Benz tops list: Kidder Co. star named Miss BasketballKidder County, formerly Steele-Dawson, has played in three of the last four girls state Class B basketball tournaments. Eli Benz has been there for all three. The career highlight for the 5-foot, 11-inch senior forward was leading the Pirates to a 45-43 win over Fordville-Lankin-Park River in the 2008 state championship game. She was named tournament MVP that season.
BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Kidder County, formerly Steele-Dawson, has played in three of the last four girls state Class B basketball tournaments. Eli Benz has been there for all three.
The career highlight for the 5-foot, 11-inch senior forward was leading the Pirates to a 45-43 win over Fordville-Lankin-Park River in the 2008 state championship game. She was named tournament MVP that season.
On Saturday, Benz added more hardware to her trophy case when she took home the North Dakota Miss Basketball Award. The award is presented annually to the top senior player in the state as determined by the North Dakota Associated Press Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association.
Benz averaged 20.3 points, 8.3 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 2.8 steals. She also blocked nearly two shots per game. She received eight first-place votes and 46 points.
Fargo South guard Siri Burck finished second in the voting with two first-place votes and 25 points.
Casey Geffre of Hankinson had two first-place votes and 20 points, followed by Hazen’s Stef Bohrer with nine points and Carli Peterson of Bismarck Century with eight points.
Benz said she will play basketball or volleyball as she pursues a pre-med degree in college. She is unsure where she will go to school.
“Basketball has been a big part of my life,” Benz said. “I was one of those kids in the driveway for hours and hours. I’ll always love the game, but I love other things, too.”
Benz also plays french horn, trumpet and piano and is in the honor band.
But it was on the court where Benz impressed coaches, teammates and opponents alike.
“As a player, she’s unbelievable,” Kidder County coach Scott Wolff said. “I had her as a freshman and she’s got better and better.”
Wolff was an assistant for Benz’s first three years and guided the Pirates to the state tournament in his first year as head coach this season.
“She had to give us a lot more and do a lot more this year,” Wolff said. “She took that role, especially at tournament time.”
Benz’s senior year ended with a 71-55 win over Thompson in the seventh-place game at the state B tournament. She had 31 points, 10 rebounds and six assists in that game. She had 22 points and 14 boards in a one-point loss to Standing Rock in the opening round, and 20 points in a two-point loss to Kenmare in the consolation round.
A year earlier, Benz had 20 points and eight boards in the state title game, and she scored in all three tournament games for Steele-Dawson as a freshman in 2007.
“My biggest highlight was winning the state championship as a junior, especially the way we won at the buzzer,” Benz said. I’ll never forget that.”
Benz scored more than 1,000 points in her career.
Statistics for other finalists as chosen by the NDAPSSA:
Peterson, a 6-0 forward from Bismarck Century. Peterson averaged 14.1 points, 6.2 rebounds, 2.2 steals and 1.3 blocked shots.
Burck, a 5-11 guard from Fargo South. She averaged 20.3 points, 8.3 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 1.8 blocked shots.
Bohrer, a 5-9 forward from Hazen. Bohrer averaged 15.8 points, 10.1 rebounds and 1.5 assists.
Geffre, a 5-9 guard-forward from Hankinson. Geffre averaged 19.3 points, 9 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 3.8 steals.