The 2017-18 All-Area girls basketball team is pictured. Back row (left to right): Coach Pete Fraley, Lakie Sanders, Payton Shears, Maggie Miller, Emma Hacker, Ty Mitchell, Charity Shears, Morgan Berry, Mykasa Robinson, Madison Darnell and coach Darrin Rice. Front row: Savannah Wheeler, Allie Stone, Promise Cross, Harley Paynter, Gracie Haywood, Alexis Ratliff, Julia Parker, Gracie Yates and Lauren Runyon. Absent from photo: Alyssa Stickler, Presley Chirico, McKenna Moore.
KEVIN GOLDY | THE DAILY INDEPENDENT
Pigheadedness is not a trait of Pete Fraley’s because he likes to win.
In order to achieve greatness as a girls basketball coach, pliability is a must.
“You always try to adjust to your talent level,” said Fraley, the 2017-18 All-Area Co-Coach of the Year after guiding Boyd County to a 29-5 season that concluded in the Sweet Sixteen semifinals.
Fraley, though, said his latest crew made his job rather easy.
“This is an autopilot group here,” he said, nodding at the Lady Lions’ four All-Area selections inside Kentucky Christian University’s Lusby Center — the site of the All-Area photo shoot last Thursday. “They were self-motivated. They had goals, and they all bought in.”
Boyd County junior Savannah Wheeler collected All-Area Co-Player of the Year honors after claiming the award in solitude last year. She admitted to letting nervousness affect her in the Lady Lions’ first state tournament win in program history — a 53-38 decision against Webster County. But, after that, she “settled down and felt more comfortable,” she said.
Unyieldingly composed, Wheeler poured in 29 points, including 12 on four 3-pointers, in Boyd County’s 71-53 defeat of DuPont Manual en route to the state semifinals.
The Marshall commit wrapped up a stellar season with a state-most 108 made 3-pointers. She had 24.7 points and 5.5 rebounds a game. Wheeler also became Boyd County’s top all-time scorer. She’ll enter her senior campaign with 2,673 points in tow.
Harley Paynter, who matched Wheeler with 22 points in their season-punctuating loss to Mercy, will bring an All-Area tag alongside her name when she returns as a sophomore.
“I hope we’ve started something really special,” Fraley said. “I’ve already got kids calling and doing extra things in the gym. They know what it takes now. … I had some really good freshmen, and they’re going to vie for playing time next year. It’s going to be very competitive in our practices next year. I’m looking forward to it.”
Boyd County will shoot for a 16th Region three-peat without All-Area honorees Charity and Payton Shears. The senior twins combined for 17.6 points and 6.8 rebounds a contest.
The Lady Lions plowed through the region with an 18-0 mark, but not without some tight duels with Ashland and Russell. Boyd County toppled both in the region tournament.
Ashland’s Mykasa Robinson shared in Co-Player of the Year honors before venturing on to Louisville. The 5-foot-7 guard set the school record in steals while leading the Kittens in points (17.4) and thefts. She grabbed 7.5 rebounds a game, too, after missing all but two games of her junior year with ACL and hand injuries.
“It feels like I haven’t done that in forever — getting to play every game without getting hurt,” Robinson said. “It’s been the world to me playing at Ashland.”
Ashland’s Julia Parker (16.1 ppg; 99 of 214 for 46.3 percent on 3s) joined Robinson the All-Area squad.
Russell landed three players on the team. Lakie Sanders (11 ppg, 6.1 rpg) will be back, but defensive-minded Ty Mitchell and Georgetown-bound Madison Darnell (17 ppg, 6.5 rpg) will graduate. Darnell and Mitchell were pivotal pieces on Russell’s region championship team in 2016. Darnell surpassed 2,000 career points in January.
Although Boyd County and Russell both rocked Johnson Central by 25-plus points, the Lady Eagles pulled together to win 16 of their last 19 games and claim the 15th Region. Owensboro Catholic eliminated Johnson Central, 56-46, in the Sweet Sixteen’s opening round.
Johnson Central’s Darrin Rice earned Co-Coach of the Year following his team’s resurgence.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever coached a team that was closer than this team was,” Rice said. “There were a lot of adverse circumstances that brought that about, but they were willing to set aside some personal agendas and personal goals for team goals. … I’m just a lucky coach to be able to be with this group.”
Lawrence County’s Alexis Ratliff (14.2 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 4.3 assists per game) and Paintsville’s Presley Chirico (12.6 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 1.5 steals per game) represented the 15th Region, All-Areawise.
Chirico joined Darnell, Parker, Wheeler and Charity Shears as selections in back-to-back years. Also in that category were Bath County’s McKenna Moore (18 ppg), Raceland’s Lauren Runyon (13 ppg, 8 rpg) and Menifee County’s Emma Hacker (21.7 ppg, 11 rpg, 3.6 blocks per game).
Greenup County and West Carter netted All-Area accolades for two players apiece. For the Lady Musketeers, Maggie Miller (10.4 ppg, 2.4 spg) and Gracie Haywood (8.8 ppg, 114 free throws made, 2.4 spg) made the team. For the Lady Comets, Morgan Berry (10.8 ppg, 6 rpg) and Allie Stone (17.1 ppg) garnered recognition.
Rowan County’s Promise Cross (13.4 ppg, 7.2 rpg), East Carter’s Alyssa Stickler (14.1 ppg, 5 rpg, 1.5 spg) and Lewis County’s Gracie Yates (11.1 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 4.7 apg) picked up All-Area labels.
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