Champion’s Kiser earns Player of the Year award

HOWLAND – The wonderful high school ride that Champion senior Mackenzie Kiser has been on took another eventful turn Monday night.

Kiser, an outfielder on the Golden Flashes’ back-to-back Division III state championship softball team, was named the girls’ Player of the Year at the 26th annual Trumbull County Coaches Association basketball banquet at Leo’s Ristorante. Kiser averaged close to 20 points and 14 rebounds a game in helping lead Champion to an appearance in the district championship game.

Golden Flashes coach Jeff Thompson marvels at Kiser’s work ethic.

“She has put in so much work from the time she was even in seventh and eighth grade,” Thompson said. “The bloodline with the dad helps in terms of the extra coaching she got, but I would be very surprised if you saw any girl put in the amount of time she has over the last six years.”

Kiser’s dad Chad coached the LaBrae Vikings boys’ team that advanced as far as the Division III state semifinals. The 6-foot Mackenzie played like a coach on the floor, whether posting low or bringing the ball up court when needed.

Mackenzie was the focal point of every opposing defense. Defenders collapsed each time she had possession in the low post.

“The thing that was amazing was that she was getting double and triple teamed every game,” Thompson said. “She still was able to put up those statistics. Another thing that is always underrated when you talk about (scoring) over 1,000 points and 900 rebounds, she averaged two-and-a-half assists game.

“She’s the type of kid that understood the game. Get double-teamed, kick the ball out. That’s the type of player she is.”

Mackenzie, a member of the National Honor Society, was a unanimous choice. She was a first-team all Trumbull County selection and a first-team all district choice. She was named third-team all state.

Advancing to the district final was one of the highlights of the season for Mackenzie.

“We definitely made it farther than we thought we would at the beginning of the year,” Mackenzie said. “After we lost to Niles in the first game, we thought we’re not going to do as well this year or make it that far in the tournaments. When we started doing better at the end of the season I finally thought that we had a chance to make it to district, and it was truly special that we made it.”

Mackenzie lives in Windham but attends Champion, which has a unit for teaching hearing-impaired students. Working with Thompson turned out to be a plus for her development as a player.

“He’s an amazing coach,” Mackenzie said. “He’s helped me a lot throughout the four years. He’s taught me to be a better player and person, and I want to thank him for that.”

Mackenzie plans to continue her playing career at the next level. She’s narrowed her college choices to Marietta College, Hiram College and Wilmington College with plans to major in pre-veterinary studies.

“She’s going to be a success in life 15, 20 years down the road,” Thompson said. “That’s the most important thing to me.”