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Kurnik repeats Valley League player of the year honors

Nordeen also on first team, six Warriors named all-league

Joe Naiman

Village News Reporter

For the second year in a row, the Valley League girls basketball coaches selected Fallbrook High School’s Naiya Kurnik as the league's player of the year.

Kurnik was joined on the all-league first team by Claire Nordeen. Elley Ahrend and Juliana Blas were named to the second team. Brooke Quintana and Liz Villigran were recognized at the honorable mention level.

“It was well deserving,” Fallbrook coach Trae Harrison said of having six all-league players.

The Warriors won all 10 Valley League games, giving Fallbrook the league championship for the second consecutive year. Fallbrook’s 24-7 overall record reflects four CIF San Diego Section playoff wins which gave the Warriors the CIF Division II championship and a loss in the first round of the state playoffs.

Harrison felt that all five of his starters deserved to be on the all-league first team but knew that all of the league’s six teams had players worthy of first-team or second-team recognition. “I didn’t really argue too much,” he said.

There was no argument from any of the other coaches about Kurnik being chosen as the Valley League player of the year. “It was unanimous,” Harrison said. “They didn’t ask for anybody else to be player of the year. They knew she dominated during league play.”

During the Warriors’ 10 league games this year, Kurnik averaged 17.1 points per game, 7.9 rebounds per game, 3.5 assists per game, and 4.9 steals per game.

“She’s a special talent, and everybody in league knew,” Harrison said. “Everybody’s game plan was to limit her. They knew they couldn’t stop her, but they worked to limit her.”

Kurnik, who was a point guard, is a senior this year. She was also the league player of the year for 2020-21 when she averaged 18.8 points, 9.6 rebounds, 3.6 steals, and 3.1 assists per league game. The first-team Valley League distinction is the third for Kurnik, who was also on the all-league first team as a sophomore in 2019-20.

Nordeen, who is a sophomore, was a stretch forward for the 2021-22 season. She averaged 10.7 points, 10.5 rebounds, 1.3 assists, and 3.3 steals in Fallbrook’s 10 league games.

“Claire is also a special talent,” Harrison said. “She’s going to impact the game somehow.”

Harrison noted that Nordeen’s impact isn’t necessarily limited to what she does on the court. “Her energy is what keeps us going,” Harrison said. “She’s an ideal player.”

Last year, Nordeen received honorable mention all-league recognition as a freshman.

Ahrend and Blas are both seniors. Ahrend played small forward and Blas was a guard. “Elley and Jul were definitely borderline,” Harrison said of first team versus second team. “We had to play fair, I guess, and give everybody an opportunity.”

Ahrend averaged 10.2 points, 5.4 rebounds, 2.0 assists, and 3.0 steals in the Warriors’ 10 league games. Blas averaged 5.9 points, 2.1 rebounds, 1.8 assists, and 1.9 steals.

Ahrend ended her high school basketball career with three all-league selections; she was given second-team designation for 2020-21 and honorable mention status in 2019-20. Last year Blas averaged 10.3 points per game in league competition and was part of the Valley League first team.

Quintana and Villigran are both juniors. Quintana is a shooting guard and Villigran is a small forward. Villigran was given all-league honorable mention accolades by the 2020-21 Valley League coaches.

The three seniors with all-league honors are among six seniors on this year’s Fallbrook roster. “I’m losing six of my 10,” Harrison said of the 2021-22 varsity. “We’re not going to be rebuilding. It’s just going to be different.”

In addition to Nordeen, Quintana, and Villigran, junior Harley Benitez is expected to return to the Warriors next season. “The four returners that I have are definitely capable of carrying the team,” Harrison said.


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