One of the best — if not the best — talents to ever come out of our commonwealth. A state champion who will help defend her school’s title next season. An all-time scorer whose numbers harkened back to a day when the mountains from which she came dominated high school basketball.
The top three vote-getters on the 2016 Lexington Herald-Leader All-State first team — Erin Boley, Jaelynn Penn and Whitney Creech — encapsulated arguably the biggest girls’ basketball stories this season.
Boley, making her third straight first-team appearance and garnering Player of the Year honors for the second straight season, was named Miss Basketball in March and received national player of the year recognition from Gatorade. She averaged 24.4 points while shooting 60 percent from the floor and 47.3 percent from beyond the arc. The Notre Dame signee also averaged 10.5 rebounds. She finished with 3,325 career points to cement herself as Elizabethtown’s all-time leader.
Maybe the most unbelievable stat from Boley’s career? She somehow didn’t receive a single all-state vote as a freshman despite leading E-town, which went 23-8 and reached the 5th Region semifinals, at 17.7 ppg. This year, she was named the top player on 39 of 43 ballots received from girls’ coaches, who were asked not to vote for their own players. Creech received three first-place votes while Glasgow’s Bree Glover received one.
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Penn led Butler to its second title in three seasons and its fifth overall, becoming the only program still in existence to have accomplished that feat. (In the modern era — since sponsorship of the girls’ game resumed in 1975 — Laurel County won five championships before splitting into North Laurel and South Laurel. Before that, Ashland won five titles in the 1920s.) She was named Sweet 16 MVP and will be a frontrunner for next season’s Miss Basketball award.
When you’re scoring at a rate with the likes of King “Kelly” Coleman, Ervin Stepp and Jaime Walz, you’re doing something special. Creech, a star at Jenkins in Letcher County, did something none of those folks did in becoming the state’s first player of any gender to hit 5,000 career points. Her final tally of 5,527 put her well ahead of Walz, who set the previous mark of 4,948 at Highlands in 1996. She’s signed with Western Kentucky.
Malaka Frank, also a WKU signee, led Franklin County to back-to-back Sweet 16 appearances (the Flyers had only ever been one other time, in 1980). Fellow seniors Glover (Glasgow), I’Liyah Green (Male) and Krys McCune (Manual) all made the first team and will take their games to the Division I level. Murray junior Maddie Waldrop, another first-team member, should contend for Miss Basketball honors next season.
Looking ahead a bit, the 2018 Miss Basketball race is setting up to be a doozy. Seven of the top 30 players who received votes were sophomores, including two first-teamers and three second-teamers. Mercer County’s Seygan Robins, who holds offers from the University of Kentucky, Louisville and Central Florida, was the leading vote-getter among players in the class of 2018. Ashland Blazer’s Mykasa Robinson, ranked by ESPN as the top point guard nationally in the sophomore class, joined Robins as a first-team selection.
Larry Just, Butler’s coach, was named Coach of the Year by his peers after receiving 14 votes. Franklin County’s Joey Thacker finished right behind him with nine nods. Elizabethtown’s Tim Mudd and Murray’s Rechelle Turner tied with six votes apiece for third.
(Players are listed in order of votes received from 43 girls’ basketball coaches after the state tournament)
National Gatorade POY led Panthers to three straight Sweet 16s
Dayton commit had 21 points, 11 rebounds in this year’s finals
Naismith HOF has reached out to school for a game-worn jersey
Mississippi signee finished with school-record 2,730 points
Helped Bulldogs reach Sweet 16 semifinals as a junior
Ultra-athletic, defense-first wing will play with Creech at WKU
West Virginia signee suffered ACL tear in first round of state
UK recruit headlines youth movement happening in Harrodsburg
ESPN has her ranked as the No. 1 point guard in 2018 class
Coach of the Year: Larry Just, Butler
Grace White, Grayson County; Emilia Sexton, Male; Tia Barnett, Warren Central; Sarah Price, Bath County; Maggie Jachimczuk, Russell; Samantha Fitzgerald, Southwestern; Kayla Bruner, North Laurel; BriAnna Burbridge, Frankfort; Fontasia Jeffries, Butler; Bailey Cummins, Bracken County; Sierra Feltner, Whitley County; Jayla Spurlock, Johnson Central; Emma Bianchi, Harlan; Keely Morrow, Bowling Green; Lesli Fleenor, East Ridge; Rose Mary Jackson, Greenwood; Jaela Johnson, Manual; Jynea Harris, Holmes; Savanna Nunemaker, Pikeville; Emma Johnson, Daviess County; Reagan Turner, Monroe County; Taylor Clos, Campbell County; Hope Lafferty, Sheldon Clark; Ansley Davenport, Newport Central Catholic; Sarah King, McLean County; Sarah Purdy, Rowan County; Carnethia Brown, Pleasure Ridge Park; Lillie Hall, Williamsburg; Savannah Wheeler, Boyd County; Kiara Pankins, Lafayette; Adarian Gray, Madisonville; Destiny Peck, Powell County; Kristen Waugh, Knott County Central; Whitney O’Mara, Mason County; Teri Goodlett, Butler; Mallory Schwartz, Ryle; Kailey Coffey, Russell County; Lily Grimes, Breckinridge County; Brooklyn Massingill, Harlan; Jaclyn Jewell, Corbin; Hayley Caudill, Hazard; Janna Lewis, Butler