As the Yellowjacket women gathered under the basket last week to cut down the net following their second consecutive Upper Midwest Athletic Conference Tournament victory, the players noticed someone was missing.
Junior Hailey Kontny, in her second season with the University of Wisconsin-Superior women’s basketball team, had been waylaid near midcourt by a crowd of fans asking for hugs and photos.
For Kontny, it’s nothing new. She’s always had a strong following in the city where she grew up.
“I think it’s pretty cool to have somebody be able to continue their college experience — and continue their love of basketball — in their hometown and share the joy with family and friends,” said Don Mulhern, UWS head coach.
Kontny, a 2014 graduate of Superior High School, is the Yellowjackets’ leading scorer, averaging 14.5 points per game. The junior has led UWS in scoring in 12 games this season — with a season-high 31 points Jan. 28 against Northland College — and in rebounding seven games.
In her two years with UWS so far, Kontny has amassed 760 points, 275 rebounds and 91 assists.
“It’s exciting,” Kontny said of playing in her hometown. “Honestly, our team is playing for our community. We couldn’t do it without them.”
On Wednesday, Kontny was named the UMAC Player of the Year for the second consecutive season. She earned All-UMAC First Team honors along with sophomore Hannah Norlin, while junior Justine Larson earned second-team recognition.
Norlin averaged 12.9 points and 6.4 rebounds for UWS — both second on the team. In conference play, she finished within the top 10 in rebounding and was 11th in scoring.
Larson, who was also named to the UMAC All-Defensive Team, averaged 7.2 points and 3.0 rebounds per game. Her 58 steals (2.2 per game) ranked sixth-best in the UMAC, and she added 2.5 assists per game.
UWS also received honorable mention nods for forwards Eva Reinertsen and Bailee Bartunek. Reinertsen was named the UMAC Freshman of the Year, and Bartunek received the UMAC Sportsmanship Award for UWS.
Reinertsen was the Yellowjackets’ sharpshooter this season, leading UWS in 3-pointers made (45) and shooting 45.5 percent from beyond the arc. The freshman averaged 9.5 points and 3.3 rebounds per game.
Bartunek led the Yellowjackets in rebounding with 7.7 per game and ranked fourth in the conference. She also led UWS with a 55.3 percent shooting average and contributed 6.7 points per game.
“Bailee’s a special person,” Mulhern said. “To me she’s a microcosm of this team, which means she exemplifies doing all the dirty work, doing the stuff that doesn’t get on the highlight film but wins game.
“And I don’t know the words to say about the person she is as a leader. She has a kind heart, a gentle heart and a kind soul.”
Bartunek is officially a junior, but she is expected to graduate from UWS this spring. Every other member of the Yellowjacket women’s basketball team will be back next year.
“She’s welcome back if she changes her mind,” Mulhern said.
The Yellowjackets (23-4) continue their season today in the opening round of the NCAA Division III Women’s Basketball Tournament. They face nationally-ranked St. Thomas (27-0) at 8 p.m. at Schoenecker Arena in St. Paul.
UWS enters the game as the clear underdog, but the Yellowjackets are hoping their experience of playing in the tournament last year will help them persevere.
“I feel like last year going was exciting; we had that nervousness,” Kontny said. “This year I feel like we’ll be more composed.”
The winner of today’s game will play Saturday against Wartburg (25-2) or Chicago (18-7).