Female Area Athlete of the Week: Nixon finding her role with running mate Peterson
Karlie Nixon named area athlete of the week after being named to All-State honorable mention
For their whole basketball careers, Karli Nixon and Lily Peterson have been in tandem.
Now seniors, only Nixon remains after Peterson suffered an ACL tear leaving her out for the 2021 season.
Nixon has survived on her own just fine. Although she and the Crosby-Ironton Rangers miss the former Dispatch Player of the Year, Peterson. Nixon has turned in a season that earned her All-State Honorable Mention honors for Class 2A.
“It means a lot coming from a small town,” Nixon said. “I definitely have a lot of support behind me. It’s been an adjustment this year with all the COVID-19 stuff and being without Lily being by my side.
“We’ve still found other ways to hang out though. She’s at every practice. She’s at every game on the bench. She’s still talking on the bench and giving me pointers. She’s still very much involved.”
Nixon added to her excellent senior season last week with two straight 19-point games against Cromwell-Wright and Staples-Motley. Last season, at Staples-Motley, is where Nixon reached her 1,000th career point milestone.
“I’ve never felt more supported than when I reached that milestone,” Nixon said. “Even when we were at Staples-Motley last week, my teammates were reminding me that this was where we celebrated.”
For the season, Nixon averages 16.0 points a game on 56% shooting. She’s also tallied 3.1 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 2.6 steals a game.
“The way she’s stepped up without Lily is what I like because they have been running partners throughout their whole career,” Rangers head coach Peter Vukelich said. “We thought the absence of Lily might affect her a different way, but she’s stepped right up and her confidence and body language on the floor is a night and day difference from last year.”
As a junior last year, Nixon was named to the Dispatch All-Area team and finished with 15.0 points, 4.9 rebounds and 1.3 assists a game with 65 steals. She also shot 51% (143-280) from the field, 28% (23-82) from 3-point and 71% (79-111) from the free-throw line.
C-I’s most talked about player is seventh-grader Tori Oehrlein, who averages 22.1 points, 10.1 rebounds and 6.9 assists a game while shooting 50% from the field and 46% from 3.
One of Oehrlein’s best traits on the basketball floor is her vision and Nixon is one of the main beneficiaries of her passing.
“It’s a little bittersweet because that used to be Lily,” Nixon said. “We were kind of that dynamic duo, but it’s nice that Tori can fill that role for that team, not just for me, but for the whole team.”
Nixon has also taken on the role of shepherd for the young Oehrlein to help her with the pressures of playing varsity at a young age.
“I honestly forget she’s a seventh grader,” Nixon said. “She’s so mature and her basketball IQ is beyond me. She’s got a great work ethic and is a great team player. She’s just blended in and joined a new group of girls seamlessly.”
Vukelich saw the Nixon and Oehrlein relationship grow in the summer.
“Sometimes I have to tell Tori not to throw it because it’s not always there,” Vukelich said. “We have to hold her back, but (Nixon) has been great running up the floor.”
In her senior season, Nixon realized her role isn’t always going to be the scorer for the Rangers. She’s found other ways to affect the game.
“Sometimes it’s just being the player they look for guidance,” Nixon said. “Staying composed in a close game. We’ve had a lot of those this year. It’s been all about adapting.”
The highlight of the season for Nixon and Vukelich came during the Cromwell-Wright game last week. It was senior night. Peterson entered the game toward the end.
It was Nixon who assisted on a Peterson 3-pointer like old times in the Rangers’ 66-48 win.
“I can’t describe it,” Nixon said. “I was so happy. I know there were a lot of nerves with it coming in. In the end, she executed really well and it was a really fun moment to get that last bit with her.”
Vukelich could see how much the moment meant for both seniors.
“That’s something we talked about as coaches, you know, how do we get Lily into the game without the cliche of just letting her score,” he said. “She had to run the floor a little bit and get open and for Karli to get the assist on that basket was a perfect ending to their high school chapter in basketball.”
Next year, Nixon plans to attend and play basketball at the College of St. Scholastica in Duluth.
“I’ve always wanted to go to college in Duluth,” she said. “I’m really excited to get right into it with them.”
Other notable performances:
Basketball: Taylor Jordan, Little Falls, scored 22 points against Mora and 22 points against Long Prairie-Grey Eagle.
Tori Oehrlein, Crosby-Ironton, scored 22 points against Staples-Motley.
Reagan Ludovissie, Verndale, scored 24 points against Bertha-Hewitt.
Ramsey Tulenchik, Pine River-Backus, scored 26 points against Pequot Lakes and 22 points against Nevis.
Rylie Hirschey, Pine River-Backus, scored 20 points against Pequot Lakes.
Addison Lorber, Staples-Motley, scored 22 points against Long Prairie-Grey Eagle.
Sadie Hopman, Pillager, Scored 21 points against Henning.
Teagan Piecek, Aitkin, scored 22 points against Isle.
Gymnastics: Maddie Dehn, Little Falls, earned the all-around title against Paynesville.
Highlights: Named to Class 2A All-State Honorable Mention as well as scored 19 points against Cromwell-Wright and Staple-Motley.