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When it comes to leaving your mark on a program, Amber Kartchner has certainly done that.

This past girls basketball season she led the Grizzlies in basically every statistical category. But that has been happening for years. The four-year starter is definitely not a one-dimensional player on the court.

A prime example was her being honored by Region 11 coaches after the 2020-21 season as the Most Valuable Player and as the Defensive Player of the Year. She doesn’t take it easy on either side of the court.

“Amber is a special player,” Logan head coach Morganne Madsen said. “I’ve never met anyone as competitive as her.”

Sure, Kartchner can score. The 5-foot-10 daughter of Whitney and Debbie Kartchner became the all-time leading scorer in Cache Valley and finished sixth in scoring for a career in all classifications in Utah with 1,717 points. She has earned all sorts of accolades during her career, including 4A Player of the Year for the state.

“I’ve always wanted to do something really cool, you know, put your name somewhere,” Kartchner said. “Wow, that person did that. That’s super cool. Not that scoring is the most important part of the game, but I feel like being one of the top scorers, that’s pretty cool, just in a sense that I feel I did something that is really cool.”

Throughout a recent interview, Kartchner went out of her way to thank teammates, coaches and family. Being a team player was important to the recently graduated Grizzly.

“I was talking to my mom this year at a track meet, remembering as a kid playing Junior Jazz basketball as a third grader,” Kartchner said. “I wanted to make sure everyone scored. I would feel so bad after the game if someone didn’t score. I wanted to make sure everybody shot and contributed. To an extent, you’ve got to be able to give it up. I’ve learned to get my own, but also help everyone else too — being able to be a team player.”

Which she has continued to strive for. Her statistics back that up as she led her team in assists with 4.2 a game. Kartchner also led her team in scoring (21.0), rebounding (8.3), steals (3.8), blocks (1.8), field goal percentage (64), 3-pointers (54), 3-point field goal percentage (51) and free throws (72 makes).

All of this adds up to her being selected as the 2020-21 Herald Journal All-Valley Player of the Year. It is the third time in her high school career she has earned this award, which is a new valley record.

“I feel like it was definitely my favorite year of high school basketball that I played,” Kartchner said. “I was with all of my really close friends that I’ve had since eighth grade, all my teammates since then. It was fun to remember basketball is fun. It’s not all about trying to be the best all the time. You can have fun is what I’m trying to say.”

Winning does help it be more fun, though. Kartchner began her high school career with a region title as a freshman and concluded it with region championship as a senior. She called the game where they clinched the region crown as one of her favorites of the season.

“We all kind of felt like all year people didn’t care about us, didn’t feel we were going to be very good because we didn’t have as good of a season the year before,” Kartchner said. “We were so ready. They wanted it and went out and did what they needed to get it.”

Kartchner said she talked with Alec Kennington and Taylor Rose often about showing the rest of the region they were good. They played with a chip on their shoulder.

When the Grizzlies started winning, they quickly had a target on them, which suited Kartchner just fine: “I like that better. When people are going to try and come after me, I like that better. Come after me then.”

The biggest goal that eluded her was a state title. Logan made it to the championship game this year, but lost by two points. Kartchner had 27 points, six rebounds, three assists and three steals in a 56-54 loss to region rival Sky View.

“The whole state tournament was super fun even though we got second, unfortunately,” Kartchner said. “I will probably never get over that, not going to lie. That was still way fun to make it that far. We worked so hard to make it that far.”

In Madsen’s first year at the Logan helm, she was glad to have an athlete like Kartchner. The future BYU basketball player enjoyed playing for Madsen as well, saying she let the Grizzlies play to their strengths.

“She holds herself to the highest standard and lifts those around her to be on her level,” Madsen said. “There are a lot of unseen hours, hard work and mental toughness that has made her the talented individual she is today. We were lucky to have her and I’m just so proud of the team playing into each others’ strengths and accomplishing what we did this year.”

Kartchner called her first three seasons “fun years” with head coach Josh Zentner.

“He was really a big help,” Kartchner said. “He would be a great college coach. He has his sets, runs it really well.”

She enjoys learning and looks forward to the challenge of Division I basketball at BYU. She reports to campus in Provo on June 7.

Choosing to be a Cougar was tough as many schools were after the Grizzly. While she really liked BYU, informing other schools that she would not be going there was the roughest part.

“I’m very much a people pleaser, so it hurt my heart so bad to call all these schools and say, ‘hey, I’m sorry, I’m not coming,’” Kartchner said. “I felt really bad. I just felt like BYU was the best place for me. You have to decide what is best for you. It’s your life.”

Being a four-year starter meant Kartchner was a marked athlete. She shrugged off the attention she received.

“I honestly try not to look to much into it because if you look too much into it, you start to get a big head or you can start to resent things and why am I not talked about more,” Kartchner said. “I just try and go play the best that I can and whatever comes with it, comes with it, and I’m cool with it.”

Kartchner said she didn’t care how teams tried to guard her.

“I really didn’t think about it,” Kartchner said. “I know how to score and get past people. I know I have great teammates. Some teams would try to box and one me, but my teammates would score. It all goes together. Your teammates have to pick it up, and they always did.

“I had a lot of trust in my teammates. If I wasn’t hitting, I knew that Alec (Kennington) or Addy (Russell) would hit a three. I knew if I get in foul trouble, Alec or Izzy (Rudd) could go defend a good player, Taylor (Rose) too. We worked well together. I was never worried if I was not on that we were going to lose, because I knew my teammates had me.”

“I remember in the state championship game, passing it to Izzy on the wing, or Taylor going in for a layup, or Alec, or Tawnee (Tubbs), or Addy or whoever it was, they were fine to make it. They knocked big shots at the end. That’s what helped us. You need your team. One person can’t do everything.”

When a teammate made a 3-pointer, she liked to do the “arrow celebration.”

“When I would do that and see their eyes light up, that was pretty dope,” Kartchner said.

She continues to work on her “positive self talk.” Kartchner feels that she should make every shot. While that is good to strive for, it’s impossible. Still, she is working on improving her game.

As she has worked on her game, Kartchner hasn’t really patterned her game after anyone, as she said “I do my own thing.” However, she does have favorite players like Donovan Mitchell, LeBron James, Kevin Durrant and Steph Curry.

“They are a one-in-a-million type person,” Kartchner said. “I’m just trying to be my own one in a million.”

She felt her four years at Logan High went by “perfectly.” Kartchner also encouraged teenagers to get involved in high school sports.

Being the second youngest of 15 siblings has had some benefits as her parents have been very supportive.

“I would like to make a special shout out to my parents,” Kartchner said. “They come to every single game. They do not miss a game. My dad is always so willing to help me and give me advice. I know I give him a hard time, but I appreciate him for that. I love them so much.”

Newcomer of the Year

Maren McKenna, So., Green Canyon

There were a number of young players that made a splash during the 2020-21 season, but no one quite like this sophomore.

The Wolves finished the region season strong, tying for second. The play of McKenna was a big part of that. She was one of just four Green Canyon athletes that saw action in every game.

“Maren was a vital part of our team’s success this past season,” GC head coach Alexis Bird said. “She was an incredible scorer, but she also had an impeccable ability to rebound on both ends of the floor. She is the definition of a competitor and plays beyond her years.”

McKenna led her team in scoring (12.5 points a game), rebounding (8.3) and was second in steals (1.7). She also averaged 1.3 assists a game and led her team in free throws (79 of 100) and free throw percentage. She earned third team all-state honors.

Offensive Player of the Year

Haley Anderson, Sr., Ridgeline

When the Riverhawks needed points or an offensive boost, Anderson was usually the one to provide the spark this past season.

“Haley entered the Ridgeline program her freshman year as a very skilled offensive player,” Ridgeline head coach Ainsli Jenks said. “In the four years that she’s been a part of the program, she has continued to put in countless hours to develop her offensive skill set. She is the type of player that can put a lot of pressure on a defense because she is always looking to score.”

The senior could score in many ways. While she made a name for herself hitting 3-pointers, the guard was also able to drive the lane and score. She drew a number of fouls and made free throws.

“Haley has the ability to score in multiple ways, including transition, jump shots or 3-point shooting,” Jenks said. “She’s played with some very good teammates and has been a big part of successful seasons throughout her high school career.”

The Riverhawks tied for second in the region as Anderson led the team in scoring (16.5 points per game), assists (3.0), steals (2.3), 3-pointers (45) and free throws (89 of 111 for 80 percent). The guard also grabbed 2.4 rebounds a game. Ridgeline lost to the eventual state champions in the quarterfinals of the state tournament. Anderson, who will play for Snow College next year, earned first team all-state honors.

Defensive Player of the Year

Kaitlyn Smart, Sr., Sky View

Having great jumping ability helped this Bobcat alter and change many shots. Her volleyball skills came in handy many times as she swatted shot attempts.

“Kaitlyn was a huge presence on defense for us this year,” SV head coach Vanessa Hall said. “Her length and athleticism allowed her to make plays that at times seemed unbelievable. Her ability to block shots made it difficult for our opponents to shoot within their offense.”

Smart usually drew the assignment of guarding the opposing team’s best offensive player.

“There were so many talented players in our region this year, and Kaitlyn many times was given the task of guarding them,” Hall said. “She worked hard every day and always left her heart out on the court. Kaitlyn was a big part of our championship run and her defense made things difficult for those we faced.”

The senior played a big part in Sky View’s run to the 4A state title earlier this year. While her leaping ability was a major factor on defense, she also came up big on the offensive end as well, and could handle the ball. Smart did whatever was needed. She averaged 8.0 points, 4.4 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 1.8 steals a game, while blocking 14 shots. She earned third team all-state accolades.

Shawn Harrison is the sports editor at The Herald Journal. He can be reached at sharrison@hjnews.com or 435-792-7233.

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