Girls Basketball: Heurung's play said enough
Kylee Heurung mustered the words that almost turned into a major upset. Before the Brainerd Warriors' Section 8-4A quarterfinal matchup against the-then 21-4 St. Michael-Albertville Knights, Heurung ended the silence. She stood in front of her te...
Kylee Heurung mustered the words that almost turned into a major upset.
Before the Brainerd Warriors' Section 8-4A quarterfinal matchup against the-then 21-4 St. Michael-Albertville Knights, Heurung ended the silence. She stood in front of her teammates and spoke about beliefs.
"I just told the girls that I believed that we could win even though they were seeded No. 2 and we were seeded No. 7," Heurung said. "I still believed we could win. And no matter what the outcome that I was proud of them. Then I went on and gave them pointers on what we had to do, and who to stop, and ran through the whole game plan."
The uncharacteristic verbal motivation turned what many believed would be a blowout loss for the Warriors into a 69-62 defeat. Still a loss, but Warriors head coach Troy Nelson said his team played great that game and the Warriors finished the season 17-10 overall in large part due to Heurung, who is the Brainerd Dispatch Girls Basketball Player of the Year.
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- Year: Senior
- School: Brainerd
- Position: Guard
- 2016-17 season statistics: Finished with 543 points (20.1 per game), 294 rebounds (10.9), 42 assists (1.6), 57 steals (2.1) and 14 blocked shots. She shot 36.2 percent (165-456) from the field, 82.3 percent (167-203) from the foul line and 25.1 percent (46-183) from 3-point.
- Career totals: 106 games, 1,991 points, 830 rebounds (290 offensive), 144 assists, 39 blocks, 211 steals.
- Next season: Will play for Mayville State University
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"She's come out of her shell more and more every year," said Nelson. "When she was younger, she was very quiet. She still is quiet, but she has come out of her shell. She's more vocal. She's not a vocal kid. She's not that loud vocal leader. She's more of a lead-by-example kid, but she kept getting better trying to be that vocal leader throughout her career.
"Before we played our last game against St. Michael, in the locker room, she gave her one and only pregame speech to the team and really fired them up."
Being a vocal leader wasn't a role Heurung was comfortable with. At least not until she knew she had the support of her teammates, she said.
Where the 5-foot-10 guard felt most comfortable was at the free throw line. This season she connected on 82.3 percent (167 of 203). For her career, she shot 82.9 percent from the line. Of her school-record 1,991 career points, 557 came from the line.
"Not much is going on in my head when I'm at the line," Heurung said. "I'm just focusing on making them and then getting back on defense. There's really not much to think about at the free throw line.
"I shoot hundreds of free throws. Between each drill I shoot free throws. You get a lot of practice with them. I'm pretty confident I can make a free throw. It's almost 100 percent confident. It depends on how extreme the situation or how well I'm shooting that night."
Heurung's confidence and shooting ability changed the way Nelson constructed his offense. It also changed how Heurung attacked opposing defenses.
"She's been a great free throw shooter ever since she started playing varsity," Nelson said. "It's something that she practices shooting a lot. Her confidence and her ability to have that mental focus when she's at the free throw line is something not a lot of 15-, 16-, 17-, 18-year-old kids have. She just has had that. She goes to the free throw line and you just expect she's going to make both of her free throws. She makes so many of them.
"She was a very good driver. In our offense, we would go five out hoping to make driving lanes and cutting lanes. Her ability to attack the rim, and get to the line, really helped our team score and be one of the highest-scoring teams in our conference and section and it helped her become the leading scorer (girls or boys) in school history."
This season Heurung averaged 20.1 points, 10.9 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 2.1 steals per game. She shot 36 percent from the field and 25 percent from 3-point despite attracting every opponent's' best defensive efforts.
Mayville State recruited Heurung during the AAU season. She decided on the Comets because she felt most comfortable around the team and liked the up-tempo style of offense they play.
One thing Nelson will miss most about a graduated Heurung is never having to worry about her effort. Nowhere better was that showcased than in her ability to get rebounds. Of her team-leading 294 boards, 113 were offensive rebounds, which was more rebounds than all but one of her teammates' total rebounds.
"She does get a ton of rebounds and it's not because she's great at boxing out," said Nelson. "She just knew when a shot went up, whether it was her teammate or an opponent, she just had that knack of knowing where it was going to miss and then having that desire to just go get it.
"At our conference coaches' meeting, as we were talking as coaches, it just came up what a great offensive rebounder she was. Teams had to prepare for that. You had to prepare to guard her out to the volleyball line, but then when a shot went up you had to be able to find her and keep her off the boards also.
"She just had that desire. She's a competitor and she hates to lose. She knew she was going to have to rebound. It wasn't us as a staff challenging her. She just had that inner desire and understanding of the game so she knew in order to win she was going to have to rebound."
In her four-year varsity career, Heurung played in 106 games. She collected 1,991 points, 830 rebounds (290 offensive), 144 assists, 39 blocks and 211 steals.
"I'm pleased with what I accomplished, like leading the program in scoring," Heurung said. "I'm happy because it took a lot to get there. So I'm very happy with where I am. I don't have any regrets that I know of yet. Those will probably come in a few years."