CUSN’s 2017-18 AUS Women’s Basketball Awards

Most Valuable Player:

Paloma Anderson, G | Acadia Axewomen
Stats: 20 GP, 18.9 PPG (2nd), 47% FG (5th), 80% FT (6th), 6.8 RPG (10th), 5.5 APG (1st), 2.6 SPG (2nd)

In a tight two-player race, I have Paloma Anderson edging out last season’s MVP Alison Keough for her second AUS MVP honour in the last three seasons. The 5’1 Arizona native sacrificed her individual scoring numbers for team success this season and it paid off in a big way, as she led her team to an 18-2 record, the best regular season mark in Axewomen history. Anderson averaged nearly five less field goal attempts per game than last year, but posted career-high efficiency numbers, shooting 47% from the field, 39% from three and 80% from the line; all while leading the country in assists. She finishes off her time at Acadia as one of the best players in school history, and will look cap off an unforgettable career by leading Acadia to their first AUS title since 2012.

Runner-up:Alison Keough, F | Cape Breton CAPERS; Kiera Rigby, G/F | UPEI Panthers

Defensive Player Of the Year:

Carolina Del Santo, F | UPEI Panthers
Stats: 20 GP, 9.2 PPG, 48% FG (3rd), 12.5 RPG (1st), 1.4 SPG, 2.4 BPG (1st)

A 6’1 center from Barcelona, Spain, Del Santo’s game is like the AUS equivalent of fellow Barcelona native and 2012-13 NBA Defensive Player of the Year, Marc Gasol. After a bit of a slow start to begin the season, Del Santo took her game to another level in the second half. In 13 games following the December break, she recorded averaged of 10.8 points, 13.8 rebounds, and 2.8 blocks per game, as well as posting seven double-doubles. Del Santo’s 250 rebounds set a new AUS single-season record and she led all of U SPORTS in blocks. Del Santo would be the first UPEI Panther in program history to earn Defensive Player of the Year honours.

Runner-up: Kennisha Shanice Luberisse, G | Saint Mary’s Huskies

Rookie of the Year:

MacKenzee Ryan, G | CBU CAPERS
Stats: 20 GP, 9.4 PPG, 40% 3FG (5th), 78% FT, 2.2 APG, 0.6 SPG

MacKenzee Ryan made a huge impact in her freshman season with the CAPERS. The defending champs entered this season with question marks in the back-court, after graduating three players from last year’s roster, including starting point guard Jalynn Skeir. But luckily for CBU, they didn’t have to look far to find their floor general of the future. The daughter of John Ryan — CBU’s Athletic Director and former CAPERS star point guard — MacKenzee Ryan led all first-year players in assists and shot 40% from beyond the arc, good for fifth in the conference. Her shooting efficiency and the CAPERS 13-7 record are the main reasons that she edges out UPEI Panthers guard Reese Baxendale for this season’s CUSN Rookie of the Year, in a race that could go either way.

Runner-up: Reese Baxendale, G | UPEI Panthers

Coach of the Year:

Fabian McKenzie, CBU CAPERS

This is a tough choice. Len Harvey coached the Acadia Axewomen to school record 18-2 record, a seven-win improvement from last season. But the Axewomen returned six of their top seven players from last season’s AUS silver-medal squad, and were predicted to finish first in the conference in the Pre-Season Coaches’ Poll. That same Coaches’ Poll predicted the defending champion-Cape Breton CAPERS would finish fifth in the conference after losing three starters from last year’s team, including three-time AUS All-Star Colleen Keane. It looked like CBU was in trouble after starting the season 0-3 and losing key guard Timea Peter to a season-ending injury. But someone forgot to tell that to Fabian McKenzie. The five-time AUS Coach of the Year shuffled his rotation, choosing to bring veterans Valentina Primossi and Sandra Amoah off the bench while starting young guards MacKenzee Ryan and Toni Bianchini, and continuing to run his offence through the CAPERS’ front-court of Alison Keough and Hannah Brown. McKenzie’s coaching strategy paid off, as the CAPERS finished the season by winning 13 of their final 17 games, finishing three spots above what the Coaches’ Poll had predicted, on the way to clinching their second-straight quarter-final bye.

Runner-up: Len Harvey, Acadia Axewomen

AUS First Team All-Stars:

Paloma Anderson, G | Acadia Axewomen – 20 GP, 18.9 PPG (2nd), 47% FG (5th), 80% FT (6th), 6.8 RPG (10th, 5.5 APG (1st), 2.6 SPG (2nd)
See MVP selection above.

Alison Keough, F | Cape Breton CAPERS – 20 GP, 19.2 PPG (1st), 48% FG (4th), 70% FT, 12.0 RPG (2nd), 2.5 APG, 1.1 SPG

Last year’s MVP had another All-Canadian worthy season for the CAPERS, leading the conference in scoring and finishing second in rebounding. As mentioned in the Coach of the Year explanation, the CAPERS exceeded expectations this year, and Keough’s veteran leadership was the catalyst. It’s not hyperbole to call the Marion Bridge, N.S. native one of the greatest players in AUS Women’s Basketball history, as she finishes her career as the conference’s all-time leading rebounder (1022), the fifth all-time leading scorer (1735) and sixth all-time in free throws made (433).

Kiera Rigby, G/F | UPEI Panthers – 20 GP, 18.4 PPG (3rd), 44% FG (8th), 37% 3FG (9th), 78% FT (8th), 4.3 RPG, 2.0 APG, 0.9 SPG

If you’re looking for proof that hard work and dedication pay off, look no further than Kiera Rigby. The Charlottetown native has gotten better each and every season, and has blossomed into a star as a fifth-year senior. Her 18.4 points per game were good for third in the conference, and she led the AUS with 107 free throws made— breaking the UPEI single-season record. Statistics aside, it’s Rigby’s leadership and positive attitude, on and off the court, that really stands out. That leadership helped lead her Panthers team back to the playoffs for the fifth-consecutive year.

Haley McDonald, G | Acadia Axewomen – 20 GP, 17.6 PPG (4th), 45% FG (7th), 40% 3FG (3rd), 80% FT (4th), 3.5 RPG, 3.5 APG (2nd), 1.4 SPG (10th)

McDonald had a decent freshman season last year for the Axewomen, averaging 5.9 points per game, but nobody could have expected this. The Port Williams, N.S. native has turned into a star in her sophomore season, nearly tripling her scoring output to an average of 17.6 points per game. In fact, McDonald’s statistics increased in every single category this season, and her 58 three-point field goals made set a school record and is the second highest single-season mark in AUS history. She was a huge reason why Acadia’s record improved from 11-9 to 18-2 this year, and with four-of-the-five Axewomen starters graduating after this season, McDonald will be looked upon to lead the team for years to come.

Hannah Brown, F | Cape Breton CAPERS – 20 GP, 16.2 PPG (6th), 49% FG (2nd), 9.9 RPG (3rd), 2.0 APG, 0.9 SPG

What can Brown do for you? The breakout star of last season’s AUS Championship kept the momentum rolling all year, posting career highs in every statistical category. The North Sydney, N.S. native’s inside-outside game formed an unstoppable front-court duo with Alison Keough, and was a major reason why the CAPERS finished the year 13-7, despite losing three starters from last year’s championship squad.

AUS Second Team All-Stars:

Brooklynn Wright, F | Memorial Sea-Hawks – 20 GP, 14.9 PPG, 73% FT, 5.9 RPG, 0.6 SPG, 1.6 BPG (2nd)

The Cambridge, Ontario native has battled back from a torn ACL in her first season with the Sea-Hawks and improved each and every year, and this year she posted career highs in every statistical category. A unique player who stretches the floor on offence and protects the rim on defence (second in the AUS with 1.6 blocks per game), Wright played her best basketball this season when her team needed her most; when Memorial’s leading scorer Sydney Stewart missed seven games with injury, Wright stepped up and averaged 19.6 points per game over that span, helping keep the Sea-Hawks afloat.

Laura Kaye, G | UNB Varsity Reds – 19 GP, 12.4 PPG, 40% FG, 4.3 RPG, 2.2 APG, 0.7 SPG

In a season plagued by injuries (six rotation players missed five or more games with injury) Laura Kaye helped keep the Varsity Reds steady. The Hanwell, N.B. native’s shooting percentages were down a bit from her First Team All-Star 2016-17 campaign, but Kaye’s all-around play likely kept the Varsity Reds from having a losing season.

Kennisha-Shanice Luberisse, G | Saint Mary’s Huskies – 19 GP, 10.9 PPG, 7.3 RPG (9th), 3.3 APG (4th), 2.7 SPG (1st)

The two-time AUS Defensive Player of the Year rarely left the court this season for the Huskies, averaging 35.5 minutes per game. The Montréal native stuffed the stat sheet as usual, leading the conference in steals with 2.7 per game, she also led the Huskies with 3.3 assists and was second on the team in scoring (10.9 PPG) and rebounding (7.3 RPG), helping to lead the Huskies to an 11-9 record.

Jenna Mae Ellsworth,G | UPEI Panthers – 20 GP, 14.8 PPG, 35% 3FG, 81% FT (2nd), 4.4 RPG, 3.3 APG (5th), 1.3 SPG

Last season’s AUS Rookie of the Year and Second Team All-Star had another great season for the Panthers. The Charlottetown native improved her points per game, and percentages from three and the free-throw line, and also plays excellent on-ball defence; no surprise considering the two-sport athlete has also started 24 games as a defender for the Panthers soccer team over the past two seasons.

Allie Berry, F | Acadia Axewomen – 20 GP, 13.2 PPG (9th), 8.3 RPG (5th), 1.1 SPG, 1.4 BPG (3rd)

Allie Berry saved the best year of her AUS career for last, posting career highs in points per game, field goal percentage, assists, and blocks in her fifth-and-final season with the Axewomen. Berry’s size and soft touch in the post makes her a match-up nightmare for opponents, and was a major reason behind the Axewomen’s historic 18-2 record. The Yarmouth, N.S. native finishes her career fifth all-time in rebounding (747).

Honourable Mentions:

Chanel Smith, G | Acadia Axewomen
Sydney Stewart, G | Memorial Sea-Hawks
Carolina Del Santo, F | UPEI Panthers
Jasmine Cain, G | SMU Huskies
Robertha Charles, F | Dalhousie Tigers

AUS All-Rookie Team:

MacKenzee Ryan, G | CBU CAPERS – 20 GP, 9.4 PPG, 40% 3FG (5th), 78% FT, 2.2 APG, 0.6 SPG
Reese Baxendale, G | UPEI Panthers – 20 GP, 10.2 PPG, 76% FT (9th), 3.0 RPG, 1.9 APG, 1.8 SPG (5th)
Kimberley Kingsbury, G | StFX X-Women – 20 GP, 7.3 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 0.6 SPG
Ariel Provo, G | Dalhousie Tigers – 20 GP, 5.1 PPG, 1.8 RPG, 1.8 APG, 1.0 SPG
Cameron Longley, F Memorial Sea-Hawks  20 GP, 3.2 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 0.3 SPG