By John Ring
Brenna Saline has come a long way since she was a raw freshman coming off the bench for Coach Evan Massey and the Silver Streaks.
So far, in fact, that the junior guard was a unanimous selection as Galesburg's Most Valuable Player in voting taken by radio broadcasters and sportswriters who cover the Silver Streaks.
"Brenna has done everything that I have asked of her since she got into the program," said Massey. "She works hard at practice, works hard after practice and works hard in the off season."
The hard work has paid off. Saline was the "go-to" player on the Silver Streaks this season. Despite being undersized and without having great quickness, Saline led the Streaks in scoring.
"This was an easy vote for me," said one of our voters. "You could see it very early in the season that in a tough situation, Brenna was going to get the ball. She got it when they needed a last second shot and she got it when they needed a clutch basket."
Saline averaged close to 13 points a game for Galesburg and the 5'7" junior was also named to the All-Conference team for the Western Big 6.
"This is a cool award and it's something to be proud of," said Saline. "You look at the list of former MVP's in the last 13 years and you can't help but feel proud about it."
Saline is the first junior to be selected MVP since Sarah Larson in 1998. And, like Larson, Saline made the varsity as a freshman and made some big contributions off the bench. Brenna won a starting spot her sophomore year and has expanded her role with age.
The Streaks finished this season with a 23-9 record and lost in the Regionals to Moline.
"There's something wrong with that picture," said Saline about the talent-heavy Sectionals. "But Moline did a good job and they're still winning. We were a young team but that's no excuse. We should have done better."
"I think we played something like fifteen ranked teams and nobody in the state does that. We lost a lot of close games that we should have won. We really should have won 26 or 27 games, not 23," said Saline reflecting on the season.
"I still have a long ways to go. What I need to work on this summer is my three-point shooting and ballhandling skills, to help bring the ball up the court against pressure. But as a team, we're definitely excited about the summer."
Massey sees even better days ahead for Brenna, especially if she gets some help on offense. "The better some of our other players get offensively, the better Brenna will get offensively."
Other awards were voted on by our panel as well, as we have done for the past 13 years.
The closest vote came in our Most Improved Player Award. Four different Silver Streaks received votes. But in the end, it was Claire Anderson who received the nod. "I think Claire could always shoot the ball but she had the freedom to do it this year and that helped Galesburg's offense a lot," said a voter. "She took pressure off Saline and had a nice year offensively. She's a smart player that helps the club out a lot. She hits her free throws and is in the right place at the right time."
Our Defensive Stopper went to sophomore guard Taylor Young. "There's been some great point guards over the years here but Taylor is one of the best defenders and also the best rebounder of them all," said one of our voters. "She made several key plays during the year in critical minutes of the game. She would make a big steal, or create a defensive stop and she was big on the boards for this team."
The Player to Watch category went to junior Lia Anderson, who was Galesburg's best player coming off the bench for the second straight season. "There were times during the season when Lia would just be on a roll," said another of our voters. "She was a big part in the win over Richwoods. Lia also played very well in the loss to Moline."