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Sari Noga is Gatorade Minnesota Girls' Basketball Player of the Year

Parkers Prairie's Sari Noga was recently selected as the Gatorade Minnesota Girls' Basketball Player of the Year

Parkers Prairie senior standout Sari Noga can add another prestigious honor to an already long list.

Noga was named the Gatorade Minnesota Girls' Basketball Player of the Year last week. The 5'10" guard has averaged 25 points, 12.3 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 4.3 steals, while leading her team to its first-ever state tournament appearance. She is putting the finishing touches on a career that has seen her score 3,507 points and set the state's all-time rebounding record with 1,701 boards.

The award recognizes outstanding athletic excellence and also a high standard of academic achievement and strong character demonstrated on and off the court. That is what makes this award all the more special in Noga's eyes.

"It was a big honor for me," she said. "Because it isn't based on just your sport. There are also academics involved and other things. Just to be recognized as the top all around athlete with sports and academics involved makes me feel really good."

Noga found out she won the award at a short ceremony in the Parkers Prairie gymnasium last Thursday.

Activities Director Kelly Mesker called the students into the gym without telling them what was going on. Noga said they were given the impression that they had done something wrong. The students went from worried to ecstatic when Mesker revealed she had won the award.

"It was really cool because a lot of it had to do with them," Noga said. "My teachers, my teammates, they have helped us put together this awesome season we have had. Just to share it with all of them makes it feel extra special."

Tayler Hill of Minneapolis South won the award the last two seasons. Hill is now averaging 8.5 points per game for the eighth-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes.

Noga hopes to make a similar impact in the Big Ten next season. She signed on with the University of Minnesota and is expected to be one of the top recruits in this year's Gopher class.

Many Gopher fans who have not had the chance to see her play will get that opportunity this week. The Panthers opened up their state-tournament schedule against Southwest Minnesota Christian last night at Williams Arena on the University of Minnesota campus.

Noga doesn't feel she has anything to prove to the people who have not seen her play. She was not too concerned about making a strong impression. Her focus was on bringing home a state title with her teammates.

"It's always in the back of your mind a little bit," she said about showcasing her talents to Gopher fans. "But just by the fact that I got a full-ride scholarship there, I hope that means enough to them and proves that I can do it. If I couldn't, the coaches wouldn't have given me a scholarship. I hope they see that."

Winning the Gatorade Player of the Year Award further justifies that scholarship. Noga joins an elite group of athletes who have won the award in their respective state. Other noteworthy alumni include Candace Parker, Diana Taurasi, Maya Moore, Rashanda McCants and Lisa Leslie.

Noga is now a finalist for the Gatorade National Player of the Year Award, which will be announced in March.