Girls Basketball: Oehrlein remains the queen of the court
Crosby-Ironton freshman earns Brainerd Dispatch All-Area Player of the Year for the third straight year
CROSBY — Tori Oehrlein’s third varsity season was the most memorable.
The Crosby-Ironton freshman reached multiple individual milestones while leading the Rangers to state for the first time since 2004.
Oehrlein finished the season with 998 points (31.2 per game), 460 rebounds (14.4 per game), 205 assists (6.4 per game), 127 steals and 50 blocked shots. She shot an efficient 55.2% (386-699) from the field, 35.3% (72-204) from 3-point and 71% (154-217) from the free throw line.
She’s the Brainerd Dispatch All-Area Player of the Year for a third straight season. She is the first player to be named All-Area Player of the Year three times since it started in 2003-04.
“I think it all started last season when she got voted as a captain,” Crosby-Ironton head coach Pete Vukelich said. “I think the girls all knew she was going to be the best player, but it takes something else to be voted team captain. I think that was huge for her, especially with her being a freshman.”
Oehrlein became the all-time leading scorer for the Crosby-Ironton girls’ program when she scored 23 points against Pequot Lakes on Jan. 19. She passed Bryce Tesdahl’s all-time Ranger scoring mark of 1,943 when she dropped 45 points against Pine River-Backus on Feb. 13.
“The all-time scoring leader one was cool because I graduated with Bryce Tesdahl,” Vuklich said. “I texted him and he sent a video congratulating Tori and I played it before a game. It was super rewarding for Tori and for me to get to coach her. I knew with her work ethic she was going to get there someday — maybe not this fast, but we all knew it was going to happen.”
She became the fastest player in the state of Minnesota in terms of games played to surpass 2,000 points when she scored 28 points against New London-Spicer on Feb. 18.
Providence Academy freshman Maddyn Greenway reached 2,000 points the day prior to Oehrlein, but needed more games.
“It was one of those things where if you asked Tori, she probably didn’t know it was going to happen,” Vukelich said. “She wanted to get the win more than the record and that speaks volumes about her as a player. She handles it pretty well with all the pressure and junk defenses that come her way. She knows people are going to compare her to Maddie Greenway, but she is really focused on Crosby and bringing this program to a special place and hopefully, we are hanging a banner by the time she is done.”
In the Section 7-2A Finals against Pequot Lakes, Oehrlein grabbed the 1,000th rebound of her career to help the Rangers knock off the top-seeded Patriots and reach state.
“All the milestones I got had some special memory and special moment about them,” Oehrlein said.
Oehrlein finished with 31 points on 9-of-15 shooting and went 6-10 from the 3-point line to propel the Rangers to state.
“Our chemistry got a lot better,” Oehrlein said. “We used that to encourage each other and play better.”
It was a memorable moment for Oehrlein to win the section title at Brainerd High School and the gym her mom, Sarah, played her high school basketball.
“It was very exciting,” Oehrlein said. “We talked a little bit about that before the game.”
The Rangers mounted a 12-game winning streak, which started on Feb. 7 to reach the state tournament.
“During the winning streak, Tori didn’t lose her temper much,” Vukelich said. “She kept things positive, which I think helped the whole morale of the team. She’s played in front of big crowds before, so she wasn’t phased and was ready for the big stage.”
Oehrlein recorded 27 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists in the state quarterfinal loss to Goodhue. She tallied 27 points, 12 rebounds and five assists in the consolation loss to Perham.
“I loved the environment that we got to play in,” Oehrlein said. “The support we had was amazing.”
Her season high in points came against Duluth Marshall on Jan. 14 when she scored 46 points and shot 15-17 from the free throw line.
She recorded four triple-doubles on the season including on Feb. 7 when she recorded 34 points, 15 rebounds and 15 steals in a 79-23 win over Aitkin. She was four assists shy of a quadruple-double.
In a 104-39 win over Staples-Motley on Jan. 27, Oehrlein finished with 42 points, 14 rebounds, nine assists and nine steals — another almost quadruple-double.
She surpassed double digits in assists four times with her season high of 13 assists coming in an 85-52 win over Pillager on Jan. 5.
Even with Oehrlein’s high usage rate, she managed to keep her turnover count reasonably low at 107 (3.3 per game). She was close to having two assists for every turnover with a 205:107 assist-to-turnover ratio.
“At the start of the season, it’s about reigning Tori in, or I should say, AAU Tori,” Vukelich said. “When she plays AAU, she can make full-court passes. But she needs to adjust to her Crosby team from her AAU team. To get the number down like it is shows how smart of a player she is and how quickly she learns things. She is very coachable and unselfish.”
Oehrlein said she has a healthy relationship with her coach.
“He knows when to push me,” she said. “He also knows when he needs to be there for me. He’s a good coach.”
She snatched double-digit rebounds in all, but two games.
“A lot of that comes from her parents and her upbringing,” Vukelich said. “Her dad would be first to say rebounding is all heart and effort. Which you agree with. I think the girls like that because they don’t feel the pressure that they have to make it if they take a shot because Tori is down there for the rebound.”
Defensively, it’s not just the steals and blocked shots that make her a good defender.
“She’ll be the first one to volunteer to lock someone up,” Vukelich said. “A prime example is the Duluth Marshall game. We kept Regan Juenemann and Chloe Johnson to single digits which I don’t think happened all year in the same game. In the Proctor game, she wanted their best player, in the Pequot game when we went man-to-man she wanted (Maci) Martini. She’s not afraid to guard the team’s best player at any given point.”
Oehrlein was also named to the Class 2A All-State Team. All the attention she’s gotten in her three years on varsity hasn’t phased her.
“I’ve tried to improve on my leadership on the court and take on more of a scoring role,” Oehrlein said. “I’m just out there having fun. I don’t really think of the pressure that much.”
Season Stats: Finished with 998 points (31.2 per game), 460 rebounds (14.4 per game), 205 assists (6.4 per game), 127 steals and 50 blocked shots. She shot 55.2% (386-699) from the field, 35.3% (72-204) from 3-point and 71% (154-217) from the free throw line.
Past All-Area Player of the Years
2022-23: Tori Oehrlein, Crosby-Ironton
2021-22: Tori Oehrlein, Crosby-Ironton
2020-21: Tori Oehrlein, Crosby-Ironton
2019-20: Lily Peterson, Crosby-Ironton
2018-19: Olivia Lane, Pequot Lakes
2017-18: Olivia Lane, Pequot Lakes
2016-17: Kylee Heurung, Brainerd
2015-16: Haley Wiebolt, Pequot Lakes
2014-15: Grace Wolhowe, Staples-Motley
2013-14: Vanessa Lane, Pequot Lakes
2012-13: Tatum Sheley, PRB
2011-12: Mattie Lueck, Pequot Lakes
2010-11: Emily Lueck, Pequot Lakes
2009-10: Nikki Pearson, S-M; Emily Lueck, Pequot Lakes
2008-09: Sara Hoge, Aitkin; Emily Mehr, Aitkin
2007-08: Taylor Sheley, PRB
2006-07: Kayla Huether, Brainerd
2005-06: Chelsea Lundgren, C-I
2004-05: Flecia Foster, Pequot Lakes; Teresa Parker, Pequot Lakes
2003-04: Michelle Honek, SM
CONRAD ENGSTROM may be reached at 218-855-5861 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/the_rad34.