By Cam Huffman
Some of the best girls high school basketball in the state was played in southern West Virginia this winter, so narrowing down the finalists for The Register-Herald Girls Basketball Player of the Year was no easy task.
But after a lot of study and plenty of debate, our sports staff has narrowed the list to five finalists. Here’s a look at the candidates.
McKenzie Akers (Princeton) — The Marshall University signee finished third in the state player of the year balloting and was the captain of the Class AAA all-state team after averaging 25.2 points, five assists and 2.6 rebounds per game for the Tigers, who finished with a 19-6 record and made the trip to Charleston as one of the final eight teams standing in Class AAA. She scored more the 1,000 points in her high school career.
Bianca André (Greenbrier East) — The 5-foot-11 senior helped Greenbrier East to its first-ever undefeated regular season and Class AAA’s top ranking throughout the entire season. She averaged 19.5 points, 8.5 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 2.1 blocks per game for the Spartans, who won their first 24 games of the season — including one over state runner-up Logan and the Region 3, Section 2 championship against Princeton — before falling to unranked Capital in the region co-final, falling short of a trip to Charleston.
Jessica Brown (Fayetteville) — The Pirate senior filled up the stat sheet, averaging 22.6 points, 12.7 rebounds, 5 blocks and 5 steals as Fayetteville finished 17-7 and fell one game short of a trip to Charleston, falling 79-71 in a double-overtime thriller with Man. Brown scored 31 points in that contest.
Hope Lester (Westside) — The junior led the Renegades to the Class AA championship game for a second-straight season, averaging 18 points and 11 rebounds per game. Westside finished 25-2, losing only to Class AAA University in the Big Atlantic Classic and Bridgeport in the Class AA title game. A threat to shoot the 3-ball, as well, Lester was hard to stop in the paint.
Shealyn Shafer (Nicholas County) — The senior center was a Class AAA all-state selection a year ago, and made the team again after the Grizzlies dropped to the Class AA level. She averaged 20.5 points, 12.3 rebounds, 5.1 steals and 3.2 assists per game as Nicholas County made it to Charleston and won its first-ever state tournament game before ending the season with a loss in the semifinals. Nicholas County finished the season 21-4.
The Register-Herald sports staff — Cam Huffman (sports editor), Gary Fauber (assistant sports editor), Dan Stillwell (staff writer), J. Daniel Rollins (staff writer) and Rusty Udy (sports clerk) — will vote on the winner, and the award will be announced in the April 4 Register-Herald.
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