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PAXTON – Whether it’s solving a Rubik’s Cube or tackling the nuances of architecture, Amanda Ypya’s willingness to take on a challenge has helped make her a three-sport standout at Paxton-Buckley-Loda High School.
Ypya’s biggest athletic challenge this week will be a stellar St. Thomas More lineup that will be PBL’s opponent Thursday in Sangamon Valley Conference action. A strong effort will be needed by the Panther senior point guard if head coach Clarissa Gross’ team wants to defeat the 15-1 and third-ranked (in Class 2A) Sabers.
A four-year starter for PBL in girls varsity basketball, Ypya briefly played on the junior varsity as a freshman before opening her varsity career against STM. She went 1-for-9 from the field and tallying five points in a December 2009 loss to the Sabers.
Ypya has endured her share of defeats against STM, but during a regional playoff game as a sophomore, the Panthers upset the Sabers.
That experience, Ypya said, is one of her prep career highlights.
“When the pressure was on, we pulled together and played as a team,” said Ypya of the one-point regional win two years ago. “And we need to go into this game with the thought that we can do it and have the confidence to do it.”
Always an unselfish player at the high school level, Ypya totaled at least 75 assists in each of her initial three years with 249 in all heading into her senior year (she also produced 153 steals, grabbed 285 rebounds and scored 600 points in that span). After playing on the wing for a handful of games this season, she seems to have grown in confidence since taking over as point guard in early December.
Ypya had an 18-point effort and made the game-winning shot in a victory at Fisher High in mid-November and scored in double digits in 11 of her team’s initial 16 games while averaging a team-best 11.9 points per contest. She averaged 16.7 points and six rebounds over three games as her team won a tournament in Momence last weekend.
Last Saturday in a tourney semifinal victory against Tri-Point, she tallied a career-best 26 points to go with five assists. She had dished out six assists in a home win over state-ranked (1A) Shiloh Dec. 19. She is averaging three assists and three steals (both team highs) and grabs three rebounds per contest.
“I like setting up the offense,” she said. “I feel like I’m one of the most vocal player out there and I like getting assists. I like making the awesome pass and setting up players in the best places to score.”
Gross appreciates the obvious love Ypya has for the game of basketball and her willingness to learn, but Ypya’s versatility is a quality that is particularly valuable for PBL this season.
“She understands the game and her basketball IQ is so much higher than most kids her age,” Gross said about inserting Ypya at point guard. “I think a lot of it has to do with her experience with the game of basketball. She’s lived it her whole life and played more games than anyone on our team.
“When we learn a new play, Amanda doesn’t just learn her position; she learns every other player’s position.” Gross continued. “I can throw her in any other position and she would do just fine. But I just felt with her in that (point guard) position we jelled more as a team and she’s done a good job with it.”
Ypya is a quick study in other areas as well, having once solved a 3-by-3 Rubik’s Cube in 48 seconds. She now totes around a larger Rubik’s Cube (5-by-5) that she can assemble the cube in eight minutes.
That talent might not help Ypya solve the St. Thomas More press, but the quick hands that maneuver the cube aids the guard on the court.
The fact that Ypya’s played with some of the Sabers in the past should also help. While with a club program called C-U Elite, she was teammates with STM standouts Randa Harshberger and Lexi Wallen, among others.
“I think we’ll need to play with our feet more on defense because Harshberger is really quick,” Ypya said of the Sabers’ point guard. “And Lexi Wallen is a great post who can drive and shoot, so one of our posts will have to be aware of where she is at all times.”
A basketball junkie since she was a kid watching Fighting Illini games with her dad Corey Anderson, Ypya’s favorite player was James Augustine, which is the reason she now wears No. 40.
Although she was a starter on highly-successful PBL softball and volleyball teams in the past year, Ypya has always dreamed of playing college basketball. She’s considering a Construction Management major at Parkland College and would like to play for the Cobras’ highly-regarded hoops program.
Gross knows Ypya can grow in her evolution as a point guard, especially in asserting herself as a communicator on the court. But the Panther coach appreciates her zeal to learn the finer points of the game and her willingness to take instruction, qualities which will help her down the road.
“As you take the next step (playing in college), everyone’s bigger, stronger, and faster and it’s a much quicker game,” Gross said. “If you talk to anyone who’s played in college their first year they’ll tell you that the difference is the speed of the game compared to high school, so working on getting a quicker first step will help her. I also think she’s going to have to look for her shot more — to almost be a little more selfish — because she’s got a nice shot. But anywhere she goes, I think she’ll be a great asset.”