– BY MICHAEL KNIGHT
Choctaw guard Ana Llanusa is this year’s selection for the OKPreps.com Player Of The Year award for girls basketball. Llanusa has been one of the most dominant players in the state during her entire career. She capped off that career by leading her Lady Jackets to a state championship in March.
“She’s a once in lifetime player,” head coach Ryan Maloney said after the state tournament. “I can’t really put into words what she’s meant to this program during these four years.”
Scoring over 2,000 points in her career, Llanusa committed to Oklahoma early on in her high school career and remained loyal to the Lady Sooners throughout. She led Choctaw to four consecutive state tournament appearances and ran into heartbreak during the first three trips. Buzzer beaters and first round upsets would keep Choctaw from capturing that elusive gold ball until her senior year.
The Mabee Center became a second home for Llanusa and the Lady Jackets. They made three straight appearances in the prestigious Tournament Of Champions, which takes place each December at ORU. They would also return for action in the state tournament each year.
Llanusa has had to overcome plenty of adversity during her career on and off the court. At the conclusion of the Tournament Of Champions this season, Llanusa found out that her house had burned to the ground. She overcame that and led Choctaw all the way back to ORU and a run at a state title.
However, that state title run almost didn’t happen. In the first round, against a Putnam City West team that had beaten them to close out the regular season, the Lady Jackets were in a fight. Llanusa led Choctaw, seemingly by herself to survive another potential first round upset. Llanusa turned around the next day and faced Edmond Santa Fe, who rallied in the second half. Llanusa played the final seven minutes of the game with four fouls, but never picked up that fifth.
And finally, Llanusa was lights out from the free throw line in the title game against Deer Creek as she finally delivered the Lady Jackets a state championship.