FOND DU LAC – After a breakout sophomore season that saw Ally Gietzel earn Co-Player of the Year honors in the Fox Valley Association, she knew the heat would be on this year.
It didn’t really seem to matter.
Gietzel, in her junior season on the Fond du Lac girls basketball team, put up better numbers in 2016-17 in the face of added defensive attention and a loaded schedule that included two state champions and a state qualifier.
In earning unanimous first team All-Fox Valley Association honors, Gietzel averaged 19.8 points per game, leading the FVA in scoring average for the second year in a row, as well as 6.1 rebounds and was the driving force behind a Cardinals squad that finished 12-11 despite a variety of injuries.
For that, Gietzel is the 2016-17 Action Reporter Media All-Area Girls Basketball Player of the Year — the second straight season she’s earned the title.
The Fond du Lac junior guard edged out Laconia’s Caitlyn Tipton and St. Mary’s Springs’ Anja Smith, both deserving candidates, for this season’s honor. Tipton was the Flyway Conference Player of the Year and a Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association Division 4 all-state selection, while Smith was a first team All-Flyway player and a WBCA D4 all-state honorable mention.
Gietzel is joined on the all-area first team by Tipton, Smith and Waupun’s Sydney Flier and Maiah Domask.
Coming into the 2016-17 season, it was no mystery that Gietzel would be the focus for basically every opposing team’s defensive game plan.
With the ability to dribble-penetrate to the basket, pull up for a mid-range jumper or let loose from the outside, Gietzel was the total package offensively and everyone knew it.
“I kind of expected (teams to game plan against me) and I just knew I’d really have to step up my game all the time,” Gietzel said. “I’d always be guarded really close, so I always looked to attack and be ready when I caught the ball.”
Step up her game, she did.
Although a few teams succeeded in slowing her down throughout the year, Gietzel regularly scored over 20 points and sometimes single-handedly carried the Cardinals down the stretch of games.
Fond du Lac coach Jeff Bell, who like Gietzel knew that opposing teams would be focused on stopping her, actually expected her individual numbers to decrease this season. Yet she just found a way.
“I knew she kind of had a target on her back,” Bell said. “Everybody’s scouting report was ‘How can we stop Ally?’ In a way, I expected her numbers to drop a little bit because she was going to be every team’s focus. There wasn’t a single game where she wasn’t face-guarded. Multiple games where she was face-guarded the entire game and was still able to average almost 20 points. I’d say she exceeded expectations that way.”
Gietzel shot about 44 percent from the floor this season, knocking down 33 3-pointers, and got to the free-throw line 147 times, shooting 82 percent from the charity stripe. She also went over 1,000 varsity points for her career this year — no small feat for a junior.
Whereas last year Bell believed his star guard settled for outside shots, this season Gietzel made a more concerted effort to dribble-drive and either pull up, draw a foul or finish at the hoop.
“I think last year, she settled outside a lot more,” he said. “Don’t get me wrong, she’s a great outside shooter, but her mid-range pull-up is like a layup for a lot of girls. I think she really used that to her strength. Girls were worried about her outside shot, but when she dribbles and pulls up, she’s going to knock that down and a lot of girls can’t guard that with her elevation. On her jumper, a lot of girls don’t jump as high as she does. It’s really difficult for defenders to guard and she really utilized that skill set this year.”
Aside from the physical, on-court skills that Gietzel showed in abundance, her mental strength was pretty impressive as well. For even the best of players, dealing with constant defensive pestering game after game can be exhausting and frustrating.
Gietzel always kept her composure, something that bodes well for her future in the sport.
“She doesn’t show emotion either way,” Bell said. “I never saw in a game where she let it get to her. She kind of knows what she’s got to do and continues to fight. She’s going to fight through it. … Realistically, she’s getting fouled every possession, she’s getting held. It could be real easy for her to give up, but I’ve never seen that in her. Even on nights where she’s had low scoring for her, it hasn’t changed the way she plays. I don’t think she ever let it get to her.”
Although Gietzel still has her senior year of high school basketball left, it’s hard for her not to look ahead. She already has scholarship offers from NCAA Division I Bucknell University and Division II Winona State University, with interest being shown from the University of Wisconsin, the University of Nebraska Omaha, Loyola University Chicago and Cleveland State University.
With one more summer of AAU basketball playing for Wisconsin Flight Elite and a college decision coming up relatively soon, Gietzel is excited for what’s yet to come.
“I’m super excited,” she said. “I’m really fortunate to have the opportunity to play basketball on a full scholarship, but I’m looking forward to this final summer of AAU and then making a decision sometime in the near future.”
2016-17 Action Reporter Media All-Area Girls Basketball Team
Maiah Domask, Senior, Waupun
Sydney Flier, Junior, Waupun
Ally Gietzel, Junior, Fond du Lac
Anja Smith, Senior, St. Mary’s Springs
Caitlyn Tipton, Senior, Laconia
Makayla De Young, Junior, Central Wisconsin Christian
Megan Dille, Senior, Fond du Lac
Natalie Geiger, Senior, Lomira
Danielle Hopp, Senior, Waupun
Kiarra Otto, Soph., Laconia
Fond du Lac: Aleah Wendels, Senior