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Girls Basketball '22-'23: P-E-M's O'Reilly has grown into a basketball star

Senior Abigail O'Reilly put up big numbers last season for Plainview-Elgin-Millville. The 6-foot-1 forward is ready to take another step now.

Plainview-Elgin-Millville, Dover-Eyota girls basketball
Plainview-Elgin-Millville’s Abigail O’Reilly takes a shot during a girls basketball game against Dover-Eyota on Tuesday, Feb. 15, 2022, at Plainview-Elgin-Millville High School in Plainview.
Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin file photo
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PLAINVIEW — There was a time when Abigail O’Reilly was a scared basketball player.

That’s tough to visualize now, one season removed from the Plainview-Elgin-Millville 6-foot-1 senior terrorizing southeastern Minnesota foes as she grabbed every rebound in sight (set a single-season school record with 338 of them) and averaged 22 points per game.

But she really was scared. That was three years ago, coinciding with O’Reilly receiving her first varsity minutes.

Good thing that Sarah Ebin was around. A Plainview-Elgin-Millville senior at the time, Ebin put her arm around O’Reilly’s not-yet-developed shoulders and did some reassuring.

“Sarah saw that I was scared,” O’Reilly said. “She told me that it was OK if I messed up. She encouraged me.”

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There are a whole bunch of teams now wishing those exchanges had never happened. Because this current version of O’Reilly — so strong, fast, explosive, determined and confident — in no way resembles that freshman version.

O’Reilly the senior is a complete handful.

“She is a tough matchup as she finishes well around the basket,” Caledonia coach Scott Sorenson said. “Her mid-range shot is tough to defend as she elevates well on it.”

There have been a few different versions of O’Reilly through the years. There was that meek one as a freshman. There was also a disinterested one as a fifth grader, when basketball was at its lowest point for her.

Plainview-Elgin-Millville, Dover-Eyota girls basketball
Plainview-Elgin-Millville’s Abigail O’Reilly high-fives teammates before a girls basketball game against Dover-Eyota on Tuesday, Feb. 15, 2022, at Plainview-Elgin-Millville High School in Plainview.
Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin file photo

Her No. 1 sports love back then was soccer and that’s pretty much all she wanted to do. At the time, basketball just seemed to be in the way.

“Basketball was not my favorite back then,” said O’Reilly, who is also a prized student, with a 4.0 GPA. “I almost quit in the fifth grade, but my coach said I should give it another shot. I liked soccer back then a lot more and that’s all I really wanted to do.”

But that one freshman season spent with the varsity and mingling with such P-E-M stars at the time as Macy Holz, Alyx Doughty and Ebin changed everything.

“I saw how good all of those girls were, and I wanted to be like them,” O’Reilly said. “They had so much confidence in themselves.”

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She's been a basketball-loving O’Reilly ever since, and a girl who’s had a steady trajectory toward greatness.

Lots of AAU basketball in the springs and summers helped develop her game, as O’Reilly has gone from being simply a strong athlete to now also a skilled basketball player.

St. Cloud State University was one of the first colleges to notice her evolution, starting with her sophomore high school season. The Division II school started recruiting her then. O’Reilly verbally committed to the Huskies in June, then made it official two weeks ago, signing her National Letter of Intent.

As helpful as the AAU travel hoops have been, O’Reilly has likely made her biggest advancements simply by striding out to the family driveway where a basketball hoop hangs. There, she often shares the space with her two biggest helpers — her dad, Andy, and mom, Kari.

Plainview-Elgin-Millville has lost just three times this season in girls basketball. The Bulldogs also hold an impressive win over Caledonia.

Andy provides a big, rugged defender with an aptitude for the game, while Kari’s main task is to throw the ball to her daughter. Kari — a fitness fanatic — has also taken it upon herself to devise workouts for Abigail, as she continues to add strength and even more force to someone who already has a 27-inch vertical jump.

But those driveway battles with her dad, they’ve meant so much, to both of them.

“My dad has taught me a lot,” Abigail said. “I’ve played a lot of one-on-one with him and he’s worked on my post moves in the driveway. That’s worked out well, though we have the worst hoop ever.”

The 45-year-old Andy doesn’t want to take too much credit for Abigail’s progress. He says her “real” coaches deserve that.

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But he’s enjoyed watching her grow into things.

“I really like it because this is something she really enjoys,” Andy said. “And now we’ll have the ability to see her play at the college level. I just love seeing my kids happy. We have three of them and they are all different, with different interests. But I’m thrilled when any of them are happy.”

What would make Abigail happy next is for her team to have great success. There is uncertainty there, with an extremely young Bulldogs roster.

But O’Reilly sees talent there and also knows the team has someone it can lean on in tough times — her.

P-E-M coach Wyatt Nelson says she's ready.

“Abigail is a lot more confident this year and she’s ready to take that leadership role,” Nelson said. “I’ve seen a lot of that already from her these first few practices.”

Pat has been a Post Bulletin sports reporter since 1994. He covers Rochester John Marshall football, as well as a variety of other southeastern Minnesota football teams. Among my other southeastern Minnesota high school beats are girls basketball, boys and girls tennis, boys and girls track and field, high school and American Legion baseball, volleyball, University of Minnesota sports (on occasion) and the Timberwolves (on occasion). Readers can reach Pat at 507-285-7723 or pruff@postbulletin.com.
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