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March 19, 2013Her team given a second chance - thank you, Mr. Wild Card - Paige Ballinger led Pender the 2013 girls Class D-1 state basketball championship, earning D-1 player of the year honors in the process.
Ballinger, a 6-1 junior post player, led the Pendragons with 15.6 points and 9.5 rebounds per game, establishing herself as one of the premier interior players in Class D.
Strong and physical, Ballinger isn't too much worried about finesse, rather concentrating her work in the paint, where she's a dominant rebounder and shot blocker and also shows good touch around the basket.
Pender, No. 2 in the wild card, was upset by No. 3 Howells-Dodge in the opening round of sub-district play but later qualified as a wild card. The Pendragons took it from there, beating Palmer in the opening round of state tournament play, 70-30, before edging Emerson-Hubbard 52-48 in the semifinals and then beating St. Mary's 42-36 in the championship game. Ballinger scored seven of her team's first 11 points in the title game, finishing with a team-high 13 points.
It also marked the second time in three seasons Pender (25-3) has played for a title under Ballinger's watch, as it finished as Class D-1 runner-up in 2011 and third-place finisher in C-2 in 2012.