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Girls basketball: AFC junior Prestegaard in the record books

AFC's Allison Prestegaard spent the winter swatting away shot attempts. She did so at 
a record pace and has landed in the IHSA record book for blocks in a season (165) 
and blocks in a game (16).
AFC's Allison Prestegaard spent the winter swatting away shot attempts. She did so at a record pace and has landed in the IHSA record book for blocks in a season (165) and blocks in a game (16).

At some point, you would think some teams would come to the conclusion that enough is enough.

Working the ball inside for high-percentage shots is the way to go for most girls basketball squads in the area, but not necessarily when going against AFC. That's because Allison Prestegaard is back there, waiting like a human flyswatter.

In 24 games this past season, the 6-foot-3 junior rejected 165 shots, an average of 6.9 each game. When the IHSA updated its girls basketball individual records on May 8, Prestegaard was listed in two categories.

The 165 blocks for a season is the 20th-most in IHSA girls basketball history. Brielle Jones of Deland-Weldon blocked 240 shots in the 2007-08 season.

In a single game, Prestegaard blocked 16 shots against Amboy on Feb. 16, which ties her for seventh-most in a single game. She also blocked 12 shots in a game twice – against Polo on Jan. 21 and Dakota on Feb. 4.

Jones blocked 21 shots in a game twice in her career, while Hononegah's Nicole Smith achieved the feat once, in the 2010-11 season.

Prestegaard's height, combined with an 80-inch wingspan and good instincts, make her a perfect storm for rejection.

"I've definitely been blessed with the height thing," said Prestegaard, whose mother, Kathy, stands 5-10, and father, Joel, is 6-3. "There's instances where they just shoot it right into my hands, but sometimes I have to move around and block shots from behind. That helps a lot. It just kind of comes naturally for me."

Having Prestegaard as a last line of defense allows AFC third-year coach Chris Jahn to get creative defensively.

"We've got some really quick defenders," Jahn said, "and I can let them gamble out front. We can gamble for steals off the dribble or off the pass, and if they get past and they come inside, they're going to have trouble getting around Allison."

This is all heady stuff for a player who had limited basketball experience. She played the sport in sixth grade, but a bout with pneumonia before her seventh-grade season doused her spirit for the game.

She played volleyball instead, until getting the basketball bug again, at Jahn's urging, prior to her sophomore season.

"Once she came out and started playing with us a little bit, and realized what a basketball family we have, I think that's what really made her decide, 'I want to be a part of that,'" Jahn said.

Prestegaard was mostly a project as a 6-foot sophomore, learning the basics of the game at the fresh-soph level before getting a taste of varsity action late.

"I put in a lot of time in the gym, working on a lot of things," Prestegaard said, "and I was really lucky to have such a supportive group of teammates. They're my classmates and my friends, but they were all so helpful on the court."

By the time her junior season came around in November, however, Prestegaard had sprouted to 6-3, and was ready to become more of a force. She was ready in the blocked shot and rebounding (8.6 per game) departments, but offensively, she was still a work in progress.

Prestegaard averaged 8.8 points a game, despite towering over most of her opponents. It's something Jahn plans to change next season.

"A lot of her points were off putbacks," Jahn said, "and I think she was too willing to kick the ball back out when she got it inside. She's got to be a little bit stronger with the ball and take her shots."

Prestegaard has an ideal practice partner for learning post moves in her younger sister, Madeline. She stands 6-1, and is expected to be a key part of the AFC varsity when she's a freshman this winter. Madeline scored more than 500 points as a middle school player.

When not in the AFC gym, Allison and Madeline hone their games on the cement slab, complete with a basketball hoop, outside their family's rural home. They work on a lot of drills, and only occasionally go 1-on-1.

"Sometimes it ends up with a fight," Allison said. "We're just trying to make each other better."

Prestegaard will forego playing AAU basketball this summer, instead concentrating on playing with her AFC teammates. They'll play in the Westwood league on Mondays and Wednesdays, starting in early June, as well as tournaments at Eastland and in Rolla, Mo.

The Raiders bring back all five starters from last year's 14-12 squad.

Prestegaard is also considering a few individual camps later in the summer, but those plans haven't been finalized yet.

Knowing there's a summer full of hoops on Prestegaard's plate brings a smile to Jahn's face.

"Every single time we play, whether it's summer scrimmages or practice, I see something every day that's something new," Jahn said. "She's very smart, so she learns very quickly on new stuff. She learns a new move, or if she sees somebody do something, she's picking that up and improving. She's only scratching the surface of what she can do."

Prestegaard file

School: AFC

Class: Junior

FYI: First-year starter for Raiders in 2013-14 basketball season. ... Averaged 8.8 points, 8.6 rebounds and 6.9 blocks per game. ... Block total was tops in the state.

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