The 57th St. Elizabeth Healthcare/KHSAA Girls’ Sweet Sixteen state basketball tournament tips off Wednesday at Northern Kentucky University’s BB&T Arena in Highland Heights.
Hundreds of girls have the opportunity to end their season as a state champion, but only one of them can be named Sweet Sixteen MVP on Sunday. Here are the top players to look out for on every team playing in this week’s event.
Players listed according to their team’s placement in the bracket.
Alaina Castle, Johnson Central
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Profile: The 5-foot-4 junior was named MVP of the 15th Region Tournament after the Golden Eagles achieved upsets over tournament favorites Shelby Valley and Pikeville on consecutive nights. She averaged 13 points and eight rebounds over the three-game event, both a few digits higher than her season averages.
Ellie Mitchell, Owensboro Catholic
College: Young Harris College (signed)
Profile: Mitchell is averaging 10.8 points and 4.6 rebounds for the Aces. She’s a four-year starter for Owensboro Catholic’s basketball team and also was a goal-keeper for the Aces’ soccer team the past four seasons, three of which ended in appearances in the KHSAA State Tournament semifinals.
Macey Turley, Murray
College: Murray State University (signed)
Profile: Turley, a Miss Basketball finalist, leads the Tigers in scoring at 17 points per game and is a lights-out shooter: she shoots 51.3-percent from the floor, 49.6 percent from behind the three-point line and 89 percent (second-highest in the state) from the free-throw line.
Seygan Robins, Mercer County
College: University of Louisville (signed)
Profile: Last year’s Sweet Sixteen MVP has recorded more than 2,500 points, 800 assists and 500 steals over her career. The Miss Basketball finalist leads Mercer County with 14.8 points, and averaged 21.5 points and six assists while shooting 51.1 percent from the floor in four state tournament games last year.
Kennedy Igo, Clark County
Profile: Igo, a 5-foot-7 sophomore, leads the Cardinals with 12.7 points on 45.9 percent shooting. Clark County is 2-for-2 in 10th Region finals with Igo running the show at point.
Blair Green, Harlan County
College: University of Kentucky (signed)
Profile: She’s the all-time leading scorer in Harlan County history with more than 3,000 points to her name. Green garnered 13th Region Tournament MVP honors after she had 32 points, six assists and five steals as the Black Bears won their first region title.
Whitney Hay, Elizabethtown
Profile: The latest star out of E-town is only a sophomore but already has one Division I offer (NKU). Hay, a 6-foot guard, shoots 55 percent from the field and averages 19.1 points and 5.5 rebounds for the Panthers.
Keely Morrow, Bowling Green
College: Lipscomb University (signed)
Profile: Morrow has scored more than 2,000 points in her career, which began at Franklin-Simpson before she transferred to Bowling Green ahead of her sophomore season. She’s averaging 22.9 points — the second-highest among all tournament players — and 8.8 rebounds for the Purples.
Lauren Schwartz, Ryle
Profile: Butler, NKU and Xavier have offered the junior. Schwartz has scored more than 1,000 points in her career and leads the Raiders with 17.8 points and 7.2 rebounds per game. She also shoots 40 percent from the three-point line.
Ally Niece, Simon Kenton
College: Northern Kentucky University (signed)
Profile: Niece had 16 points, nine rebounds and seven assists in the finals of the 8th Region Tournament and was named MVP of the event after she missed much of her senior season following ACL surgery in the summer. She’s worked her way back and is averaging 8.6 points and 3.3 rebounds in 13 games.
Tazia Jenks, Mercy
Profile: Jenks is averaging 14.7 points and 7.4 rebounds — both team highs — for the Jaguars. The sophomore has offers from Bellarmine, Marshall, WKU and Xavier. Coach Keith Baisch expects her recruiting profile to explode this summer.
Jada Higgins, Knott County Central
College: Eastern Kentucky University (committed)
Profile: Higgins outlasted two other 14th Region players who were named Miss Basketball finalists (Owsley County’s Macie Gibson and Lee County’s Hannah Kash). She’s averaging a team-high 14.5 points on 44.1 percent shooting as a junior and has the Patriots in their second straight Sweet Sixteen.
Savannah Wheeler, Boyd County
College: Marshall University (committed)
Profile: Wheeler is the leading scorer among all players in the tournament — she’s scored 25 points per game for the Lions over 31 games, 27 ending in wins. The junior shoots 37.1 percent from beyond the arc, 81.9 percent from the free-throw line and is second on the team at 5.5 rebounds a night.
Jessica Winders, Webster County
Profile: The 5-foot-9 senior leads the Trojans with 12.5 points per game on 50.9 percent shooting from the field (she shoots nearly 40 percent from long range). She’s second on the team in rebounding (5.5).
Peyton Riddle, Scott County
College: Eckerd College (signed)
Profile: Riddle is a 40.7 percent three-point shooter and leads the Cardinals at 16.2 points per game and leads the entire state with a 90.4 free-throw percentage. She’s also tied for the team lead in rebounding at 5.8.
Jaela Johnson, Manual
Profile: She scored 18 points in the Crimsons’ upset of Sacred Heart in the 7th Region finals. Johnson, a 5-foot-5 guard, desires to play college basketball and has had a few mid-major schools express interest.