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Rice saves the best for last

Katie Rice averaged 15.5 points and 9.9 rebounds and led the Chargers to a county title and their first winning record since 2012-13.

LINDEN -— It all came together for Katie Rice in her final season with North Montgomery girls basketball. Rice led the Chargers to their best season since 2012-13 as they were took home the county title and finished in the top half of the Sagamore Conference with a 4-3 record. Rice averaged 15.5 points per game this season while grabbing 9.9 rebounds, and shooting 54% from the field.

This past season, Rice was finally able to show everyone what she was capable of when she was healthy. The past three seasons had been a challenge for Rice as she battled juvenile rheumatoid arthritis which caused her to miss a lot of playing time, but this year Rice would play in 18 of the 22 games for the Chargers.

Rice credits her success in the sport to the dedication that she’s put into basketball for the past 10 years. It dates back to when she first started to play with her dad coaching in mostly an all-boys league.

“It finally came together for me and I’ve worked really hard to be able to show what I can do,” Rice said. “That league is when I really started to learn how to be a big and be aggressive. I chalk a lot of my success up to my dad and how much he put into my basketball career over the years.”

The hard work and dedication to the sport paid off for Rice and with her success this past season, she has earned the 2022 Journal Review Girls Basketball Player of the Year.

What makes Rice a special player and allowed her to take her game to another level was her ability to step out and consistently knock down a jump shot from the free-throw line and beyond. That evolution of her game came early on in her career when a travel team coach told Rice something that stuck with her and made her into the all-around player she is today.

“He told me that if I wanted to be successful that I had to be able to shoot,” she said. “Until then I really hadn’t come out of the post much. That whole summer heading into my sophomore season I worked on shooting and it took countless hours in the gym before I got comfortable with it.”

Charger coach Ryan Nuppnau knew the talent that he had with Rice when she came into the program as a freshman. There weren’t many people more proud of her than he this past season as Rice reaped the benefits of all of her hard work.

“I was really happy for her this year,” he said. “This year really allowed so many people outside of our program to see how talented she really is on the offensive end. What she able to do and accomplish in her four years with what she was going through was very impressive. She was able to to end her career on a high note.”

While Rice was the go-to player for the Chargers and rightfully so, she never made it about herself or her individual accolades. The 12-10 record that North Montgomery finished with was one of their goals of finishing with a winning record. Rice and fellow senior teammates Madi Welch, Hadley Broadwater, and Lydia Duguard all got to enjoy the best season of the careers in their final year.

“To accomplish a lot of th e goals that we set out to achieve at the beginning of the year was really exciting for all of us,” Rice said. “We kept track of those things because those goals were very important to us.”

A player that came on strong for the Chargers this season was freshman standout Piper Ramey. Ramey while Rice missed the final few games of the season took on a bulk of the scoring and rebounding that was typically done by Rice. All season long Rice was took Ramey under her wing and was a mentor for the freshman.

“Katie wants our younger girls to be able to continue on the tradition of understanding how important the post position has been for us and how hard it is to play down there. For her to want to pass that down on to Piper is special and it shows the kind of person she is and the kind of heart she has. She always wants to do what’s best for the team even when she couldn’t be out on the court, she was still leading by example.”

The legacy that Rice leaves behind with the Chargers is a special one. While not being able to impact the game on the court as much as she would’ve liked over her career, she still found a way to be role model, and wants to use her career to let people know you and a team can do anything you set your mind to.

“As long as you try your hardest and be a team player, you can do great things,” she said. “If you let someone tell you that you can’t then that’s your problem, you just have to go out there and try,”

Nuppnau talked one final time about how Rice will leave the program much better than where she found it and how she’ll be remembered for quite sometime in Charger girls basketball history.

“The biggest impact that I think she had is just her heart, desire, passion and determination for the game,” he said. “She never let circumstances that were out of her control dictate what she did. What she went through helps put things into perspective on what it means to compete and battle.”

Katie Rice has shown a lot of people that you can overcome many things as long as you are willing to work through it all. A lesson that many can use in everyday life.

Girls Basketball 2022 All-Area Teams

1st Team

Katie Rice - NM

Shea Williamson - CHS

Belle Miller - SM

Madi Welch - NM

Jerzi Hershberger - FC

2nd Team

Olivia Reed - CHS

Dori Frederick - SM

Piper Ramey - NM

Larissa Bowers - FC

DeLorean Mason - SM

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