HOWLAND - It shouldn't have come as a surprise that Kelly Barzak was named the recipient of the girls' player of the year honor at the Trumbull County Coaches Association basketball awards banquet March 30 at Leo's Ristorante.
Barzak is another in what has become a long line of successful post players for coach John Diehl's Howland High School program. The Tigers have turned out five player of the year winners during Diehl's tenure at the school.
"I can't say we emphasize our post players, but I guess we do a little bit," Diehl said.
Barzak was a key player on what was a history-making team. The Tigers became the first-ever girls' team at Howland to post a 20-0 record in the regular season.
Barzak averaged 19 points a game. Her average was slightly above the 21-point mark before she suffered a knee injury.
Holding the trophy after the awards ceremony was a moment Barzak will recall for a long time.
"I'm so overwhelmed," she said. "I'm really happy that I had the opportunity to get this and have played with such great people throughout the year. Without them I couldn't have gotten it."
Like player of the year winners Angela Cape, Ellie Shields and Alexa Williams before her, Barzak was a driving inside force for the Tigers, who lost to Twinsburg in the Division I district semifinals. She battled through the knee injury to make it a memorable season.
"We had a perfect season," Barzak said. "Not many teams get to go 20-0. That was a great accomplishment. We made Howland history. No one has ever done that, and no one will ever be able to beat it."
Diehl depended upon Barzak in many ways during the perfect run. She was the player the offense funneled the ball to, and she could be counted up on to pull down key rebounds.
The Tigers have developed several outstanding post players in recent years, and Barzak certainly fits in.
"She was the heart of our offense," Diehl said. "She was the team leader on defense. She made sure everyone was doing what they were supposed to be doing on the defensive end.
"I was a little leery last year because I thought she scored a lot of points because of Alexa. I didn't know if she could create her own shots, and she proved this year that she could certainly create her own shots if she got the ball because other teams were keying on her. I think she stepped up in that regard to be the player that she is."
One of Barzak's best characteristics in Diehl's estimation is her attitude. The smile and easy-going attitude she exhibited at the banquet symbolized the way she approached business on and off the court.
"She never questioned nor ever argued," Diehl said. "She works hard. She never says too much , but gives you 100 percent every game. Kelly was kind of our leader by action."
Barzak hasn't decided where she will attend college, but she's likely to play at a Division III institution. Diehl said that Thiel College, Mount Union and Washington & Jefferson have shown interest.
Barzak is set on one of her future goals.
"I want to become a teacher and coach when I get older," she said. "I want to teach younger kids how to play."
She has the background to do just that.