One of five finalists will go home with the coveted Kaayla Chones Award when The News-Herald unveils its girls basketball player of the year next week.
This year’s five finalists for the Chones Award are (in alphabetical order): Alexa Hocevar of West Geauga, Helen Holley of Gilmour, Savanah Laurenty of Riverside, Kara McFadden of Fairport and Kailey Minch of North. The award will be presented at a edition of the Varsity Chalk Talk Show, hosted by Bill Tilton, at 6 p.m. March 21 at Hooley Pub and Kitchen in Mentor.
The Chones Award is named after the former Ohio Ms. Basketball from North who went on to star at North Carolina State and play in the WNBA.
Also being awarded that night is the girls basketball coach of the year. This year’s finalists are (in alphabetical order): Brian Fulton of Riverside, Tyler Hammond of Gilmour and Eugene White of Richmond Heights.
The boys basketball player of the year — named the Clark Kellogg Award — and boys basketball coach of the year will also be announced that evening.
The finalists for the Chones Award emerged from an extremely competitive and worthy field from across the coverage area. Each had superb years. For a closer look at the finalists for the Chones Award:
• A 6-foot guard-forward, Hocevar averaged 14.4 points, 9.0 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 2.3 steals and 1.2 blocks per game. She served as a primary ball-handler and lockdown defender along with her scoring ability. She will play collegiately at Division I Indiana University-Purdue University of Indiana.
• A 6-foot-1 junior, Holley averaged 14.7 points, 11.7 rebounds, 3.3 steals, 2.6 assists and 2.5 blocks per game. The ultra-athletic 11th-grader can handle the ball, shoot from the perimeter and plays exceptional defense. She has multiple college offers heading into her senior season.
• A 5-11 junior, Laurenty averaged 17.5 points, 13.5 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 3.8 steals per game for the WRC champion Beavers. She’s a relentless rebounder who can score in myriad of ways. She has multiple college opportunities heading into her senior year.
• A 5-3 guard, McFadden averaged 28.0 points, 5.5 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 4.2 steals and one block per game. She set a new state record this year with 127 3-pointers for the Skippers. She will play collegiately at Division II Waynesburg (Pa.).
• A 5-6 guard, Minch averaged 20 points, 2.7 assists, 2.2 steals and made 81 3-pointers in her senior season. A crafty ball-handler with exceptional shooting skills, she’s also a deft passer. She will play collegiately at Division II Ursuline College.
The coach of the year finalists are:
• Riverside’s Fulton, who guided the Beavers to a 20-4 overall record and 12-0 WRC slate in his first year at the helm, with Riverside netting its first league title since 2005 and first sectional title since 2006.
• Gilmour’s Hammond, who led the Lancers to an 18-6 record in his first year as the head coach. Gilmour played a high-level schedule and advanced to a Division II district championship game.
• Richmond Heights’ White, who led the Spartans to a 21-4 record (10-0 in the CVC Metro) with an underclassmen-laden roster. The Spartans played in a Division IV district championship game.
A capacity crowd is expected, so those wishing to attend are encouraged to call Hooley Pub and Kitchen for reservations as the March 21 event draws closer. Tables for finalists and their families have already been reserved.
For more information, email JKampf@News-Herald.com.