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11 players to watch at the girls Harlan Carter Invitational basketball tournament

Foothill's Melissa Mitchell brings the Cougars into this year's Harlan Carter as one of our 11 to watch. The senior is joined by fellow senior Hayden Toney and junior Emma Roach and Isa Padilla as the Cougars host this year's version of the annual kickoff tournament. (Photo by Mike Daly / Shasta County Sports)

If the action at the boys version of the Harlan Carter is any indication of what to expect on the North State basketball scene, then the girls tournament kicking off Thursday should be a dandy.

And just like the boys, we’ll kick off the girls tournament with our Spinal Tap-esque (Google it, boys and girls) look at 11 players to watch for this season as the action heats up at Foothill High School starting at 4 p.m. Thursday.

We spotlight two girls from each of the local squads and one each from the out-of-towners.

Foothill Cougars

Melissa Mitchell, Sr.
Already filling the stat sheet, Mitchell, our No. 6 returning Shasta County girls player, is averaging 12 per night scoring while adding 3.5 board, 2.5 assists and 3.3 steals per game on the young season. She earned all-tourney honors last week at the Arcata Invitation and, along with senior Hayden Toney and junior Emma Roach provides veteran leadership for the Cougars after last season’s generational run.

Isa Padilla, Jr.
The 6-foot junior is off to a great varsity career start. She earned MVP honors last weekend at the Arcata Invitational. She had a 13-13 double-double in the 45-42 win over Mazama. She’s averaging nearly 8 points per night and has pulled down better than 10 boards per game on the young season. With the loss of senior post Jenna Wallace, a big year from Padilla would help seniors like Mitchell and Hayden Toney shine.

Enterprise Hornets

Abby Shoff, So.
The Shasta County Sports Girls Basketball Player of the Week and No. 1 returning basketball player, Shoff picked up in 2019-20 where she left off at the end of her freshman season. The 6-0 post who runs the floor like a guard is scoring nearly 18 per night over the first week of the season after dropping nearly 10 per night in Enterprise’s deep run into the state playoffs. She’s only a sophomore, but demands defensive attention which should only open things up for shooters like Mianna Saechao and transfer Alissa Terras.

Alissa Terras, Sr.
The Foothill transfer who missed all of last year, has started her Enterprise career letting everyone know what they missed last year. Terras, the No. 19 returner, scored 14, 9 and 14 at the Cartwright Classic as the Hornets went 1-2 against Division II and III talent in Sacramento. Terras scored 14 in each of the two losses and nine in the Hornets’ blowout win over Hill. In addition to 12.3 per night scoring, she’s averaging 4.3 boards, 2.3 assists and 2.3 steals per night.

Shasta Wolves

Ava Jackson, Sr.
Shooters shoot. And when Jackson is hot, there’s no better shooter in the section. The No. 4 returner dropped 22 in the season opener against West Valley. She cooled off the next night in a loss to Folsom, but she’s averaging 9.3 points per night for the 2-2 Wolves. In an injury plagued season last year, Jackson dropped 11.7 per night while hitting 33 percent from beyond the arc.

Taryn Giacomelli, Jr.
The Shasta point guard — and No. 11 returner — had knee surgery in the offseason and might take time to get back to her usual break-neck pace. And when she does, look out. Giacomelli is averaging 4 points per night in the young season with 2.3 boards, 2.8 assists and a steal per night after dropping 6 per night last season.

Chico Panthers

Sela Dowell, Sr.
The 5-9 post averaged nearly six points per night for the senior-heavy Panthers last season – matching her season average with 17 points over the three games at last year’s Harlan Carter. Dowell and Nahkia Clements will be looked at for veteran leadership for new coach Chris Nixon. Dowell is a good rebounder and shot creator in the paint.

Placer Hillmen

Anne Lillis, Sr.
The 6-1 post led the Hillmen in scoring last season, averaging 13.8 points per night. She averaged 13-plus at last year’s Harlan Carter as Placer took third place. In addition to filling the bucket, Lillis pulled down eight double-doubles last year in averaging nearly nine board per night for the 22-9 Hillmen.

Sacramento Dragons

Heaven Samayoa-Mathis, Jr.
The leading returning scorer for the Dragons, Samayoa-Mathis averaged 5.4 per night on a senior-heavy team that went 25-8 and fell, as a one-seed, 51-45 to McClatchy in the NorCal Division I quarters. The 5-6 point guard is off to a blistering start in for Sac – scoring 22 with five boards and six assists in a 69-48 win over Grant. The Dragons take on Chico at 4 p.m. Thursday.

Willows Honkers

Meghan Weinrich, Sr.
The four-year varsity player averaged a career-high 24 points per night last year and the 5-9 forward/guard hybrid does a lot of things for the Honkers. The All-Section first-teamer dropped 14, 27 and 24 in consecutive nights at last year’s Harlan Carter. She runs the floor, can handle the point and has an uncanny knack for finishing around the bucket.

Nevada Union Miners

Emerson Dunbar, Sr.
The Miners’ senior averaged 10 points and eight boards per night for the Harlan Carter newcomers. The 5-11 post hit double-figures in scoring 10 times for Nevada Union, which is off to a 3-3 start this season. Last year, the Miners went 20-12 and lost in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III semifinals before falling in the first round of the Division IV NorCal playoffs.

Aaron Williams has been involved in the North State sports scene for nearly two decades. He spent eight years as the Sports Editor for the local newspaper and another four more as the voice of high school football on the radio. Williams has coached various sports at the high school level over the past decade, most recently at Shasta High, and is also the public address announcer for the Shasta College football and basketball teams.

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