Raye etches her name among Spartan basketball greats
While the senior guard is most widely known for her softball talents, those who know say her overall athletic ability helped her become one of the best Spartan basketball players.
SUPERIOR — For the Spartans’ Emma Raye, basketball is an escape from softball.
Not in a bad way, though.
Make no mistake, the reigning Wisconsin Fastpitch Softball Coaches Association Division 1 Player of the Year loves softball. She loves picking off baserunners. She is driven to see the Spartans make it back to Goodman Diamond in Madison for the state softball tournament. And softball is the game she plans to play at Division I Northwestern University outside Chicago next year.
But she plays softball from March through December.
“Basketball just kind of gives me a break to show my different talents, and it’s a totally different game from softball,” Raye said.
On the court, Raye’s skills shine. The senior guard averaged 17 points, 7.7 rebounds and 3.9 steals per game. She shot 46.5% from the field, and she crossed the 1,000-point threshold this season, finishing her career with 1,344 points.
For her contributions on the court and for the second year in a row, Raye is the Superior Telegram’s All-Area Girls Basketball Player of the Year.
Mixing it up
Raye likes the change of pace basketball offers, and she can point to ways it’s made her a stronger softball player.
“You’re running pretty much the whole game, you’re shooting. You just have to learn how to control yourself,” she said of the differences in basketball she appreciates. “I also feel like it’s a huge mental game and being able to have that composure during basketball games also helps me with softball.”
Spartan coach Dave Kontny said her mental toughness is one of her strengths.
“Even when things weren’t going well for parts of the game … she never felt sorry for herself, she never pouted, she never hung her head. She just dug in and played harder and that’s tough – you can’t teach that, Kontny said. That just comes from you — who you are — and that’s who she is. That’s why she’s as good as she is. That’s why people don’t want to play against her.”
One area where that tenacity often comes into play is free-throw shooting.
Raye made a jump in that area of her game as a senior, shooting 83.9% from the line, compared to 72.1% during her junior year. And free-throw shooting is something Raye said she wanted to get better at.
“I think my free throws were definitely a big part of what I mainly focused on these last couple years,” she said. “Compared to my freshman year, I definitely came a long way with that.”
‘What an athlete’
When the Telegram reached Kontny, he said straight out that this story should focus on Raye’s athletic ability.
She spends nearly the entire basketball offseason playing softball, Kontny said, yet her play on the court has improved year after year.
“She could have easily been a Division I basketball player … just to be able to put up those kind of numbers and this isn’t even your main sport? Wow — what an athlete, right?” he said.
Kontny mentioned Raye along with some of the top basketball players in Spartan history — Jessica Lindstrom and Hailey Kontny. And a few times during the interview, Kontny said he would frequently find himself “in awe” of Raye’s athletic ability when he would watch game film.
More than once, he said, she would steal the ball on the defensive end, sprint to the other end of the floor for a basket, hustle back on defense to block a shot or grab a rebound and hit an open teammate with a pass for a layup.
“I’ll see it happen during the game but then I’ll watch the game on film and be like ‘Gosh, she’s just everywhere,’” Kontny said. “She’s the kind of player that makes you or breaks you. You can’t afford not to have her on the court.”
Savannah Leopold, who has played basketball with Raye since their fifth-grade travel ball days, said that’s just who Raye is.
Leopold described her teammate and friend as competitive and hard-working, but also as someone who likes to have fun and who encourages her teammates.
“In the gym she will never fail to put a smile on your face, but also encourage you to always do your best and work so hard,” Leopold said.
Her leadership is something Kontny pointed to, as well. Kontny, who announced after the season ended that he will retire from coaching after 23 years, said Raye leads by example.
“Nobody works harder than Raye,” he said.
One chapter ends
Leopold and Raye were senior captains and four-year selections to the Telegram’s All-Area Girls Basketball Team. They scored their 1,000th career points in the same week.
Hitting those milestones is something Leopold says she will always remember of playing with Raye.
“She assisted me in my 1,000 points, and I assisted her in her 1,000 points,” Leopold said. “That was a pretty special moment between us.”
Looking back on her high school basketball career, Raye said the highlight was winning the 2022 regional title against Eau Claire Memorial.
While the Spartans fell short of their postseason goals this year, losing to Wausau West in the regional final on Feb. 25, Raye said one of her favorite memories from this season was going 2-0 at the Marshfield Holiday Classic. The Spartans beat Wausau West 75-64 on Dec. 28 and then beat Marshfield 56-50 on Dec. 29.
“Not only was winning that tournament huge for our seeding, but also just spending time with the girls and the team. We had a great bond this year — it was so fun. Those are the girls I will remember for the rest of my life and the memories that we’ve made,” Raye said.
The senior thanked the community for its support, and her friends and family, as well.
“I knew that I could always fall back on them (friends and family). I knew that they would be there to pick me up whenever I fell,” she said.
Superior Telegram Girls Basketball Players of the Year
2023 — Emma Raye, Sr., Superior
2022 — Emma Raye, Jr., Superior
2021 — Tieryn Plasch, So., Northwestern
2020 — Karsyn Jones, Sr., Northwestern
2019 — Morgan Anderson, Sr., Solon Springs
2018 — Katie Lundeen, Sr., Northwestern
2017 — Katie Lundeen, Jr., Northwestern
2016 — Mackenzie Kmecik, Sr., Superior
2015 — Megan Gustafson, Sr., South Shore
2014 — Jessica Lindstrom, Sr., Superior
2013 — Jessica Lindstrom, Jr., Superior
2012 — Jessica Lindstrom, So., Superior
2011 — Jessica Lindstrom, Fr., and Hailey Kontny, Fr., Superior
2010 — Annie Block, Jr., Northwood
2009 — Ashlee Blegen, Sr., Northwood
2008 — Gretchen Grube, Sr., Northwestern
2007 — Lindsey Lindstrom, Sr., Superior
2006 — Lindsey Lindstrom, Jr., Superior
2005 — Lindsey Lindstrom, So., Superior
2004 — Jolene Anderson, Sr., South Shore
2003 — Nancy McConkey, Sr., Maranatha
2002 — Katie Moench, Sr., Maranatha