Player of the Year honors were determined by a statewide media vote (Over 25 media members from all parts of the state) of people that work in media, radio, newspaper, television and finalized by Chet Kuplen of Sports in Kansas and Conor Nicholl of Sports in Kansas. Players of the Year and Finalists are eligible for a Sports in Kansas Patch. Stay on our feed over the next few days for updated coverage and all-state teams for both boys and girls.
2021 Sports in Kansas 5A Girls Basketball Player of the Year
Beatrice Culliton, St. Thomas Aquinas
St. Thomas Aquinas 6-foot-3 junior forward Beatrice Culliton is a national four-star recruit, per ESPN recruiting, and has 23 NCAA Division I offers, including Harvard, Princeton, Missouri, LSU, Iowa State, Iowa and Kansas State.
This winter, she finished with 13.3 points, 8.6 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game and helped the 20-2 Saints to the state title under longtime coach Rick Hetzel. Culliton was Aquinas’ lone player to average double figures. Aquinas had nine state titles with Hetzel, all since 2001. The Saints have recently won state titles in ’16, ’17, ’18, ’19, Forever Four in ’20 and champion again this winter. Culliton won a close race for 5A Player of the Year in a pack that included Aquinas point guard Madison Skelton and AC’s duo of Bailey Wilborn and Brittany Harshaw.
Culliton holds the Aquinas single game rebounding record when she delivered 27 points and 20 rebounds in a Jan. 9, 2021 win versus Blue Springs. Culliton carries a 4.0 GPA and is a two-time Eastern Kansas League first team selection. She was the ’21 classification Most Outstanding Player at the 5A state tournament.
Overall, she has 864 career points and has a strong chance to become Aquinas’ all-time leading scorer. Sereena Weledji, currently playing at Ivy League’s Penn, holds the mark with 1,162 points from ’14-18. Two players in Aquinas history have cleared 1,000 career points.
In the semifinals, Aquinas beat Lansing, 64-44 as Culliton finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds. In the finals, the Saints defeated Andover Central, 52-44. Culliton finished with 16 points and 14 rebounds.
As well, Culliton shot 60.7 percent and 64.7 percent the last two years, the second and third best field goal percentages in Aquinas history. The record is 66 percent set by Allison Thomas in 2018. Culliton has 483 career records, fifth-time. The record is 689.
Skelton, an Emporia State signing, finishes her career fourth all-time in Aquinas annals with 285 assists. She sunk 43 treys this winter, most by a Saint in five years. She had at least 76 assists in each of the last three seasons. Skelton made five treys on March 5 versus Spring Hill, tied for second-best in a single game in school annals.
St. Thomas Aquinas HS and St. Thomas Aquinas Athletic Department would like to congratulate the Saints on the 2021 5A State Title. STA would also like to congratulate Beatrice Culliton on the 2021 Sports in Kansas 5A Player of the Year Honor. We are proud of you!
Congrats to Beatrice Culliton on the 2021 SIK 5A POY. We are so incredibly proud of you! From your biggest fans- Mom, Dad, Brett, Cale & Milton!
Sports in Kansas 5A Player of the Year Finalists
Aubrie Kierscht, Salina Central
Brittany Harshaw, Andover Central
Beatrice Culliton, St. Thomas Aquinas
Ella Anciaux, Kapaun Mt. Carmel
Sydney Holmes, Maize
Kamryn Farris, Lansing
Bailey Wilborn, Andover Central
Gracie Gilpin, Emporia
Madison Skelton, Aquinas
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