Nicole Ballestero, a returning first-team All-American who led Vanguard to the program's fourth undefeated regular season, has been named Golden State Athletic Conference Player of the Year in women's basketball.
Ballestero, a 5-foot-8 guard, averaged a conference-best 22.2 points per game, which was third in the NAIA. She led the GSAC in free-throw percentage (83.5%) to help the Lions finish 25-0, 14-0 in conference.
Russ Davis, in his 18th season at the Vanguard helm, was named GSAC Coach of the Year for the eighth time. It's the 11th conference title and the 16th trip to the NAIA Tournament in Davis' tenure, including a national championship in 2008. Davis' career winning percentage (.809) is tops among active NAIA coaches.
Senior point guard Taylor Belmont and sophomore wing Samantha Doucette also represent the Lions on the 10-player all-conference unit.
The 5-5 Belmont leads the nation in assists (8.6 per game) and chips in 15.7 points per contest. She had 11 double-doubles this season and two triple-doubles to help Vanguard maintain the No. 1 national ranking all season. She is shooting 52.5% from the field. She averaged 18.4 points per game in conference and her 5.9 rebounds per game overall are second on the team to Ashleigh Anderson's 6.0 per contest.
The 5-11 Doucette, who averages 15.9 points per game, is one of the better shooters in the nation. Operating typically from mid-range distance and beyond, she is shooting 45.9% from the field.
"Nicole proved that she is the GSAC Player of the Year," Davis said. "She stepped up in big games for us and made huge baskets all year.
"Taylor Belmont has improved more in one year than anyone in the history of our program. She had a tremendous senior season," Davis said.
"[Doucette] is one of the most dangerous offensive weapons in the nation."
Vanguard will play host to Arizona Christian in the quarterfinals of the GSAC Tournament on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.
— From staff reports