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Times All-North: Stevens kept South Jefferson squad together

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ADAMS — Austin Stevens said she wants to be remembered as a leader within the South Jefferson girls basketball program.

And as the senior guided a young and inexperienced Spartans squad through a taxing season while keeping its five-year Frontier League winning streak intact, she solidified that legacy.

Stevens’s contributions, both on and off the court, make her the obvious choice for Times All-North Most Valuable Player for Frontier League girls basketball.

“She kind of held this together,” South Jefferson coach Pat Bassett said. “It’s no surprise, we were a fractured team this year and she really held it together and it’s because she cares so much about this program. ... She’s a kid that’s always deeply cared about the South Jefferson basketball program. She knows about the tradition and she’s proud of the tradition.”

Stevens, making her third straight appearance on the Times All-North first team, led the Spartans to a 19-1 record with per-game averages of 16.6 points, 8.1 rebounds and 3.8 assists.

South Jefferson captured its 13th straight league title and increased its winning streak over league opponents to 85 games, dating back to February 2009.

Stevens was just one of two returning players that logged significant minutes last season, and the only returning starter from the Spartans’ state runner-up team in 2011-12.

Three of South Jefferson’s league victories came by single digits. In past years, all but two victories during the streak were decided by 10 points or more.

“I know we’ve done that for a long time now, but we kind of take for granted the success that we’ve had (in the past),” Stevens said. “Having the year we had, where we had a couple really close games, it kind of makes that a little more special this season.”

South Jefferson has posted a record of 80-4 during Stevens’s four-year varsity career, with its only losses coming in the final game of each of those seasons. She finished with career totals of 965 points and 540 rebounds while playing and defending against every position on the court.

“From a basketball standpoint, she’ll be remembered as one of the best players ever to wear a South Jefferson jersey,” Bassett said.

When Bassett was mysteriously placed on administrative leave in mid-December, Stevens led a group of players that vowed not to finish the season unless the two-time state champion coach was re-instated.

She also reached out to former players and their families to attend a public school board meeting to support Bassett’s status as coach. He returned to the sidelines the following day.

“That whole situation, it taught me to stay strong and never give up,” Stevens said. “If we didn’t speak for what we thought was right, it could have been different.”

Stevens, the team’s captain and most experienced player, put the onus on herself to keep her teammates on the same page during the fallout.

“I think just getting past it and not dwelling on it was huge,” Stevens said. “If we started really breaking down, team-wise, there’s no way we would have had the season we had because trust is huge, especially in basketball. You need trust to have a good team.”

She added: “It was pretty stressful and there was a lot of pressure to handle everything and not show weakness, to lead everybody else. Mr. Bassett was kind of my leader with that, he never really broke down and he handled it very well. When he was OK, I was OK.”

Stevens said she was compelled to act because of her affection for the “Spartan family.”

Stevens stays in touch with those who have gone through the program and works closely with the program’s youngest age groups during the summer. She said that is one of her favorite parts of playing basketball.

Stevens accepted a full athletic scholarship to play for Division II Le Moyne. She said she plans to study biology and eventually wants to be a dentist.

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