The basketball careers of Alexis Markowski and Allison Weidner were on an amazing parallel this season.
To be specific, both returning senior all-staters:
» Finished as their schools’ all-time scoring leaders.
» Led their teams to undefeated seasons and state championships.
» Are headed for Nebraska.
With that in mind, the duo will share one more thing – the honorary captain role of this year’s World-Herald All-Nebraska girls team. Markowski helped Lincoln Pius X go 25-0 in Class A and Weidner helped Humphrey St. Francis go 25-0 in Class D-2.
The two players repeat as first-team selections, along with Fremont’s Taylor McCabe. Earning a spot for the first time are Weeping Water senior Grace Cave and Elkhorn North freshman Britt Prince, both members of state championship teams.
The second team consists of Mya Babbitt of Millard South, Bailey Kissinger of Hastings St. Cecilia, Jillian Aschoff of Lincoln Pius X, Kaitlyn Emanuel of North Bend and Taryn Wharton of Bellevue West.
Third-team selections are Cora Olsen of Millard South, Sidney Swanson of West Point-Beemer, Sydney Emanuel of North Bend, Aaniya Webb of Omaha Central and Maddie Portwine of York.
Nominations of coaches and observations of The World-Herald sports staff determine the All-Nebraska and all-class teams.
* * *
*denotes honorary captain
Lincoln Pius X, 6-3, Sr., 23.3
The 6-foot-3 center averaged 23.3 points and 13 rebounds to lead the Thunderbolts to their second straight Class A title and fifth overall. She averaged 23.7 points in three state tournament wins, capped by a 27-point effort in the championship win over Fremont.
Markowski was able to get her points on a nightly basis despite defenses designed specifically to try and stop her. She was regularly double or triple-teamed yet it never seemed to make a difference.
“Over the last two years we’ve seen every junk defense possible,” Pius coach Ryan Psota said. “The bigger the game, the better she was.”
For the Thunderbolts, games didn't come any bigger than the state tournament final. But Markowski, who was coming off a 30-point effort in a semifinal victory over Omaha Central, wasn’t prepared for how that game began.
Fremont jumped to a stunning 10-0 lead, which led Psota to call a timeout.
“She was very composed in the huddle,” he said. “She just told her teammates to calm down and that they were going to get this done.”
The Thunderbolts drew within 29-24 at halftime before Markowski took over in the third quarter. She scored 13 points as Pius surged into the lead and then fittingly scored the team’s final two points in the 56-52 victory.
“Alexis is the ultimate competitor,” Psota said. “She wanted to win as badly as any kid I’ve ever seen.”
Markowski, who finished her career with 1,485 points – beating Maddie Simon’s school record of 1,378 -- said repeating as state champs was an obvious goal this season.
“We were the underdogs last year but this season we had the target on our backs,” she said. “We were able to deal with the pressure and kept our composure.”
Psota said he has no doubts that Markowski, whose father Andy played basketball at Nebraska, will make a contribution with the Huskers.
“She won’t have as many bodies trying to stop her and she’ll be able to use more post moves and more finesse,” he said. “I can’t wait to watch her play.”
*denotes honorary captain
Humphrey St. Francis, 5-10, Sr., 25.8
Unlike Markowski, Weidner was closing in on the end of her varsity career without a title. The Flyers reached state her previous three seasons and finished as the Class D-2 runners-up twice.
“It was no secret that Allison was on a mission this year,” coach Bryan Reichmuth said. “It was something that drove her and our entire team.”
That mission began after the 2020 season ended with a 59-51 loss to Wynot in the final. Weidner told twin guards Emma and Hannah Baumgart that the Flyers would win the championship in 2021.
“After coming up just short two times, I promised them this would be our year,” she said. “It was something that just had to happen.”
Reichmuth said Weidner’s drive also pushed the team to new heights.
“Everybody wanted that state championship and everybody wanted it for Allison,” he said. “It was really a united front and you just had the feeling that Allison was not going to let us lose.”
Weidner certainly did her part to make that promise come true. She averaged a state-leading 25.8 points and finished her career with 2,282 – third all-time in the state behind Darcy Stracke of Chambers (2,752) and KC Cowgill of Grand Island Central Catholic (2.427).
At the state tournament, she scored 19 in a 73-41 first-round win over Sterling and 31 in a tough 65-59 semifinal win over Mullen. In the final against Falls City Sacred Heart, the 5-10 guard scored 21 points and had eight rebounds in a 57-48 victory.
“She shot the ball even better this year,” Reichmuth said. “Though she was just as happy making passes to set up her teammates.”
The coach added that Weidner’s leadership was the biggest asset she brought to the court in her senior year.
As for the future, Reichmuth said he is eager to see how Weidner fits in at Nebraska.
“I have a lot of confidence in Allison,” the coach said. “Because of her ability to run the floor, I’ll be shocked if she doesn’t make a major contribution to the program.”
Fremont, 5-9, Jr., 23.6
The 5-9 Iowa pledge has made an impact at Fremont in her three varsity seasons, and the Tigers have reaped the benefits as a team.
McCabe averaged 18.2 points as a freshman, 20.3 as a sophomore and 23.6 this past season for a total of 1,697 points. Fremont has gone to state the past two seasons, winning its first-ever tourney game last year and reaching the final this year.
The sharpshooting junior is one of the state’s top 3-point threats. She set a Class A mark last year by sinking 107 shots from behind the arc, and added 106 more treys this season.
McCabe has 285 3-pointers in her career, putting her fourth all-time in Nebraska. She is chasing the state record of 363, set by Minden’s Brooke Kissinger.
“I don’t know what more you can say about her,” Fremont coach Kelly Flynn said. “She’s been such a great player for us since her freshman year.”
At the state tournament, she averaged almost 20 points in three games. McCabe scored 18 in the final but it wasn’t enough as Pius prevailed 56-52.
“Defenses zeroed in on her but she was still able to get her shots,” Flynn said. “She had this uncanny ability to get open, and it helped that her teammates always were ready to set screens for her.”
The coach added that McCabe became a more complete player this season, getting to the free-throw line more and taking on an added sense of leadership.
McCabe said looking back on this season, defeating Millard South 70-64 in a state tourney semifinal was one of the highlights.
“It was a fun game to play and a great atmosphere,” she said. “Plus that win helped take the team farther than it had ever been before.”
McCabe added that loss in the final is going to drive her even harder next season to bring Fremont its first state title.
“That’s definitely going to be the No. 1 goal,” she said. “That’s the only way I want to finish my career.”
Weeping Water, 5-9, Sr., 21.4
Cave, a 5-9 senior guard, did everything possible to bring Class D-1 Weeping Water its first championship.
The UNO pledge averaged 21.4 points and led the team in almost every offensive and defensive category. Her leadership skill also was instrumental when the Indians, who had reached state the previous two years, started the season 4-3.
“We had a couple of spells this season when things just weren’t clicking,” coach Joel Haveman said. “Grace always kept a positive attitude and for whatever reason, we got it back together.”
Weeping Water won seven of its final eight games heading to state, and the Indians opened the tourney with a 55-45 victory over BDS. Weeping Water survived a 51-50, overtime semifinal against Hartington Cedar Catholic before squaring off against defending champion Pleasanton in the final.
The Bulldogs went ahead with 14 seconds left, which proved to be plenty of time for Cave. She took the inbounds pass and drove the length of the court for the winning layup in Weeping Water’s 40-39 victory.
“All gas, no brakes,” Cave said after the game. “I knew I didn’t have a lot of time.”
Cave averaged 22 points in the three games and was named to the all-class, all-tournament team.
“There was no question that Grace drove us,” Haveman said. “All our opponents’ attention was on her and yet she was still able to help us reach our goals.”
The coach added that it was a different dynamic this season as Cave carried on without graduated guard Peyton Barrett, who also averaged 20 points per game.
“It had been those two but this year Grace had to carry the load,” Haveman said. “I thought it was good for her development as a player and it helped her have added trust in her teammates.”
Cave, who dished out 128 assists this season, said the state championship was a satisfying end to her basketball career.
“There were times when I thought this is going to be a long season,” she said. “But we all had the mentality that we were going to get it done, and that’s what happened.”
Elkhorn North, 5-10, Fr., 23.4
It took a rare player to help Elkhorn North win a state title in its first season of varsity play, and the 5-10 freshman was up for the challenge.
She averaged 23.4 points to help the Wolves go 21-2 while capturing the school’s first state championship of any kind. Elkhorn North capped its season with a 46-33 victory over Norris in the Class B final.
Prince’s mother Ann, the head coach, said it was the kind of magical season that she still has trouble comprehending.
“I’m not sure it’s totally sunk in,” she said. “To win a state title in your first year is shocking but it’s such a credit to our players for accomplishing that feat.”
Britt’s early success already has drawn the attention of several Division I schools. She has offers from Nebraska, Creighton, UNO, Iowa, Iowa State, Louisville, North Carolina and South Dakota State.
Ann Prince said she wasn’t certain that her daughter’s success at the middle school and club-team level would carry over to the high school game.
“Some players are three years older and three years stronger,” she said. “But Britt was able to make the transition so I was very thankful for that.”
She got off to a modest start at the state tourney, scoring seven points in a low-scoring win over Omaha Gross. Prince broke loose for 27 in a semifinal win over Scottsbluff and finished the tourney with 13 points and 14 rebounds in the final against the Titans.
Just as important as her scoring was the air of confidence she gave the team, even as a freshman.
“She’s a vocal leader who likes to take charge,” Ann Prince said. “When there are no seniors on your team, you need someone like that.”
Britt said winning a state title in her first varsity season was “a dream come true.”
“It’s crazy the way our whole season played out,” she said. “Winning the title was great but now we'll have to work even harder because everybody will be going after us."