledgling flag football team.


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