Tylee Irwin’s basketball career began at roughly age six.
Standing at the free-throw line with her older siblings as an audience, young Tylee heaved a big orange ball at the hoop.
Of course, she missed.
“I couldn’t even get the ball to the basket,” Irwin laughed. “It was so frustrating and I got so mad.
“But I just kept trying over and over again.”
The 6-foot forward became the second Wahpeton High School player to be named Miss Basketball. Irwin was honored on Saturday with the award, which is presented annually to the top senior player in the state by the North Dakota Associated Press Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association.
Irwin edged North Star’s Macey Kvilvang in the voting. The Wahpeton standout garnered nine of 22 first-place votes and 66 points, while Kvilvang received eight first-place votes and 62 points.
Irwin’s success is rooted in family. Her father, Craig Irwin, is a former men’s basketball coach at North Dakota State College of Science, while her older brother, Blaze Irwin, graduated first team all-state from Wahpeton in 2015.
Blaze was a freshman redshirt at North Dakota State this season. Tylee committed to South Dakota State after her freshman year of high school.
“She comes from a basketball family,” Wahpeton girls basketball coach Brian Watson said. “Just being in that environment was good for her, and I think she’s always had that competitiveness in her. She probably represents every positive cliche that you can say about a high school basketball player.”
Irwin saw her first varsity action for the Huskies as a seventh-grader, when her sister, Tawny, was a senior teammate. The numbers she has compiled since are impressive.
Irwin sits second all-time in Class A career scoring with 2,192 points, in between former Miss Basketball recipients Sarah Jacobson (2,371) and Durene Heisler (2,120). Her 963 career rebounds are good enough for fourth in Class A history.
Irwin is the holder of 16 career, season and single-game records for the Huskies. She is also going for a third first team all-state award after leading Wahpeton to a second straight state tournament and posting per-game averages of 24.1 points, 9.6 rebounds, 2 steals and 1.5 assists in her senior campaign.
Irwin joins Sue Hesch as winners of Miss Basketball from Wahpeton. Hesch was presented the honor in 1986.
“We haven’t had a Miss Basketball for awhile,” Irwin said. “It’s huge, not just for me but for my town and my entire team.”
Irwin and Class B’s Kvilvang are friends. The pair, along with fellow finalist, West Fargo’s Akealy Moton, played on the same AAU basketball team last summer.
Minot Our Redeemer’s Morgan Olson and Bismarck Century’s Regan Dennis were also finalists.
“Just to look at how good those players are, and to be able to compare myself to them, it’s pretty cool for sure,” Irwin said. “The fact that I was even nominated is just a huge honor.”
Kvilvang, a 6-5 North Dakota State recruit, averaged 21.7 points, 11.4 rebounds, 4.3 blocks and 2 assists per game this season for the Bearcats. The Class B senior athlete of the year and first team all-state recipient ended her high school career with 1,972 points, 1,287 rebounds and 461 blocks.
Olson, a 5-8 guard, finished third in the voting with 32 points and four first-place votes. The Region 6 senior athlete of the year put up per-game numbers of 20.5 points, 7.8 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 1.6 steals this season, while also compiling 2,516 career points as a six-year starter for the Knights.
Moton, a 6-foot guard/forward, received 22 points in the voting and averaged 25.7 points, 9.2 rebounds, 2.3 steals and 2.2 assists per game her final year. Moton, who is headed to North Dakota to play basketball, tallied 1,687 career points for the Packers and is going for a second first team all-state award.
Dennis, a 6-foot forward, received 16 points in the voting, including one first-place vote. The West Region senior athlete of the year averaged 15 points, 7.8 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.7 steals per game this season and scored 1,001 career points with the Patriots.