The Fayette Tribune, Oak Hill, W.Va.

March 21, 2013

Brown, Payne nab first-team honors

By Grant Traylor
Huntington Herald-Dispatch

HUNTINGTON — Not since the days of Mercer Christian has there been a dominant performance throughout the Class A girls basketball ranks like that from Huntington St. Joe this season.

The Irish finished off their fifth consecutive Class A title in impressive fashion, winning each state tournament game by a record average of 44.3 points a game and capping a 25-1 season with a 73-32 win over St. Marys in the state championship.

Leading the way for the Irish was Mychal Johnson, a junior who is already committed to Notre Dame.

In 2013, Johnson’s play not only led her to verbally committing to the scholarship offer from the Big East champion, it also led her to being named the captain of the Class A all-state team for the second consecutive year.

“We really couldn’t have accomplished much more this season,” Johnson said. “To win 25 games against our schedule, dominate the state tournament like we did and win the fifth straight title, it is special. It capped a great year.”

Fayette County had good representation at the top.

Valley senior Alexis Payne and Fayetteville senior Jessica Brown were both second-teamers a year ago but grabbed first-team honors after standout final campaigns.

Payne guided the Greyhounds (13-8) to their first state tournament appearance since 1991, when girls basketball was a fall sport.

She averaged 24.7 points and 16.4 rebounds per game for Valley, which advanced to Charleston by upsetting Tug Valley in a Region 3 co-final. In the opening round of the state event, Valley stayed close in the first half before falling 66-27 to Wheeling Central. Payne collected 14 points and 12 boards.

Payne will sign to attend the University of Rio Grande during a ceremony at VHS on Wednesday, March 27.

Brown, a multi-sport standout, amassed 551 points this season and 1,460 in her Pirate career. During the 2012-13 campaign, she scored 23.0 points a game and claimed 13.0 rebounds an outing as Fayetteville went 17-7, which included a loss to Man in a Region 3 co-final.

Johnson, who was also named Gatorade West Virginia Girls Basketball Player of the Year last week, averaged 21.7 points, 7.9 rebounds, 6.9 assists and five steals per game on the season.

Her scoring numbers dipped slightly in the state tournament, but her complete game was on display with a pair of triple-doubles in three games. She averaged 17.3 points, 10 assists, nine rebounds and seven steals on West Virginia’s biggest stage.

Johnson was joined on the first team by St. Joe teammate Griffin Dempsey, a first-team returnee who combined with Johnson to forge one of the state’s top tandems.

Dempsey’s final performance of the season was a 26-point effort against St. Marys in which she knocked down a state tournament-record seven 3-pointers.

She finished the year averaging 18 points per game with 81 3-pointers and a 40 percent average from beyond the arc.

The St. Joe duo was not the only returnees from the 2012 Class A All-State team. In all, five of the eight first-team members were first-team returnees.

Audra Clark led St. Marys to a 25-2 record on the season and returned to the first team after a year which she finished with 18 points and 10 rebounds per game.

Parkersburg Catholic’s Leah Hughes averaged 17 points, 6.8 rebounds and 3.5 steals per game to earn repeat honors as well.

Wheeling Central’s Emily Bucon averaged 15.3 points per game while shaking off a leg injury to lead the Maroon Knights to the state semifinals.

In addition to the returnees, Notre Dame’s Molly Angotti rounds out the first team.

For the second straight year, Wheeling Central’s Colleen McCormick captained the second team honorees.

Joining McCormick as a second-team returnee is Trinity’s Jackie Halapy.

Huntington St. Joe’s Asia Petitte was named a second-team selection, along with Buffalo’s Chelsey Parkins and Williamstown’s McKenzie Smith. All three were third-team selections in 2012.

Rounding out the second team was St. Marys’ Kendra Walker, Clay-Battelle’s MaKayla Wilkins and Magnolia’s Mallory Chapman.

Tyler Consolidated junior Sophie Kinnard was named the captain of the third team.

Third-team returnees from 2012 include Huntington St. Joseph junior Rachel Lee and Meadow Bridge senior Chandra Harrah (15.5 ppg).

Also on the third team were Huntington St. Joe freshman Mychelle Johnson, Gilmer County junior Julie Bishop and a trio of seniors — Man’s Summer Sword, Tucker County’s Amber Evans and Tygarts Valley’s Shanda Howell.

Fayette County players named as honorable mention choices included: Fayetteville — Avina Sedlock; Meadow Bridge — Sarah Fleshman; Midland Trail — Kennedy Cochran and Madison Syner; and Valley — Abby Buchan.

(Steve Keenan contributed to this story.)