The Stillwater girls basketball team finally celebrated a season worthy of recognition with an online awards banquet held on Wednesday, May 20.

Senior forward Liza Karlen and junior guard Alexis Pratt were co-recipients of the Most Valuable Athlete Award after leading the Ponies to their second straight state tournament appearance.

Stillwater finished with a 24-6 record, including 17-1 to win its second straight Suburban East Conference championship. The Ponies also defeated East Ridge 83-37 to win their second straight Section 4AAAA title and advance to state for just the fourth time in program history. Stillwater’s previous trips to state occurred in 1984, 1988 and 2019.

The Ponies routed fourth-seeded Park Center 82-52 in the state quarterfinals before falling to top-seeded Hopkins 66-40 in the state semifinals. That game was among the last played in Minnesota this winter as the remainder of the state tournament was eventually canceled due to COVID-19, which also wiped out an in-person banquet for the Ponies.

“Under the circumstances, I think it went well,” Stillwater coach Willie Taylor said.

Stillwater’s 24 victories is the second highest total in the program’s history.

Karlen and Pratt were joined by sophomore guard Amber Scalia in receiving all-conference honors while senior Grace Cote and junior Gionna Carr received honorable mention all-conference recognition.

Despite outscoring its SEC opponents by more than 31 points per game this season, the Ponies received the same number of all-conference selections as runner-up Roseville (14-4, 18-8) and third-place East Ridge (12-6, 16-10).

Stillwater is 33-1 in the conference the past two years.

“The experience I had this last year at Stillwater was the best experience I have had,” Taylor said. “For us to do what we did after the players that we lost to graduation and injury, I think that’s a pretty good season.”

Karlen and Pratt were each named to the Star Tribune All-Metro Third Team and finalists for the Pioneer Press Metro Player of the Year Award.

Karlen, a Marquette University recruit, was selected to play in the MGBCA All-Star Series and was a finalist for the Ms. Basketball Award, which went to Hopkins standout Paige Bueckers.

After averaging 16.8 points and 10.2 reboudns per game as a senior, Karlen finished her prep career with 2,098 points and 1,248 rebounds. Karlen, who played two seasons at St. Paul Central, still ranks eighth on Stillwater’s all-time scoring list with 882 points and is also third with 633 rebounds for the Ponies.

Karlen recorded 16 double-doubles this season.

Pratt, who received honorable mention all-state recognition from the MGBCA, led the Ponies in scoring at 18.0 points per game and also averaged 4.3 assists and 3.4 steals per contest.

She has scored 2,205 points in her varsity career, including 1,542 for the Ponies — which ranks second all-time at Stillwater behind Sara Scalia (2,611 points).

Pratt also joined Carr in being named the team’s Best Defensive Player.

Cote received the Coaches Award and the Most Improved Player Award. She also joined Mary Fultz in receiving the Most Inspirational Player Award.

All five seniors on Stillwater’s roster are planning to continue playing the sport in college. In addition to Karlen, seniors Cote (Mayville State), Fultz (Missouri Western State), Delaney Wagner (UW-River Falls) and Abby Scheel (UW-La Crosse).

“All the seniors are playing college basketball and it’s just a great group of kids,” Taylor said. “It was a fun group of kids to coach this year with great leadership all the way around. We had a good year this year.”

Carr, Pratt and Amber Scalia were also named captains for next year’s squad.

Stillwater’s Dean Stambaugh also repeated as Section 4AAAA Assistant Coach of the Year. A year ago when the Ponies finished as the state runner-up, Stambaugh was named the Class AAAA Assistant Coach of the Year.

Award winners were also announced for the JV team, which finished with a 19-6 record and tied Forest Lake for the conference title at 15-3 after defeating the Rangers in the final game of the regular season.

Lydia Knutson was named the JV Offensive Player of the Year and Abby Hansen was chosen the JV Defensive Player of the Year.

Lexi Karlen received the JV Playmaker and Execution Award while Abby Scheel garnered the JV Coaches Award.

Contact Stuart Groskreutz at

Girls basketball

All-Conference: Liza Karlen, Alexis Pratt and Amber Scalia; All-Conference Honorable Mention: Grace Cote and Gionna Carr; Minnesota Girls Basketball Coaches Association All-State Honorable Mention: Alexis Pratt; Star Tribune All-Metro Third Team: Liza Karlen and Alexis Pratt; Pioneer Press East Metro Player of the Year Finalist: Liza Karlen and Alexis Pratt; All-Star Series: Liza Karlen; Ms. Basketball Finalist: Liza Karlen; Section 4AAAA Assistant Coach of the Year: Dean Stambaugh; Best Defensive Player: Alexis Pratt and Gionna Carr; Coaches Award: Grace Cote; JV Coaches Award: Abby Scheel; Most Inspirational Player Award: Mary Fultz and Grace Cote; Most Improved Player: Grace Cote; JV Offensive Player of the Year: Lydia Knutson; JV Defensive Player of the Year: Abby Hansen; JV Playmaker and Execution Award: Lexi Karlen; Most Valuable Athlete: Liza Karlen and Alexis Pratt; Captain elect: Gionna Carr, Alexis Pratt and Amber Scalia.

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