LA CROSSE — Dave Donarski first coached his daughter Lexi in a basketball game 14 years ago. As the horizon came into focus, the long ride began to set in.
“It wasn’t until the last 10 games, or around there,” the La Crosse Aquinas High School girls basketball coach said. “Then it was like, ‘I only have a month left’ or ‘I only have a week left.’
“That was hard.”
What the two accomplished together with Aquinas will forever be etched in history, but it received something much more than a footnote nearly two weeks after their final game was called off due to the COVID-19 pandemic
The Associated Press has selected Lexi as its girls basketball player of the year and Dave as its coach of the year after a 25-1 season and 107-3 career with the Blugolds, who qualified for the past four WIAA Division 4 championship games and won two of the three they played.
They were set to try and three-peat on March 13 when they were scheduled to play Melrose-Mindoro in this year’s title game after winning 73-42 over Crandon in the semifinals, but hours after that victory on March 12 the WIAA canceled the rest of the winter sports season because of the still-ongoing pandemic.
Lexi, a 5-foot-10 point guard who will continue her career at Iowa State, averaged 24.2 points, 6.9 assists, 5.5 steals and 4.5 rebounds per game this year.
She and Racine Lutheran senior Caroline Strande (35.3 ppg, 10.2 rpg) were unanimous selections for the first team, which also includes West Bend West senior Maddison Baker, Madison Memorial senior Leilani Kapinus and Beaver Dam junior Maty Wilke. Lexi was a unanimous selection as player of the year from a nomination list that also included Strande, Kapinus and Wilke.
The 5-10 Wilke, the Badger North Conference’s Player of the Year and a highly sought-after NCAA Division I recruit, averaged 16.6 points, 7.4 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 3.6 steals for the league champion Golden Beavers, who were two victories away from claiming the Division 2 state title. Doing so would have made Beaver Dam the first program in state history with four straight championships.
Also making all-state from the area are Beaver Dam senior Jada Donaldson (fourth team) and junior Natalie Jens (honorable mention), and Waupun sophomore Abbie Aalsma (fourth team) and senior Peyton McGinnis (honorable mention).
Dave Donarski, whose record over six seasons with the team is 147-13, was selected from a nomination group that included Middleton’s Jeff Kind, Beaver Dam’s Tim Chase, Hortonville’s Celeste Ratka, Black Hawk’s Michael Flanagan, Oconomowoc’s Bob Shea, Platteville’s Mike Foley, Bay Port’s Kati Coleman, Laconia’s Chris Morgan and Wrightstown’s Mike Froehlke.
The Blugolds won 18 games by more than 40 points and did beat Beaver Dam 53-36 on Jan. 25 at JustAGame Fieldhouse in Wisconsin Dells.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR — Lexi Donarski, La Crosse Aquinas (unanimous)
Coach of the year — Dave Donarski, La Crosse Aquinas
First team — Maddison Baker, 6-2, sr., West Bend West; Lexi Donarski, 5-10, sr., La Crosse Aquinas (unanimous); Leilani Kapinus, 5-11, sr., Madison Memorial; Caroline Strande, 5-11, sr., Racine Lutheran (unanimous); Maty Wilke, 5-10, jr., Beaver Dam.
Second team — Leah Earnest, 5-11, sr., Stevens Point; Macy McGlone, 6-3, sr., Hortonville; Anna Mortag, 6-0 sr., Brookfield Central; Jaddan Simmons, 5-9, sr., Green Bay Southwest; Sitori Tanin, 6-2, sr., Middleton.
Third team — Courtney Becker, 6-0, sr., La Crosse Aquinas; Bridget Froehlke, 5-9, sr., Wrightstown; Anna Lutz, 6-1, jr, Marshall; Sami Martin, 6-2, sr., Platteville; Natalie McNeal, 5-8, sr., Germantown.
Fourth team — Abbie Aalsma, 5-9, so., Waupun; Jada Donaldson, 5-6, sr., Beaver Dam; Natalie Leuzinger, 5-9, sr., Black Hawk; Khamya McNeal, 5-7, sr., Milwaukee King; Olivia Sobczak, 6-0, sr., Oconomowoc.
Honorable mention — Kamorea Arnold, fr., Germantown; Paige Banks, sr., Evansville; Bailey Butler, jr., Black Hawk; Mesa Byom, sr., Melrose-Mindoro; Angie Cera, sr., Mukwonago; Ella Diny, sr., Wrightstown; Carley Duffney, jr., Green Bay Preble; Olivia Gamoke, jr., Onalaska; Morgann Gardner, jr., Racine Lutheran; Remi Geiger, sr., Loyal; Caelan Givens, sr., Chippewa Falls; Erin Hedman, sr., New Berlin Eisenhower; Emily Herzberg, sr., Melrose-Mindoro; Dru Henning, sr., Mukwonago; Ellie Hoesley, sr., Arcadia; Natalie Jens, jr., Beaver Dam; Mackenzie Johnson, sr., Bay Port; Nicole Johnson, sr., Mineral Point; Lily Krahn, so., Prairie du Chien; Jasmine Kondrakiewicz, sr., Pius XI; Emily La Chapell, so., Appleton East; Isabella Lenz, jr., Prescott; Peyton McGinnis, sr., Waupun; Sarah Mueller, sr., Stevens Point Pacelli; Brianna Nelson, sr., Eleva-Strum; Laura Nickel, jr., Marshall; Olivia Pitrof, sr., Racine Horlick; Olivia Rangel, jr., Franklin; Emmoni Rankins, sr., Madison Memorial; Haley Rens, jr., Laconia; Katie Rohner, sr., Waterford; Becca Schauer, sr., Ozaukee; Lauren Schill, sr., Pewaukee; Grace Schmidt, so., Watertown Luther Prep; Kylie Schmidt, jr., Mishicot; Maddy Schreiber, jr., Kimberly; Julia Seidel, sr., Wausau Newman Catholic; Kylie Strop, sr., River Falls; Taylor Theusch, sr., La Crosse Aquinas; Maggie Trautsch, sr., DeForest; Liz Uhl, sr., Oregon; Kennedy Van Zile, sr., Rhinelander; Hailey Voelker, sr., Colby; Julianna Wagner, jr., Lake Mills; Emma Wollert, sr., Sheboygan Falls; Madison Zimmer, sr., Clear Lake.
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