Rio Grande’s Holden named honorable mention All-American

By Randy Payton - For Ohio Valley Publishing

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – University of Rio Grande senior guard Sydney Holden has been named an Honorable Mention selection to the 2020 National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) Division II Women’s Basketball All-America team.

The Wheelersburg, Ohio native averaged a team-best 15.7 points, 8.5 rebounds and 6.5 assists for the RedStorm, who finished the season at 19-12 following a one-point loss at Indiana University Southeast in the semifinal round of the River States Conference Championship.

Holden, a first team All-RSC selection and the league’s Player of the Year, shot 50.3 percent overall (157-for-312), connected on 41.4 percent of her attempts from three-point range (46-for-111) and was 126-for-152 at the free throw line (82.9%).

Nationally, Holden ranked second in total assists (201), third in assists per game and 20th in free throw percentage.

The 5-foot-9 guard also surpassed the 1,000-point for her career this season, while also recording three “triple-double” performances and earning an NAIA National Player of the Week honor.

Holden is responsible for four of the program’s five all-time triple-double outings.

Taylah Simmons, a junior forward for Southeastern (Fla.) was named NAIA DII National Player of the Year.

In just her first season with the Fire, the Melbourne, Australia native was ranked No. 1 in the nation in scoring average per game with 24 points per game on the season. She led the nation in total points with 720 and shot 59.4 percent from the field.

Philly Lammers of Concordia (Neb.) and Kynedi Cheeseman of Dakota Wesleyan (S.D.) were the only repeat All-America First Team selections.

Shandra Farmer of Hastings (Neb.) and Kaitlyn Aylward of St. Francis (Ill.) both made the jump from second team in 2019 to first team this season, while Sarah Fryman of Huntington (Ind.) and Becca Buchs of Taylor (Ind.) both earned a spot on the first team after being named an honorable mention a year ago.

Head Coach Katie Gearlds of Marian (Ind.) was named NAIA Division II Women’s Basketball Coach of the Year. She led the Knights to a No. 2 ranking in the final poll of the season and a 31-3 overall record.

Gearlds has previously led two Marian teams to a red banner, both in 2016 and 2017.

Two other players representing River States Conference schools received All-American kudos.

Interestingly, WVU-Tech junior guard Brittney Justice – who finished second in the RSC Player of the Year voting – leapfrogged Holden on the All-American list and was a second team selection.

Justice’s Golden Bears upset Morningside (Iowa) in the opening round of the national tournament before it was canceled due to concerns of the Coronavirus pandemic.

Ohio Christian University senior Staci Pertuset, who was third in the RSC Player of the Year voting, joined Holden on the honorable mention list.

The Trailblazers lost to Southeastern (Fla.) in the final game before the national tourney’s stoppage.

By Randy Payton

For Ohio Valley Publishing

Randy Payton is the Sports Information Director at the University of Rio Grande.

Randy Payton is the Sports Information Director at the University of Rio Grande.