Monday, March 31, 2014

Taylor Rooks of Gill St. Bernard's is The Star-Ledger girls basketball Player of the Year, 2013-2014




Chris Ryan, nj.com, March 30, 2014

Entering her senior season, Taylor Rooks knew that several personal milestones were on the horizon. But instead of worrying about when or how she would reach them, the Gill St. Bernard’s forward just set her mind to helping her team.
If she set her mind to the team’s success, everything else would work out. She just wanted to enjoy the ride.
"The milestones are very cool, not a lot of people get to experience those. But I wouldn’t say they’re necessarily in the front of my mind,” Rooks said. "I’m just focused on winning a game. But when I did get something, I could sit back and say this something that I’m very fortunate to be able to do.”
With the team’s success, the personal milestones followed. Rooks reached 2,000 career points in December before breaking the Gill St. Bernard’s scoring record on Feb. 26th. She also reached 1,000 career rebounds on Jan. 25.
Rooks again proved to be an invaluable asset for the Somerset County school, as the Stanford-bound senior posted a staggering statical season, backing up the performance that earned her  State Player of the year honors as a junior in 2012-13.
Rooks averaged 23.6 points, 10.7 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.9 blocks and 2.8 steals per game, as she helped Gill St. Bernard’s win the Somerset County Tournament and reach the final of the South Jersey, Non-Public B tournament.
For her career, Rooks finished with 2,600 points and 1,193 rebounds. But her impact on Gill St. Bernard’s goes far beyond the stats on the court.
From day one, Rooks served as mentor to the rest of the team, helping build chemistry for the long season ahead.
“We had a lot of new players, and some of these are girls playing March basketball for the first time, and it can be a little intimidating playing with a kid of that caliber, but Taylor did a great job on and off the court,” Gill St. Bernard’s coach Josuf Dema said. "It goes back to the fall when they started their training. She built confidence in them, whether it be making the extra pass or just talking to them on the side."
That mentoring helped in the final of the Somerset County Tournament, when Rooks fouled out with 45 second left in the game. The game went to overtime, and Rooks’ teammates were able to finish off a  55-51 victory against Franklin.
While she had to watch and encourage her team from the bench at the end of the game, the victory serves as one of her favorite memories from this season and her high school career.
“Our team stepped up,” Rooks said. "It was probably my favorite game out of four years of high school, and probably the moment that stood out to me the most.”
Rooks still finished with 19 points and 12 rebounds in the final, one of 21 double-doubles she recorded this season.
While Rooks compiled strong numbers in different categories throughout the season, her mentality never changed from game to game. Rooks wanted to be the team player and leader that set Gill St. Bernard's up for success.
"It comes naturally to her. There was never a game where she was either just shooting or just passing, she would usually make the right decision,” Dema said. "She did that consistently throughout the year, which is always great to see."
With her ability to control the paint and shoot, it could be easy for Rooks to try and rack up the points every night. But she knew that success goes far beyond the scoring column.
"A lot of people, the first thing they’ll look at is points. It’s all the other stuff that dictates whether or not you’re going to do well,” Rooks said. “My goal is not to say, 'I want to get 10 rebounds.’ I don’t think about that, I just want to do what I have to to win.”


Friday, March 28, 2014

McPhee Voted AP Washington Player of Year



king5.com, March 27, 2014

Mount Rainier star Brittany McPhee has repeated as The Associated Press Washington girls' state player of the year.

McPhee was honored on Thursday after voting by sports writers and editors from around the state. She was also honored as the player of the year in her respective classification.

The Stanford-bound McPhee led Mount Rainier to the state championship game in Class 4A after a season during which she averaged 27 points and 14 rebounds per game. Her 2,815 career points are believed to be a state record.


McPhee is a three-time honoree as the Class 4A player of the year, earning the award as the top player in her classification since she was a sophomore. She'll head off to Stanford as one of the most decorated girls high school players in state history.


Monday, March 24, 2014

Taylor Rooks of Gill St. Bernard's named Courier News Girls Basketball Player of the Year



Simeon Pincus, mycentraljersey.com, March 24, 2014

Taylor Rooks is certainly ready for the next level. And while the Gill St. Bernard’s High School superstar is looking forward beginning her collegiate career at Stanford University next season, first there was the matter of her senior varsity season to attend to, and, for the second straight season, nobody did it better.

Since joining the Knights as sophomore, after her family moved back to Central Jersey from Western New York State, the Princeton-born star and, now, two-time Courier News Girls Basketball Player of the Year, has made her presence felt, leading Gill St. Bernard’s to the NJSIAA Tournament of Champions final two years ago, and back to the sectional final last season.

This year, Rooks capped her varsity career with another highly successful campaign, as the Knights finished 26-4, winning their third consecutive Somerset County Tournament championship, sharing the Skyland Conference Delaware Division crown with Franklin, and returning to the Non-Public B South sectional final.

And while her attention will soon be turning 3,000 miles west, Rooks not only finished the year averaging 23.6 points and 10.7 rebounds per game, but having a great time doing it.

“This year was definitely the most fun year,” said Rooks, who has referred to this year’s edition of the Knights as her favorite team she’s ever played on. “I really enjoyed playing with my teammates, and my coaches. It really made it special and fun. I feel really connected to all the players this year, especially. It just makes every practice, every game and off the court in school so much more fun, because they’re your best friends. This year was just so much fun. It was great.”

And although players of Rooks status can sometimes not only be intimidating to opponents, but even their teammates, that was never the case with Rooks, who has had no trouble fitting in. And while she often goes about her business on the court in a predominantly quiet and almost effortless sort of way, her presence is never absent, her play always unselfish and her leadership invaluable.


Friday, March 21, 2014

Natrona's Johnsons earn all-state honors



Natrona County senior Kaylee Johnson puts up a shot over Kelly Walsh player as Kelly Walsh faced Natrona County in the annual Peach Basket Classic on Thursday, Feb. 27, 2014, at Swede Erickson Thunderbird Gym in Casper, Wyo. Natrona County won 69-41. 

trib.com, March 20, 2014


Natrona County senior Kaylee Johnson was named to the Wyoming Coaches Association Class 4A girls all-state team for the third consecutive year Thursday.
Johnson, the three-time Wyoming Gatorade Player of the Year, led the Fillies (23-4) to a 33-28 victory over Cheyenne East in Saturday's championship game.


Sunday, March 16, 2014

Natrona's Johnson caps illustrious career with elusive team title



Cheyenne East's player struggles to shoot over Natrona County's Kaylee Johnson as Natrona County faced Cheyenne East on Saturday, March 15, 2014, during the Class 4A Wyoming State High School Girls Basketball Championship at the Casper Events Center. Natrona County defeated Cheyenne East 33-28 to take the Class 4A state title. 

Sisco Molina, trib.com, March 16, 2014


Kaylee Johnson has a room full of individual awards, but the only thing on her mind was a state championship. She saw her Natrona County teammates win one in volleyball in October, and she wanted one of her own.
"I would give up all the individual awards just for this one," said Johnson. "I thought I'd be emotional, but honestly with this team and its confidence, we expected this. We all knew we were going to go strong until the end and ultimately win the prize."
The Fillies defeated Cheyenne East 33-28 on Saturday in the final of the Class 4A Wyoming State High School Girls Basketball Championship.
Johnson finished with just five points in the game, but pulled down 18 rebounds in the victory. It wasn't the best game of her career, but she helped the Fillies capture their first state championship since 2000 and won the award that's both eluded her and meant the most to her.
"We all played strong, and we did it for each other," said Johnson. "None of us played for ourselves. We won for each other.
"We knew it was going to be a battle from the beginning and that it would take all 32 minutes."
Johnson, who will continue her career at Stanford, will take a short break before beginning her next basketball challenge.
"I guess all I can do is prep for college," Johnson said. "I'll get summer workouts going and get ready for the next chapter of my life. I'm excited. I'll be sad to leave these girls, this program and this coach, but I'll support them no matter what, and I know they'll be supporting me, too."




Brittany McPhee makes Parade All-America team



Sandy Ringer, seattletimes.com, March 14, 2014

The honors keep piling up for Mount Rainier senior Brittany McPhee.
And they keep getting bigger, too.
One day after being named the Gatorade Washington Girls Basketball Player of the Year for the third year in a row, news comes that McPhee is on the exclusive Parade All-America team.
Only 20 seniors from across the country made the team. McPhee, a 6-foot forward who has signed with Stanford, is the lone Washington player on the list. 
A big round of applause to one of Washington’s all-time best players — congratulations, Brittany!

WYOMING GIRLS BASKETBALL POY: KAYLEE JOHNSON





Natrona County (Wyo.) senior Kaylee Johnson is the Gatorade Wyoming Girls Basketball Player of the Year.

usatodayhss.com, March 14, 2014

HE WINNER: Kaylee Johnson
THE BASICS
School: Natrona County (Casper, Wyo.)
Grade: Senior
Position: Guard/forward
Height: 6-foot-2
Athletic achievement: She led the Fillies to an 18-4 record and a berth in the Class 4A state tournament, scheduled to begin March 13. Johnson averaged 16.7 points, 14.3 rebounds, 5.1 assists and 4.3 blocks while shooting 56 percent from the floor through 22 games. The 2011-12 and 2012-13 Gatorade Wyoming Girls Basketball Player of the Year, Johnson led all of Class A in scoring, rebounding, assists and blocked shots.
Academic excellence: Johnson has maintained a 4.0 GPA.
Exemplary character: A member of the National Honor Society, she has volunteered locally on behalf of the Make-A-Wish Foundation, the Salvation Army and Kids Against Hunger in addition to assisting the elderly at an area retirement home.
THE PRAISE
“Kaylee Johnson is a very selfless teammate,” said Natrona County head coachDouglas Diehl. “She is also very coachable and an extremely competitive kid. She just keeps developing her game, as she demonstrated this year by leading the state in assists.”
THE FUTURE: Johnson has signed with Stanford.

Brittany McPhee earns 3rd Gatorade Player of the Year award




Sandy Ringer, seattletimes.com, March 14, 2014


For the third year in a row, Brittany McPhee of Mount Rainier has been chosen the Gatorade Washington Girls Basketball Player of the Year.

McPhee, a senior who has signed with Stanford, continutes to add to her cache of awards. She is a three-time Star Times selection and was voted to the all-state team as a sophomore and junior (this year’s all-state team has yet to be announced).
She was the repeat MVP of the 4A state tournament last week after leading the Rams to the championship game, where they lost to Gonzaga Prep. Mount Rainier placed third in both 2013 and 2012.
Complete press release.

MT. RAINIER HIGH SCHOOL HIGH SCHOOL STANDOUT NAMED GATORADE® WASHINGTON GIRLS BASKETBALL PLAYER OF THE YEAR
CHICAGO (March 13, 2014) — In its 29th year of honoring the nation’s best high school athletes, The Gatorade Company, in collaboration with USA TODAY High School Sports, today announced Brittany McPhee of Mt. Rainier High School as its 2013-14 Gatorade Washington Girls Basketball Player of the Year. McPhee is the first Gatorade Washington Girls Basketball Player of the Year to be chosen from Mt. Rainier High School.
The award, which recognizes not only outstanding athletic excellence, but also high standards of academic achievement and exemplary character demonstrated on and off the court, distinguishes McPhee as Washington’s best high school girls basketball player. Now a finalist for the prestigious Gatorade National Girls Basketball Player of the Year award announced in March, McPhee joins an elite alumni association of past state girls basketball award- winners, including Candace Parker (2001-02, Naperville Central HS, Ill.), Diana Taurasi (1998-99 & 1999-00, Don Antonio Lugo HS, Calif.), Maya Moore (2005-06 Collins Hill HS, Ga.), Rashanda McCants (2004-05, Asheville HS, N.C.), Shyra Ely (1999-00, Ben Davis HS, Ind.) and Lisa Leslie (1988-89, Morningside HS, Calif.)
The state’s two-time returning Gatorade Girls Basketball Player of the Year, McPhee averaged 27.1 points, 12.8 rebounds, 3.0 steals, 2.8 blocks and 2.3 assists per game this past season, leading the Rams (25-4) to the Class 4A state championship game. Also the returning Player of the Year as named by The News Tribune and Associated Press, the 6- foot senior wing shot 52.3 percent from the field and 79.7 percent from the free throw line. In three Class 4A state tournament games, McPhee averaged 24.3 points, 13.0 rebounds and 5.3 blocks, capturing Most Valuable Player honors for the second consecutive season.
McPhee has maintained a 4.00 GPA in the classroom. In addition to serving as a student ambassador at the Inter-high leadership conference, she has donated her time as a youth basketball and soccer instructor.
“She improved at every aspect of the game even though she was already the best player in the state,” said Keith Wasberg, head coach of rival Tahoma High. “Her intelligence impresses me most. It’s beyond a basketball IQ. My defensive strategy was to trap her and leave perimeter players open, every time, because the only chance against her is that she doesn’t make mistakes. This year, she became smarter.”
McPhee has signed a National Letter of Intent to play basketball on scholarship at Stanford University this fall.
The Gatorade Player of the Year program annually recognizes one winner in the District of Columbia and each of the 50 states that sanction high school football, girls volleyball, boys and girls cross country, boys and girls basketball, boys and girls soccer, baseball, softball, and boys and girls track & field, and awards one National Player of the Year in each sport. The selection process is administered by the Gatorade high school sports leadership team in partnership with USA TODAY High School Sports, which work with top sport-specific experts and a media advisory board of accomplished, veteran prep sports journalists to determine the state winners in each sport.
Three time winner McPhee joins Gatorade Washington Girls Basketball Players of the Year Erika Johnson (2010-11, Holy Names Academy), Mercedes Wetmore (2009-10, Auburn Riverside), Lindsey Moore (2008-09, Kentwood), Ashley Corral (2007-08, Prairie), and Angie Bjorklund (2006–07, University) among the state’s list of former award winners.


NEW JERSEY GIRLS BASKETBALL POY: TAYLOR ROOKS



usatodayhss.com, March 13, 2014


Gill St. Bernard’s School (Gladstone, N.J.) senior Taylor Rooks is the Gatorade New Jersey Girls Basketball Player of the Year.

HE WINNER: Taylor Rooks
THE BASICS
School: Gill St. Bernard’s School (Gladstone, N.J.)
Grade: Senior
Position: Guard
Height: 6-foot
Athletic achievement: She led the Knights to a 26-4 record and the North Jersey Non-Public B title game this past season. The state’s returning Gatorade Girls Basketball Player of the Year, Rooks averaged 23.6 points, 10.7 rebounds, 2.8 steals, 2.8 assists and 1.9 blocked shots per game. An Honorable Mention All-American as named by the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association, she is a two-time First Team All-State honoree and is rated as the nation’s No. 19 recruit in the Class of 2014 by ESPN.
Academic excellence: Rooks has maintained a 4.20 GPA.
Exemplary character: She has volunteered on behalf of a local food bank and Melina’s White Light, a foundation that supports childhood cancer research.  
THE PRAISE
“She’s a very athletic scorer who can shoot the 3-pointer or slash to the basket,” saidMary Coyle Klinger, head coach at Rutgers Prep. “She’s extremely quick and she does whatever it takes to win.”  
THE FUTURE: Rooks has signed with Stanford.


NC's Johnson receives third consecutive player of the year honor



Natrona County's Kaylee Johnson grabs a rebound away from Cheyenne Central in a quarterfinal game of the Class 4A Wyoming State High School Girls Basketball Championship on Thursday, March 13, 2014 at Casper College. 

Jeff Kirschman, trib.com, March 13, 2014


As if Kaylee Johnson and the No. 1-seeded Natrona County girls basketball team wasn’t formidable enough, the Stanford-bound Johnson received her third straight Gatorade Wyoming Girls Basketball Player of the Year honor on Thursday for an encouraging start to the Class 4A Girls Wyoming State High School Championship.
Johnson averaged a 4A best-best 16.7 points in 22 game for the Fillies (18-4, 10-0 4A West) and also led the conference in rebounding (14.3), assists (5.1) and blocks (4.3), shooting 56 percent from the field in the process.
Natrona County defeated Cheyenne Central 68-22 on Thursday behind Johnson's game-high 26 points and 19 rebounds to begin its journey toward the programs first championship since 2000. 
"It’s awesome. It’s really cool that I got it," Johnson said. "I’m happy I won, but that’s not my biggest concern this weekend, obviously."
Her 4.0 grade-point average and membership in the Natrona Honor Society also contributed to her receiving the award.


Taylor Rooks of Gill St. Bernard's named Gatorade State Player of The Year



Taylor Rooks becomes only the fourth girls basketball player to win two New Jersey Gatorade Player of the Year awards.

Daniel Gibson, nj.com, March 13, 2014

Taylor Rooks has been named the 2014 Gatorade New Jersey Girls Basketball Player of the Year for the second consecutive season.
Rooks, the 19th-ranked senior recruit by ESPN, powered Gill St. Bernard's to a 26-4 record this season including back-to-back Somerset County tournament titles. She averaged 24 points, 11 rebounds and three assists per game to go with three steals and two blocks. 
This is the 29th year that Gatorade has presented this award to the nations top high school athletes and there have only been four other two-time winners in New Jersey: Krissy Kuziemski(87-88 and 88-89) from Hoffman High School, Asjha Jones(96-97 and 97-98) from Piscataway High School, Kelley Suminski(99-00 and 00-01) from West Morris Mendham High School and Crystal Langhorn(01-02 and 03-04) from Willingboro High School.
Rooks now adds her name to that elite list of players.
Here's a copy of the official release sent out by Gatorade:
CHICAGO (March 13, 2014) — In its 29th year of honoring the nation’s best high school athletes, The Gatorade Company, in collaboration with USA TODAY High School Sports, today announced Taylor Rooks of Gill St. Bernard's School as its 2013-14 Gatorade New Jersey Girls Basketball Player of the Year.  Rooks is the first Gatorade New Jersey Girls Basketball Player of the Year to be chosen from Gill St. Bernard's School.
The award, which recognizes not only outstanding athletic excellence, but also high standards of academic achievement and exemplary character demonstrated on and off the court, distinguishes Rooks as New Jersey’s best high school girls basketball player.  Now a finalist for the prestigious Gatorade National Girls Basketball Player of the Year award announced in March, Rooks joins an elite alumni association of past state girls basketball award-winners, including Candace Parker (2001-02, Naperville Central HS, Ill.), Diana Taurasi (1998-99 & 1999-00, Don Antonio Lugo HS, Calif.), Maya Moore (2005-06 Collins Hill HS, Ga.), Rashanda McCants (2004-05, Asheville HS, N.C.), Shyra
Ely (1999-00, Ben Davis HS, Ind.) and Lisa Leslie (1988-89, Morningside HS, Calif.)
The 6-foot senior guard led the Knights to a 26-4 record and the North Jersey Non-Public B title game this past season. The state’s returning Gatorade Girls Basketball Player of the Year, Rooks averaged 23.6 points, 10.7 rebounds, 2.8 steals, 2.8 assists and 1.9 blocked shots per game.
An Honorable Mention All-American as named by the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association, she is a two-time First Team All-State honoree and is rated as the nation’s No. 19 recruit in the Class of 2014 by ESPN.
Rooks has maintained a 4.20 GPA in the classroom. She has volunteered on behalf of a local food bank and Melina’s White Light, a foundation that supports childhood cancer research.
“She’s a very athletic scorer who can shoot the 3-pointer or slash to the basket,” said Mary Coyle Klinger, head coach at Rutgers Prep. “She’s extremely quick and she does whatever it takes to win.”
Rooks has signed a National Letter of Intent to play basketball on scholarship at Stanford University this fall.
The Gatorade Player of the Year program annually recognizes one winner in the District of Columbia and each of the 50 states that sanction high school football, girls volleyball, boys and girls cross country, boys and girls basketball, boys and girls soccer, baseball, softball, and boys and girls track & field, and awards one National Player of the Year in each
sport.  The selection process is administered by the Gatorade high school sports leadership team in partnership with USA TODAY High School Sports, which work with top sport-specific experts and a media advisory board of accomplished, veteran prep sports journalists to determine the state winners in each sport.
Two time winner Rooks joins Gatorade New Jersey Girls Basketball Players of the Year Michaela Mabrey (2011-12, Manasquan High School), Temi Fagbenle (2010-11, Blair Academy), Haley Peters (2009-10, Peddie School), LaurinMincy (2008-09, University), Lakeisha Sutton (2007-08, Trenton Catholic Academy), and Tayler Wejnert (2006–07, Academy of the Holy Angels) among the state’s list of former award winners.
To keep up to date on the latest happenings, become a fan of Gatorade Player of the Year on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. For more on the Gatorade Player of the Year program, including nomination information, a complete list of past winners and the announcement of the Gatorade National Player of the Year, visit www.gatorade.com/poy.


Natrona’s Kaylee Johnson 3-Peats As WY Girls Basketball Gatorade Player of the Year


Kevin Koile, wyopreps.com, March 13, 2014


In its 29th year of honoring the nation’s best high school athletes, The Gatorade Company, in collaboration with USA TODAY High School Sports, announced Kaylee Johnson of Natrona County High School as its 2013-14 Gatorade Wyoming Girls Basketball Player of the Year.
Johnson is the second Gatorade Wyoming Girls Basketball Player of the Year to be chosen from Natrona County High School.
The award, which recognizes not only outstanding athletic excellence, but also high standards of academic achievement and exemplary character demonstrated on and off the court, distinguishes Johnson as Wyoming’s best high school girls basketball player.
Now a finalist for the prestigious Gatorade National Girls Basketball Player of the Year award announced in March, Johnson joins an elite alumni association of past state girls basketball award winners, including Candace Parker (2001-02, Naperville Central HS, Ill.), Diana Taurasi (1998-99 & 1999-00, Don Antonio Lugo HS, Calif.), Maya Moore (2005-06 Collins Hill HS, Ga.), Rashanda McCants (2004-05, Asheville HS, N.C.),Shyra Ely (1999-00, Ben Davis HS, Ind.) and Lisa Leslie (1988-89, Morningside HS, Calif.)
The 6-foot-2 senior forward and guard led the Fillies to an 18-4 record and a berth in the Class 4A state tournament, scheduled to begin March 13th.
Johnson averaged 16.7 points, 14.3 rebounds, 5.1 assists and 4.3 blocks while shooting 56 percent from the floor through 22 games.
The 2011-12 and 2012-13 Gatorade Wyoming Girls Basketball Player of the Year, Johnson led all of Class 4A in scoring, rebounding, assists and blocked shots.
Johnson has maintained a 4.0 GPA in the classroom.
A member of the National Honor Society, she has volunteered locally on behalf of the Make-A-Wish Foundation, the Salvation Army and Kids Against Hunger in addition to assisting the elderly at an area retirement home.
“Kaylee Johnson is a very selfless teammate,” said Natrona County head coach Douglas Diehl. “She is also very coachable and an extremely competitive kid. She just keeps developing her game, as she demonstrated this year by leading the state in assists.”
Johnson has signed a National Letter of Intent to play basketball on an athletic scholarship at Stanford University this fall.
The Gatorade Player of the Year program annually recognizes one winner in the District of Columbia and each of the 50 states that sanction high school football, girls volleyball, boys and girls cross country, boys and girls basketball, boys and girls soccer, baseball, softball, and boys and girls track & field, and awards one National Player of the Year in each sport.
The selection process is administered by the Gatorade high school sports leadership team in partnership with USA TODAY High School Sports, which work with top sport-specific experts and a media advisory board of accomplished, veteran prep sports journalists to determine the state winners in each sport.
Three time winner Johnson joins Gatorade Wyoming Girls Basketball Players of the Year Jordan Kelley (2010-11 & 2009-10, Campbell County High School), Jordan Kent (2008-09, Campbell County), Kristen Scheffler (2007-08, Lovell), and Hillary Carlson (2006–07, Cheyenne Central) among the state’s list of former award winners.

Kaylee Johnson, Natrona County look to avoid state tournament disappointment


Natrona County's Kaylee Johnson stands for a portrait on Tuesday at Natrona County High School in Casper. The Fillies are seeking their first state championship since 2000, and coach Doug Diehl said they're ready for the challenge. 

Jeff Kirschman, trib.com, March 12, 2014


The lowest point of Kaylee Johnson’s basketball career came two years ago, when the Natrona County girls basketball team – undefeated through 25 games – lost in the final game of the Class 4A Wyoming State High School Girls Basketball Championship.
It was the Fillies’ game to win, a loss that has haunted coach Doug Diehl as the ultimate of missed opportunities and a memory that was only intensified when the Fillies, again poised to win it all, fell in the semi finals of last years state tournament.
As this year’s edition of the tournament begins Thursday at Casper College, Natrona County (18-4, 10-0 4A West) once again finds itself in a position to win a state title. Johnson, a recipient of back to back Wyoming player of the year honors with a scholarship to play at Stanford next season, headlines a formidable senior class that is as prepared to win a title as well as any team Diehl has coached during his seven years coaching his team.
With the talent, the experience and, perhaps most of all, the team’s past failures, the pressure has never been greater for Natrona County to seize its first girls basketball championship since 2000.
“Sometimes I stress out more than I need to,” Johnson said. “I know it’s not just me, but everyone on the team is getting pressure from their parents and their teaches and their friends. But they’re outsiders. It’s great that they love watching us and supporting us, but they don’t necessarily understand what [the team is thinking] and what we’re doing on the court.”
The response was there in 2012, when the Fillies were upset by Laramie in the championship game. Johnson still remembers returning to school after the loss to a chorus of “What happened?” Or when she watched many of her teammates win a state volleyball championship from the stands, prompting a crowd of parents to remind her how she had yet to win one herself. She is well aware of her senior status – that these last three games present the final opportunity to win a ring of her own. 
Watching others achieve what she has not provides further incentive to focus toward attaining her goal.
"This is my last chance? Oh, it is?" Johnson says. "I don’t let it get to me too much. I don't want to be rude and say, 'Yeah, whatever.' Sometimes they know what they're talking about, sometimes they don't. 'Kaylee, shoot a 3 from half court!' 'No, Grandma, I'm not going to do that, but thanks.' But it’s easy to let them go. As long as we know what we’re doing and understand Coach Diehl, then we're fine."
The burden of not having won a state title may be greatest on Diehl, who has never come closer than the loss to Laramie. Players of Johnson's caliber are rare, especially in Wyoming, with Kaylee in the top 10 in the 4A West in scoring and rebounding averages. 
“This is a fantastic opportunity to win state, yes,” Diehl said. “The pressure of getting it done, it doesn’t help you achieve that goal. You ignore it the best you can, but there are high expectations. Everybody thinks it’s the easiest thing in the world that you get it done, and if there was some kind of recipe, everybody would win state."
Winning at this point would trigger relief at Natrona County as much as joy. The road won't be an easy one, as Cheyenne East, Gillette and Sheridan have had success this season as well. But what other teams won't be able to harness as fuel is the agony of defeat, which is may be the greatest motivator of all. 
"It's very upsetting when you let everybody down. When you're 25-0 and lose, that's the feeling: that you let everybody down," Diehl said. "You want those kids who have earned, in your mind, that right to be named the best team. And when it doesn't happen, it just hurts you. It hurts you deeply. As a coach, you feel responsible for providing that kind of affirmation or experience that says they're doing the right thing.
"I think it's just an innate thing, trying to take care of your kids."


Sunday, March 09, 2014

Brittany and Mount Rainier beats Moses Lake, 56-55, in 4A semifinals/Game Update


Matt Massey, seattletimes.com, March 7, 2014

Brittany McPhee hits the winning basket to lift Rams into the state final against Gonzaga Prep.

A bloodied jersey nearly cost the Rams.
With one play to determine its fate, there was no way Mount Rainier was going to be without Stanford-bound Brittany McPhee. So her coach, Bob Bolam, called two timeouts to ensure McPhee could change out of her bloodied jersey No. 12 and into No. 44.
McPhee, who struggled for three quarters, stayed in and delivered the game-winning jumper in the lane with 15.3 seconds left as fourth-ranked Mount Rainier escaped with a 56-55 win over ninth-ranked Moses Lake on Saturday in the Class 4A girls state semifinals at the Tacoma Dome.
“Our trainer had gotten [the blood] all off, and then they were like, ‘Oh, no, there’s still some more right here,’ but there wasn’t,” she said. “I just like, ‘Whatever, I’m going to change the jersey then they can’t find any.’ I just went around the corner [to change].
“It kind of made me mad. I was seriously, ‘You’re going to make me change my uniform?’ I was like, ‘Let’s get this over with.’ In the timeout, I said [losing in the semifinals] isn’t happening again.”
After losing the last two years by a total of three points in the semifinals, the Rams (25-3) finally reached the state-title game.
“It’s all the emotions building up,” said McPhee, who finished with 26 points, 12 rebounds, eight blocked shots and two assists despite being hounded with triple-teams all game. “There’s nothing like it. If I’m going to go down, I’m going to go down fighting.”
The Rams looked headed for a repeat of semifinal failure of the previous two seasons, falling 51-50 to Mead of Spokane last season and 42-40 to Central Valley of Spokane in 2012. Mount Rainier was down 45-32 with 2:35 left in the third quarter on Friday and still down by 10 with less than five minutes left.
McPhee changed into a clean No. 44 jersey for the last offensive sequence after Mount Rainier called two timeouts at the 17.9-second mark to allow McPhee time to change and stay in the game.
After the 6-foot McPhee gave the Rams a 56-55 lead by rising high to make an 8-footer.
The Rams meet second-ranked Gonzaga Prep (24-1), led by point guard John Stockton's daughter, in the 4A championship game on Saturday at 5 p.m. McPhee’s father, Bryce, played with John, at Gonzaga University.


Brittany's Game Updates

Sandy Ringer, seattletimes.com, March 6, 2014
Mount Rainier 64, Inglemoor 57
A 13-0 run late in the third quarter turned a close game into a runaway as the Rams (24-3) advanced to a 5:30 p.m. semifinal on Friday against Moses Lake.
Inglemoor had its 19-game winning streak, including a 68-53 victory on Jan. 20 against these same Rams, snapped.
Stanford-bound Brittany McPhee gave Mount Rainier a 55-38 lead with 7:13 to play. 

McPhee led four Rams in double figures with 19 points, and she added eight rebounds and three blocks.


McPhee sisters have one last chance to win it all for Mount Rainier



Sandy Ringer, seattletimes.com, March 5, 2014

Mount Rainier star Brittany McPhee, and her twin sister, have one final chance to win a state title. The Rams lost in the semifinals the past two years, by a combined three points.
Her resume is remarkable.
Brittany McPhee will leave Mount Rainier High School with an armload of accolades as she heads to Stanford, including multiple player of the year awards and a stack of records.
But what matters most to McPhee is winning games. The Rams have done plenty of that during her four-year career, compiling a 99-14 record that has led to a pair of third-place trophies at the state tournament.
Yet she and twin sister crave the victory that has eluded them, the one that would bring the school’s first state basketball championship. They get their final chance this week at the Class 4A tournament in the Tacoma Dome.
“That would be amazing,” Brittany said. “It’s been the ultimate goal since my sister and I have been going to the Tacoma Dome when we were in like sixth grade, just to be able to play on Saturday in the championship game.
“But only two teams get to do it out of the whole state. We have to kind of look back in the past years and appreciate that we’ve made it to state. But, overall, there’s kind of that shadow that we haven’t won it.”
Mount Rainier’s semifinal losses the past two years were by a combined three points, including a 51-50 heartbreaker to eventual-champion Mead of Spokane last season. The team also reached the quarterfinals when the McPhees were freshmen, finishing 0-2.
This year, the fourth-ranked Rams (23-3) ride an 11-game win streak into Thursday’s 2 p.m. quarterfinal game, where they face No. 3 Inglemoor (21-3) — the last team to beat them, 68-53 on Jan. 20. This is a rematch of a quarterfinal Mount Rainier won last year, 61-56.
“We know it’s going to be a tough battle,” McPhee said.
It’s a loaded tournament field that includes No. 1 Lynnwood (23-1), No. 2 Gonzaga Prep (22-1), No. 5 Skyview (24-2), No. 8 Arlington (20-4) and No. 9 Moses Lake (19-4) in addition to red-hot Kentwood (20-6), which knocked off No. 7 Chiawana to qualify.
Arlington placed second last year and Skyview won the title in 2012.
Mount Rainier coach Bob Bolam said the McPhees’ legacy goes beyond the victories. The program had success before the twins arrived, but they took teams to another level.
“They brought a lot of energy and work ethic to our program, along with a lot of skill and basketball IQ,” Bolam said. “It made everyone else in our program step up and become better players, too, and made us work harder as coaches. ... They’ve brought a legacy of having a desire to be better, be the best, be as good as you can be.”
And a deep desire to finish on top.
“Winning a state championship would just be a culmination of all of that coming to fruition to what they’ve done,” Bolam said. “They’ve really wanted it and worked really hard for it, so hopefully we can cap their senior year off by getting there.”