When crunch time hits, it’s often a senior, or perhaps even a junior, that meets the moment and wills his or her team to victory.
Rarely, does a sophomore rise up and take control down the stretch.
West Valley’s Madalynn Bassett broke that mold this year, stepping into the forefront as the Eagles made a run to the Northern California Division V finals this season before falling to Branson of Ross.
The long, smooth 10th grader led West Valley (26-9, 10-0 Northern Athletic League) with an 11.5 point per game average, but really saved her A-game for the Eagles’ postseason run that ended one game short of what would’ve been a trip to Sacramento’s Golden 1 Center.
Bassett averaged a shade under 15 points per outing in five playoff games, hitting double digits in all but one – the low-scoring 29-26 gutsy Northern Section Division IV finals win over U-Prep.
“She really was great for us all year long,” said West Valley coach Lenny Ehn. “But she truly played her best basketball during that playoff run.”
For the season-long success of the Eagles and leading her team within a game of a state title, Bassett is the 2019-2020 Shasta County Sports Girls Basketball Most Valuable Player, presented by Weaver Lumber and Milgard Windows.
She scored, in succession, 17 against Oroville, 15 vs. Gridley, eight against U-Prep, 15 in a win over LeGrand, 16 vs. Portola, 16 in a rematch with U-Prep and 16 in the nine-point loss to Branson.
“All year long, Madalynn played above her years, but she got more aggressive and confident (in the playoffs),” her coach said.
Her emergence on the North State basketball scene might have come as a head-scratcher to some, but not to Ehn.
As a freshman, Bassett scored nine, 13, and 13 points in a trio of postseason appearances for the Eagles.
“She came up for us and hit a bunch of 3s in the postseason,” he said. “So heading into her sophomore season she’d already played a handful of meaningful varsity games.
“She’s only a sophomore by grade.”
Ehn describes Bassett as a “student of the game” who’s constantly working to improve her all-around game. She watches film with her father, Ehn said, as well drilling herself to improve aspects of her overall game.
“She’s always working to get better,” Ehn said. “We’d stay late shooting, putting in extra time.”
Two areas where he saw the most growth in her game over the course of the Eagles’ 35-game season were Bassett’s ball-handling ability and her mid-range game.
He told the tale of how senior Jasee Heacock missed a couple of games with an injury and he went to Bassett prior to tipoff and told her that any time Maddie Steele, the Eagles’ senior point guard, had to sit that she was running the offense.
“She didn’t bat an eye,” he said. “She has great ball-handling skills.”
As far as expanding her game inward from beyond the 3-point arc, Ehn said those same ball-handling skills helped Bassett become an even bigger threat.
“Her true position is probably a 3 (shooting guard),” he said.
But, while she’s not a 6-footer, she’s big enough that if you task a guard to cover her, Bassett can shoot over the shorter player; put a forward out on her and Bassett takes the opponent off the dribble.
“It’s nice to see her develop an inside-out game,” Ehn said.
And what’s to become of Bassett and West Valley expectations now she’s shined on the biggest stages in the area?
The sky’s really the limit.