MITCHELL — After a dominating junior campaign on the hardwood last year, many wondered what Keyana Wilfred would do as an encore this season on the Mitchell High School girls basketball team.
To nobody’s surprise, the 6-foot-3 senior showcased remarkable improvements in her game to help the Tigers remain one of the top teams in the region and state.
Wilfred attributes her success to the time she spent playing AAU basketball in Las Vegas last summer.
“I feel like I improved a lot because I played AAU basketball in Las Vegas,” she said. “That gave me a head start to keep practicing every day, going to tournaments, and constantly playing.”
Wilfred said that experience proved vitally important and helped her develop a more well-rounded game in the post as a senior.
“I was able to go against girls that were bigger than me,” she said. “When I came back here, there were girls smaller so it was easier. It was vital to become more physical because if I wasn’t physical then I wouldn’t be able to get rebounds or anything on the inside.”
Wilfred’s play helped Mitchell advance to the Class C-1 state tournament for a fourth straight year. She averaged 18 points and 8.5 rebounds per game her senior year. Wilfred scored 1,401 points in her last three seasons. She also pulled down 234 rebounds, while also garnering 45 steals and 90 blocks this year. In three seasons with the Tigers, she totaled 239 blocks and 642 rebounds.
As a result of her dominating play, Wilfred has been named the Star-Herald’s Girls All-Region Basketball Player of the Year.
Wilfred said her senior season was one to remember.
“I had a great one. I loved it. It was so much fun,” she said. “We had all us seniors together. It was great.”
Mitchell finished the season with a final record of 25-3. The Tigers suffered just one regular-season loss to Superior. After winning sub-district and district titles, Mitchell opened the state tournament with a 45-41 win over Columbus Lakeview. Wilfred nearly willed the Tigers to another win in the semifinals against Lincoln Christian, but the Crusaders managed to edge Mitchell by a score of 44-42. The Tigers then fell to Wahoo in the third-place game.
Wilfred credited Mitchell’s further success at state this year to being more physical against the eastern Nebraska opponents.
“We were definitely more physical. We were more skilled and had more knowledge,” she said. “We had young girls that wanted to compete, so we were pushing each other in practice just constantly getting better and better.”
Wilfred said the Tigers shared a strong bond with each other on and off the court.
“I definitely will remember my teammates as family,” she said. “They were always there for me whether it was in season or not. They were an amazing group of girls.”
Wilfred played in both the Panhandle Panhandle Prep All-Star Basketball Game and the West Nebraska All-Star Volleyball Match the last two weeks. She was slated to play in the Nebraska Coaches Association All-Star Basketball Game in July, but had to deny the invite since she will be off to begin her next career at the University of Nevada Las Vegas where she will contine playing basketball at the Division I level.
As for the next chapter, Wilfred is excited for the chance to play at a higher level and is working hard to keep improving her game this summer.
“I have been working out every day,” she said. “They gave me things to do so I plan to keep up. It definitely will be a change and I will just have to adapt.”
Wilfred said it will be tough leaving her classmates and teammates.
“It is bittersweet, but I am excited for my next step,” she said. “I am so sad about leaving the girls I grew up with. They just impacted my life so much. Those girls are everything to me.”