A successful comeback: Jaguars' Avery Broughton is Mitchell Republic’s girls basketball player of the year
A knee injury in 2021 was a major hurdle for the talented Corsica-Stickney junior, but Broughton quickly got back into form in 2022
CORSICA, S.D. — After an offseason of rehab, Avery Broughton bounced back from a knee injury and had her best season yet.
The 5-foot-11 junior led Corsica-Stickney in points, rebounds, steals and blocks this season, helping the Jaguars reach the third-place game of the Class B state tournament for the third time in four years.
It was a pretty strong season in the face of the adversity involved with a torn ACL for Broughton.
“We didn’t know what to expect from her this season and when you spend a whole summer working on strengthening your leg, regaining the range of motion and other things, you wonder how rusty she might be because she couldn’t work on her basketball skills as much,” Corsica-Stickney head coach and mother Lorisa Broughton said.
Avery didn’t miss a beat when she returned to the basketball floor, posting 30 points and nine rebounds in her first game back with the Jaguars. Nearly one year from the date of her injury, Corsica-Stickney faced Ethan again but this time it was in the Jaguars' home gym and Broughton was ready to make a statement.
She rose to the occasion and had one of the best games of her career, recording a 31-point and a career-high 17-rebound double-double, along with five blocks, in the 76-50 win on Jan. 20.
Sustaining the injury on Jan. 21, 2021 against Ethan, Broughton’s season came to a close after 12 games, averaging a double-double of 18.9 points and 10 rebounds. Completing the 2021-22 season fully healthy, she filled the stat sheet scoring 18.5 points, snatching 10.2 rebounds, while compiling 4.3 assists, 2.5 steals and 2.3 blocks per game.
Broughton has been playing varsity since she was a seventh-grader listed at 5-foot-9 and after finishing her fifth year of varsity basketball, she notched 14 double-doubles and had six games where she was one rebound shy of a double-double. Out of 26 games played, Broughton had multiple 30-point games in a season for the first time in her career and posted her first triple-double of 16 points, 16 rebounds and 11 rebounds on Jan. 13, 2022 against Winner.
Broughton is now less than 100 points shy of notching 2,000 career points and has been named the Mitchell Republic girls basketball player of the year for the second time.
Broughton is now the seventh girls basketball player ever to win the Mitchell Republic player of the year award more than once in their high school career. The award has been represented by standout area players since 1994 and is selected by the newspaper’s sports staff.
Broughton received all three first-place votes to finish with 15 points. Mount Vernon/Plankinton’s Emilee Fox finished runner-up with 10 points. Following Fox is Wagner’s Emma Yost with nine points, Mitchell’s Sawyer Stoebner with six points, Winner’s Bella Swedlund with five points and Ethan’s Hannah Bartscher with one point.
The road to return
Prior to the injury during the 2020-21 season, Broughton was playing her best stretch of basketball of her young career.
Before ultimately suffering her season ending injury, Broughton had five double-doubles in her first six games in the month of January. Averaging an 18.9-point, 10-rebound double-double with one more month to go in the regular season, everything would change for the Jaguars on a Thursday evening in Ethan.
“I’ve known a few people that have torn their ACL and they all say that you’ll just feel that pop,” Broughton said. “I felt it right away and I knew what I felt wasn’t normal. … (The process) was mentally draining and after the doctor came in and read the MRI to us and told us that I had torn my ACL, I just remember breaking down crying. It was a really crushing feeling because I was really close with some of those seniors.”
The road to recovery was smoother, Broughton said, because of the support around her, including her parents Lorisa and Jason, who both coach the Jaguar girls basketball program, and the support of her brother and former Dakota Wesleyan basketall player, Preston, and her teammates. Avery said the words and messages from her loved ones helped her get through the grueling periods of rehab and physical therapy.
On a nine-month recovery chart, Broughton was cleared from physical therapy two months ahead of schedule. Shortly after, she elected to play volleyball before picking up a basketball again. Even though she missed the majority of the 2021 volleyball season, Broughton said her short season with the volleyball team played a huge part in her comeback on the basketball court because it helped her push through the mental hurdles she would have had to endure one month later during the basketball season.
“I just really hate sitting out and even though volleyball isn’t my favorite sport, I still like it,” Broughton said. “After a lot of convincing, my parents said I could start playing, so I played 5-6 games of volleyball and it was really fun and enjoyable. It helped me get over the mental blocks that I was probably going to have before basketball season started, so it was nice getting in and being able to play.”
Participating in basketball practice one week before the season started on Dec. 9, Broughton felt fully healthy and her play on the court showed she was back in form. She scored 30 points, grabbed nine rebounds and added four assists and two steals in a 67-47 win over Chamberlain. At the time, that was only the third time Broughton scored 30 points or more in a game for the Jaguars.
“It was just so fun to comeback because throughout an injury, there’s always those worries of, ‘Am I going to be good as I was?’” Broughton said. “I had a lot of worries and that game made me feel so good. I was telling myself, ‘I’m back. This is our year and we’re going to have a great season.’”
Following her future program
As Broughton’s junior year of high school basketball came to end on March 12, less than one week later she would find herself watching and cheering on another team in its respective postseason, the University of South Dakota.
Broughton committed to the Coyotes in June 2021, fulfilling a desire to remain close to home and play for a university in South Dakota since she was young. In the first round of the women’s NCAA tournament, USD knocked off Ole Miss and in the second round, USD faced a No. 2-seeded Baylor team that had just reached the Elite Eight a season ago.
Watching from home, Broughton was texting teammates and USD head coach Dawn Plitzuweit about how excited she was that the Coyotes were ruining people’s bracket.
“It is so cool to see a bunch of girls from small towns go out and do that because some people tend to overlook South Dakota schools and mid-major basketball,” Broughton said.
One major factor that tied Broughton to USD was the family environment the players and coaches have created. She spoke with USD’s Jeniah Ugofsky, a Harrisburg native, when she was touring the school, trying to make her ultimate decision. When she elected to commit to becoming a Coyote at the beginning of the 2023-24 season, she had a lengthy conversation with USD’s Chloe Lamb, a Onida native with whom Broughton learned she had a lot in common.
“When I got there, you could tell right away they all loved each other and they were like sisters,” Broughton said. “It felt like a huge family and that was really important and big for me because that’s how it is here at Corsica-Stickney. Seeing that they had that too, really drew me to the program.”
Playing with family
Before taking off to play basketball at the college level, Broughton will be playing her senior year of basketball with her Corsica-Stickney family.
As a player who’s played a large amount of varsity minutes since seventh grade, Broughton has created bonds with teammates that will last beyond the basketball court. The 2021-22 Corsica-Stickney team consisted of four players in the starting five that Broughton has been playing with since her eighth-grade year.
Avery Broughton said losing in the semifinals of the Class B state tournament for the third time in her playing career didn’t sit well, but the starting five including Morgan Clites, Payton DeLange, Casey Tolsma and Rachel Gerlach, had a great run together and they shouldn’t look at what they didn’t do accomplish, but appreciate what they did accomplish.
“At the end of this year, we had a pep rally and one of the dads talked about perspective and that really settled with me,” Broughton said. “I was struggling with the loss to Viborg-Hurley because I felt so defeated afterwards. Another semifinal game we couldn’t get past but that dad put into perspective about how lucky we are to make four-straight state tournament appearances and how much work we’ve put in just to accomplish that.”
The Jaguars' “OG unit” won't be around going forward with Clites, Gerlach and Tolsma all graduating, but DeLange will be returning with Broughton for her senior year.
Avery is excited at the opportunity of still having one more shot at a state title, regardless of the players they lose in the senior class. Lorisa Broughton is excited but mostly for different reasons. She said the focus won’t be about what they can accomplish, but more so relishing in the moment of the daughter-mother player-coach duo one last time.
“This year, we lose a couple of players that are like family to us and it’s probably been one of the harder ends to a season,” Lorisa Broughton said. “We just want to enjoy this final season and focus on living in the moment. We set goals and we work for them, but ultimately it's about living now because you don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow. As a coach and coaching my daughter for the last year, it will be about having fun and enjoying every moment life brings us.”
Others receiving consideration
Here’s a look at the other players who received consideration, with their vote-point totals in parentheses.
Emilee Fox, Mount Vernon/Plankinton (10):
Fox, a 5-foot-8 sophomore, led the Titans to a 17-6 overall record, reaching the SoDak 16 for the second time in the last three years. Fox, who received first-team all-state honors for the second consecutive year, finished third in all of Class A with 70 steals, 3.3 per game, and averaged 19 points per game this season.
Emma Yost, Wagner (9):
Yost, a 5-foot-11 junior, averaged 14.2 points, 9.3 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.2 steals to help the Red Raiders reach a fourth-place finish in the Class A state tournament.
Sawyer Stoebner, Mitchell (6):
Stoebner, a 5-foot-9 sophomore, led the Kernels this season in nearly every statistical category, averaging 15.6 points, 8.7 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 3.1 steals per game. Stoebner shot 44 percent from the field and was the second-youngest player selected to the Class AA all-state team this season.
Bella Swedlund, Winner (5):
Swedlund, a 5-9 senior guard, led the Warriors this season averaging 22.4 points, 8.1 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game. Helping Winner reach the SoDak 16 in her final season as a Warrior, Swedlund became the 29th player in South Dakota girls basketball history to score 2,000 career points. She made Class A all-state first-team for the third consecutive season.
Hannah Bartscher, Ethan (1):
Bartscher, a 5-foot-9 senior guard, averaged 20.2 points, six rebounds, 4.8 assists and three steals per game in her final season as a Rustler. She shot 51 percent from the field and earned first-team all-state honors in 2022, after earning second team all-state honors and all-state tournament honors in 2021.
Past award winners: 1994: Erin Olson, Mitchell; 1995: NaTascha Dawson, Howard; 1996: Mandy Koupal, Wagner; 1997: Mandy Koupal, Wagner; 1998: Mandy Koupal, Wagner; 1999: Lacey Johnson, Wessington Springs; 2000: Lacey Johnson, Wessington Springs; 2001: Vanessa Yanes, Wagner (2002 Season Switch); 2003: Jenna Hoffman, Mitchell; 2004: Jeana Hoffman, Mitchell; 2005: Allison Johnson, Mount Vernon; 2006: Jill Young, Mitchell Christian; 2007: Megan Doyle, Hanson; 2008: Terri VerSteeg, Platte-Geddes; 2009: Rhianna Gullickson, Hanson; 2010: Hillary Paulson, Freeman; 2011: Kerri Young, Mitchell; 2012: Kerri Young, Mitchell; 2013: Macy Miller, Mitchell; 2014: Macy Miller, Mitchell; 2015: Myah Selland, Sanborn Central/Woonsocket; 2016: Myah Selland, Sanborn Central/Woonsocket; 2017: Myah Selland, Sanborn Central/Woonsocket; 2018: Morgan Koepsell, McCook Central/Montrose; 2019: Karly Gustafson, Ethan; 2020: Avery Broughton, Corsica-Stickney; 2021: Bella Swedlund, Winner; 2022: Avery Broughton, Corsica-Stickney.