Mineral Wells Index
By CLINT FOSTER
Palo Pinto County's most successful basketball team of the 2013-14 season can now add a bushel of accolades to an already memorable, Regional Championship year.
Fresh off of their first appearance in the state tournament in 57 years, the third-ranked Santo Ladycats (24-9) placed eight girls on the All-District 11-1A-II team, four of whom earned top honors. All five of Santo's phenomenal seniors made an appearance on the list.
Seniors Breeana Raffaele and Payton Billue were named the district's Co-Most Valuable Players while fellow senior Madison Lasater earned the title of Defensive Player of the Year and sophomore post Chasen Howard captured Newcomer of the Year.
In addition her all-district honors, Breeana Raffaele was also named to the Class 1A-Division I All-State Tournament team.
Declining to provide individual statistics for the season, head coach Tony Raffaele said that each player's contribution to the Ladycats' year went far beyond mere numbers.
"The stats of all the kids would not give anyone a picture of the true contribution of each young lady," he said. "The only stat our team was focused on was to win as a team, no matter who got the credit.
Raffaele went on to describe the significant impact each award-winner had on this team.
"Payton Billue is like my third daughter," he said. "She was the backbone that carried this team at times. Breeana Raffaele was the floor general that could make good basketball decisions.
"Madison Lasater could play any position and defend anyone. Chasen Howard is a very good basketball player that bought into what I was doing as a coach. She will only get better under our system and could be one of the best players I have coached in a long time."
Howard finished the season with a double-double in the Ladycats' loss to Plains in the state tournament, posting a team-leading 15 points and 10 rebounds. Her youth and talent gives Santo great reason to have high hopes for the near future.
Garnering first-team all-district accolades were seniors Taylor Nemeth and Courtney Flanagan. Both were lethal shooters for the Ladycats that added another dimension to the Santo offense.
"Courtney was the shooter that kept teams from playing a zone defense on us," Raffaele said. "Taylor was the athlete that had a quick turnaround jumper that was hard to defend."
On the second team was junior Jaci Trotter, who shined in a comeback season after missing all of 2012-13 with an illness.
"Jaci came back this year like she never missed a beat," Raffaele said. "(She's a) very intelligent player."
Rounding out Santo's all-district class was junior Callie Wharton, who earned honorable mention.
"Callie is the player I could use to offset other teams' big posts," Raffaele said. "She improved all year long and will only get better with more training."
Although she did not make all-district because of spending much of the season on junior varsity, Raffaele pointed to Lilly Motley as an essential cog in the Ladycats' success.
"Lilly filled in as backup point guard when I lost my back up," he said. "I threw her into the frying pan during the playoffs and she did an outstanding job."
With virtually 90 percent of Santo's roster earning all-district recognition of some kind on top of the historic trip to Austin, it's hard to scoff at what was a truly special season for the Ladycats. Raffaele said none of these goals could have been achieved without the hard work and dedication of his team.
"People will never understand the hard work and adversity this team went through to succeed," he said. "It always looks easy from the outside."