It is hard to imagine improving on the type of season Amy Zehner enjoyed as a sophomore.
During the 2008-09 season, the 5-11 Tamaqua Area High School forward averaged 16.8 points and 10.3 rebounds per game in leading the Lady Raiders to a 22-6 record, including the District 11 Class AA championship and the second round of the PIAA playoffs.
For her performance, Zehner was named to the Associated Press Class AA All-State Third Team and was selected as TIMES NEWS Girls Basketball Player of the Year.
Remarkably, Zehner topped that as a junior this past season.
Despite being the focus of opposing defenses, Zehner was the leading scorer in the Schuylkill League at 21 points per game. She also led the Raiders in rebounds (292, 10.4 per game), steals (69) and blocked shots (37) and was second in assists (89).
Tamaqua also improved team-wise with a 25-3 mark, winning the Schuylkill League championship for the first time since the 1976-77 season and repeating as District AA champs, a feat the Raiders last accomplished in 1977 and 1978. A one-point loss to Delone Catholic in the closing seconds of their second round State rematch ended an outstanding campaign.
The honors continue to pour in for Zehner, who was selected to the AP's Class AA All-State Second Team last week. She is a repeat winner of the TIMES NEWS Girls Basketball Player of the Year award as well.
While her statistics are impressive, they don't tell the whole story. Zehner is a player who has the innate ability to make her teammates better.
If the Raiders need a big basket or rebound, Zehner is their go-to player. She can score a lot of points if needed; during one six-game stretch, from Jan. 28 through Feb. 12, Zehner averaged 31 points per game. She currently has 1,293 career points, good for fifth on the Tamaqua girls' all-time scoring list.
Yet Tamaqua's success wasn't always predicated on how many points Zehner scored. In a game at Nativity on Jan. 16, Zehner tallied a season-low eight points, yet the Raiders prevailed 66-58 against the perennial Class A State power Golden Girls.
"Amy's success parallels the team's success," said Tamaqua Coach Joe Berezwick. "The biggest compliment you can give her is that she is a team-oriented player, as well as being a great person and a real student-athlete.
"In that game with Nativity, we were losing at halftime and came back to win. I remember how excited Amy was after that game, and I was really surprised to find out she only had eight points. That says a lot about her character. That's the kind of player she has become. Points don't matter to her."
Most players would be happy to rest on those laurels, but Zehner is a driven, determined individual who is always seeking to improve.
"We hit a lot of our goals," said Zehner. "Winning the league for the first time in awhile, that was pretty cool. Winning the District championship for the second year in a row is something to be proud of."
"I wish our season would have gone longer, but the second round of states, some people would die to be there. I'm happy with everything that happened. Hopefully, we can take this with us into next season and go even further."
During the offseason, Amy plays with the Philadelphia Rebels AAU 17 and under traveling team with a pair of fellow All-Staters, Delone Catholic's Sierra Moore and York Catholic's Kady Schrann. She said her team will travel to Atlanta, Indiana and Nike Nationals in Chicago this year.
Playing with that kind of elite competition has pushed Amy to sharpen her own talents.
"I think last year I was a little timid in trying to get to the basket," she explained. "This year I think I was better at that and at being more aggressive."
Zehner hit close to 50 percent of her shots from the field, but she stressed she will work on her outside shooting to become even more of a perimeter threat.
Colleges have been actively recruiting her. "My top three right now are Bucknell, Penn and Lehigh," mentioned Zehner, who plans to major in biology.
Next year, Tamaqua will be competing in 3A, but Zehner hasn't lowered her aspirations.
"That's fine," she indicated. "We're not going to limit our goals because we're moving up a class. We want to go for that AAA title."
"We're really excited about next year, and our goals wil be the same," said Berezwick. "AAA is a different mountain to climb. For Amy, even with all the accolades she gets, and deservedly so, she still has that need to raise the bar higher."