When the Kenai Central girls basketball team missed the Class 4A state tournament in March, senior Raquel Young figured her career had ended on a disappointing note.
Little did she know of the opportunity that would come knocking.
Young was the only player from the central Kenai Peninsula who was selected to play in last weekend's Alaska Association of Basketball Coaches 2011 Senior All-Star Game at Colony High School. She scored eight points, helping Team Gold to a 64-50 win over Team Blue.
"That was a big honor for me. I was a little taken aback by it," said Young, who will play next season at Peninsula Community College in Port Angeles, Wash. "It was cool that I was the only one (from the central Peninsula) that got there."
The focal point of an undersized Kenai Central team, the 5-foot-9 center averaged a team-best 15.8 points and 7.6 rebounds per game in 2010-11. In 2009-10, she averaged 14.1 points and 6.2 rebounds.
Those numbers helped the Kardinals to the 2010-11 Northern Lights Conference South Division regular-season championship -- and gained the attention of the opposition.
Rosters for the all-star game were determined by the voting of coaches across the state.
"That's a huge compliment," Kenai Central coach Stacia Rustad said. "Of course I voted for her, but to have other coaches recognize her ability is a big deal."
In the all-star game, Young played on the same team as 6-5 senior Kelsey Cottle, who led Wasilla to the Class 4A state championship.
Young said playing with -- rather than against -- Cottle was the highlight of the weekend.
"Just not having to guard her," Young said, "was a total relief."
The level of competition was predictably high, Young remembered, with college coaches and scouts in attendance.
For one of the NLC's more dominant post players, it was a chance to face those of equal -- and in some cases, admittedly better -- talent.
"It was cool to play against the same caliber as me," Young said. "It was a little harder."
Next, Young will showcase her talents at the next level.
Rustad, who coached the post player for two seasons, believes Young has the potential to be a productive player in college.
The former coach of Southwestern Oregon Community College in Coos Bay, Ore., Rustad said Young runs well in transition, plays bigger than her 5-9 frame, is a good rebounder and is an efficient finisher inside the paint.
If there's one area she needs to improve, Rustad said, it's shooting range -- including free throws.
What the coach couldn't ignore was Young's constant improvement.
"The No. 1 thing I noticed was her growth over the two years. I wish I could have coached her longer," Rustad said. "She definitely blossomed into a go-to player, wanted the ball and made the big baskets when we needed them."
Although the squad didn't make state in Young's three seasons, she views her career as a success.
Young credited Rustad for shaping her into the player she is today.
"She was hard on us, but she's the No. 1 coach in my book. She has taught me a lot about basketball and how it pertains to life," Young said. "You don't give up. In a game you go all the way, give it your heart, and that's what life is about. You don't give up. You keep on going."
Seward seniors Keenan Prochazka and Andrew Buchanan scored seven and four points, respectively, in the boys game. Prochazka played for Team Blue, while Buchanan was a member of Team Gold. Team Gold won 125-103.
Prochazka and Buchanan led the Seahawks to a fourth-place finish at the 3A state tournament in March and were the team's leading scorers.
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