Midseason girls basketball MVP Watch List

The front runners for Shasta County Sports MVP are (from left to right, not in ranking order) Foothill’s Jenna Wallace and Enterprise’s Jadyn Matthews. (Photos by Mike Daly, illustration by Aaron Williams/Shasta County Sports)

There’s still a ton of basketball still to be played between now and the section finals in late March. But the start of league, it’s time to take a look at those players that have stepped up their game over the preseason and enter league as legitimate MVP candidates.

We offer 15 players who’ve shown they can come night in, night out and give their team an opportunity to win. Making the list doesn’t ensure postseason honors (just as not making this list doesn’t exclude from a possible MVP run). This is purely based on T.J. and Aaron’s observations over the course of the holiday tournament season and talking to coaches about players, and the list is sponsored by Eagle Eye Painting Company, a clear vision of craftsmanship.

Note: Each section of contenders is listed alphabetically.

Let the discussion begin.

Front runners

Jadyn Matthews, Enterprise, Sr.
A four-year starter. A first team All Section selection last year. A post who runs like a point and can pull the trigger like a shooting guard. The Enterprise senior has all the tangibles, as well as the intangibles, to top this list. She’s a leader, ferocious competitor and simply the best player on the floor.

Matthews is leading the Northern Section in scoring at 22.4 point per night and sixth in rebounding at 11 per contest. She dropped 29 against South Medford (the fourth ranked team in all of Oregon) last week and followed that up with 17 against Pleasant Valley two nights later. The 15-5 Hornets fell by two to South Medford, but beat the Vikings, the reigning state runners-up.

And that hits to the core of Matthews as a player – the will and desire to win. If you focus effort on her, the cast surrounding her is capable of knocking down shots and beating you. In an early January meeting, Foothill bottled her up for a while, but that opened the door for shooters Mianna Saechao and Natayah Saetern to do their thing. Against U-Prep at the Lady Hornet Classic, U-Prep’s Jordan McCoy spent most of the night glued to Matthews, but the Enterprise standout still managed a tough 20 points.

Jenna Wallace, Foothill, Sr.
The 6-foot Foothill post is an Ironwoman. Rarely coming off the floor for the Cougars, while battling in the trenches most of the night. She’s averaging 14.7 and nearly 10 boards per game, and probably logs more minutes than any other Foothill player (a feat made more impressive given it’s by a post).

Foothill’s offense is predicated on quick passing and the Cougars have shooters that bury opponents, but it all starts with Wallace. She’s dropped double-digit points in all but one contest and 10 or more boards in half the Cougars’ outings.

And it’s not just a ground-and-pound attack as Wallace can beat you from just about anywhere on the floor. She’s shooting nearly 30 percent from range and 50 percent from the field. And like Enterprise’s Matthews, putting too much emphasis on neutralizing Wallace is usually met with an L. Delanie Henning, Riley Wallen and Maddie Matthews lead a cast that is more than capable of making teams pay for keying on Wallace.

Contenders

Jenna Adkins, West Valley, Sr.
A three-year varsity player and three-sport athlete, Adkins is part of the Eagles’ Twin Towers with Ashlee Lewis. Adkins is leading Dub-V Nation with 11.7 points per night and adds nearly nine boards nightly.

An aggressive preseason schedule has Adkins prepped for league as the Eagles are 2-0 after the first week. She’s hit for 12, 11, 16, 10 and 17 in five games after the New Year and will be a key cog in how far the West Valley machine goes in the postseason.

Sadie Alexander, Redding Christian, Jr.
It won’t be hard to miss Alexander on the court if you attend a Redding Christian game — she’s usually the one glued to her defender and tenacious with her tough-as-nails defensive effort. But she’s getting the job done on the offensive side as well in her junior year. Entering last week, Alexander would be third in scoring and leading the Northern Section in 3-pointers made. Not to mention, she has the Lions sitting at 16-2 and ranked second in the state in Division VI, coming off last year’s Northern Section and NorCal D-VI finalist season.

Ashlee Lewis, West Valley, Sr.
The second tower to complement Adkins, Lewis is averaging 11.1 points per night and nearly eight boards. She has the ability to take over a game — like she did in the fourth quarter against Sutter in the semifinals of the West Valley New Year’s Hoops Tournament. She’s strong, aggressive and tall — all the fixings of a true post that can hit a groove to make an MVP run.

Jordan McCoy, U-Prep, Fr.
A freshman has to have game to hit the varsity level as a ninth-grader. McCoy has game and then some. While there are still things to improve upon, McCoy has already made tremendous strides. She can score from anywhere on the court and opened eyes with her defensive effort on Jadyn Matthews in the Lady Hornet Classic, limiting the Enterprise star to 20 hard-earned points. She typically guards the opponent’s top threat and held Matthews, Willows’ Meghan Weinrich and Anderson’s Crysta Papesh under their season averages.

McCoy has great court presence and awareness and makes her teammates better. She’s averaging just under 10 points per night and had a 22 and 9 night in the NAL opener against Anderson.

Crysta Papesh, Anderson, Sr.
Cubs coach Jeremiah Jones said in preseason that Papesh could probably drop 30 a night if they needed her to.

She’s leading the section in rebound, grabbing 14 boards per night for Big Blue. Add that to her 16.3 point-per-game average and Papesh is a double-double machine.

Kylie Tiran, Burney, Jr.
Last year, Tiran was scoring in bunches but Burney wasn’t getting anywhere. The former is still happening with Tiran scoring at a clip of 16.7 points per game and she’s still developing the other parts of her game with 5.4 steals, 1.6 assists and 1.9 rebounds per contest. But the difference is her efforts aren’t going unnoticed as the Raiders are 11-3 and have a seven-game winning streak to their name. Tiran is the catalyst for the turnaround season.

Dark Horses

McKenzie Cassingham, Central Valley, Jr.
The CV junior might not win an award for most feared just by the look of her, standing 5-feet tall. But she plays fierce and takes control of the team as the floor general and leading scorer. It’s up to her to get the Falcons running smoothly and she can drain them from deep. When it comes to being valuable, Cassingham has led CV to a 9-9 mark following a 1-25 season. The turnaround alone is noteworthy.

Madi Friebel, U-Prep, Jr.
While McCoy might be the phenom, Friebel is the motor that makes the Panthers’ machine hum. She’s dropping nearly nine points per contest and has 34 3-pointers on the year. In addition, she’s the team leader in steals and blocks. Friebel’s real value is seen in how the U-Prep intensity picks up when she steps on the floor. Friebel is averaging nearly nine a night for Steven Schuster’s and is the engine that makes the Panthers’ machine purr.

Ella Rodriguez, Shasta, Jr.
The youthful Wolves are learning on the job and while any one of the three super-sophs could be on this list, Rodriguez is the pick because of her tenacious defense and unflappable demeanour. She’s dropping nearly nine a night for Shasta, but we honestly see a scenario where Rodriguez, Isabelle Smith and Taryn Giacomelli could all be battling for MVP down the road.

Marissa Leighton, Fall River, Jr.
The Bulldogs forward has stepped up her game, doubling her offensive output from last year. She leads Fall River in points and rebounds per game (12.1 and 8.6) for a 7-8 squad that lost a lot to graduation and is working on keep the winning tradition alive in the Intermountain area.

Abi Shoff, Enterprise, Fr.
The second freshman on the list is also the second Shoff on the MVP Watch List, joining brother Adam from the boys list. Shoff averages nearly eight points and seven rebounds and is the next in line for Black and Gold stardom. She’s long at 5-10 and an interior presence the Hornets haven’t scene since the days of Jordan Kimbrough and Hillary Hurley.

Riley Wallen, Foothill, Sr.
Basketball isn’t a 1-on-5 sport, so Jenna Wallace needs teammates and one of the best is Wallen, a 5-6 senior. She’s second on the Cougars, averaging 8.7 per night and is second in 3-ppoint shooting with 20 deep balls on the year. Wallen has stats across the board and a motor that doesn’t stop.

Sammie Wunner, Redding Christian, Jr.
As said above, the Lions are 16-2 and it helps to have a strong inside presence of the taller Wunner, who can control the glass and be a physical force inside if she needs to be. Championship-caliber teams need to have balance and Wunner provides that for the Lions.