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Saxony basketball’s Evie Caruso named district player of the year

Saxony Lutheran girls basketball senior post Evie Caruso was named the Class 3 District 2 Player of the Year after averaging 13.7 points, 9.5 rebounds and 3.2 steals per game. Photo by Jay Forness

After bringing home the Saxony Lutheran girls basketball team its first district championship in four seasons, three Crusaders were rightfully named to the Class 3 District 2 All-District Team.

One of them brought home the top individual honor as well as Saxony senior post Evie Caruso was named the district player of the year. Caruso is the first Crusader to win the honor since 2020 graduate Emma Brune did so her senior year, which was also the last time the team won districts.

Evie was named the Class 3 District 2 Player of the Year after a senior campaign where she nearly averaged a double-double with 13.7 points and 9.5 rebounds per game. Caruso also far and away led Saxony in blocked shots with an average of 3.2 per game (90 total).

While she didn’t finish averaging a double-double, Evie managed to record 10 throughout the winter as perhaps her top game was in a double-overtime thriller against Class 2 St. Vincent. Caruso recorded 25 points and 11 rebounds in the contest, while she also had three blocks and dished out five assists.

In a 60-53 win over Scott City for the district championship back in February, Evie recorded another double-double with 19 points and 16 rebounds. She also had a double-double in Saxony’s 57-41 loss to St. Pius X in the state quarterfinals with 18 points and 14 boards along with four blocks.

“Evie obviously has a huge advantage because she’s tall and long, but her biggest asset is how hard she works,” Saxony first-year head coach Chris Crawford said. “It’s not even a lot of the times on the offseason end — it’s defensively what she does to alter shots, take up space and cut down lanes. She’s a huge presence for us, but when you put her on the offensive end she’s a load. She’s really refined her perimeter shooting and post moves.”

Also being named all-district with Caruso was fellow senior guard Becca Johnson, who actually finished as the Crusaders leader in scoring with 16 points per game. The Webster University signee recorded eight 20-point games and scored a career-high 34 in a 74-45 win over North County.

Outside of her scoring, Johnson also averaged 3.4 rebounds, 3.1 assists and three steals per contest. Becca also made a team-high 61 3-pointers (32% from 3-point range) as no other player for Saxony hit more than 15 3’s.

Johnson knocked down multiple treys in all but eight of the Crusaders games this season, making four or more five times. Becca made six 3-pointers in a single game two different times as once was in her 34-point outing versus North County and the other in a 24-point performance against Festus.

“Becca is obviously a very hard worker and is super talented offensively,” Coach Crawford said. “She can fill it up from three and get to the hoop, and she’s a great defender, too, with a high motor and basketball IQ. We utilized that all season long.”

The third and final player to earn all-district for Saxony was junior Abby Haley, who finished as her team’s third-leading scorer by also averaging double figures at 11.2 points per game. Haley was the Crusaders top defender by coming up with a team-high 3.7 steals per game, while she also finished third on Saxony in rebounds (4.3 per game) and assists (2.4).

In seven games this winter, Abby came up with at least five steals as she finished with a career-high 15 in a 64-25 win over Greenville. She also put up 16 points, four rebounds and four assists in the contest.

Offensively, Abby finished with 15 or more points in five games for the Crusaders as she scored a career-high 25 points against Kelly. She also recorded six rebounds, six steals and four assists.

“Haley is a pest on defense — she’s probably the best one-on-one defender in our area,” Coach Crawford said. “She’s just so fast.”

As for SEMO Conference honors, only Caruso and Johnson were named All-SEMO Conference, which tied for the second-most selections with Jackson. Conference champions Notre Dame had the most first team All-SEMO picks with three.

“I was gifted a really, really good group of upperclassmen and it’s been a process,” Coach Crawford said. “We had some growing pains, but to be able to win a district title with this group means a lot. I’ve watched them put in so much hard work over the years, so to see it finally pay off for them was pretty special.

“Our upperclassmen have been huge for us — they all stepped up in certain times when we needed them to.”

Nick McNeal covers high school sports, college sports and community events for The Cash-Book Journal. He graduated from Southeast Missouri State University with a degree in multimedia journalism and has lived in Cape Girardeau County for the past five years. He can be reached at cbjsports@socket. net.

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