Eufaula’s Kaitlin Peterson and Charles Henderson’s Niaira Jones dominated basketball games this past season from their guard positions. Geneva County’s Karoline Striplin, a center, dominated on the inside.
Those dominating efforts haven’t gone unnoticed.
All three have been named a finalist for state player of the year honors in their team’s respective classification by the Alabama Sports Writers Association, which released the 24 overall finalists for girls basketball Friday in all seven Alabama High School Athletic Association classes and in the Alabama Independent Schools Association.
Three finalists were chosen in each of the eight classifications by ASWA members.
The 24 finalists for boys basketball will be released Sunday.
All the finalists had to be a first-team all-state honoree. The all-state teams were announced this past weekend.
Traditionally, all the finalists would be honored at the annual Mr./Miss Basketball banquet in Montgomery. However because of the COVID-19 virus, this year’s banquet has been canceled.
Instead girls player of year winners will be announced on state newspaper websites next Friday night at 11 p.m. and in the ensuing Saturday print edition. The boys winners will be announced in the same manner on Saturday night and in Sunday print editions.
The girls state Super 5 All-State team will be released on Tuesday, March 31 at 11 p.m. and in print editions on Wednesday, April 1. The boys team will be released the following days.
The announcement of the Miss Basketball winner is set for Friday night April 3 and in print editions April 4 and the Mr. Basketball winner on Saturday night April 4 and print editions Sunday, April 5.
“It is with regret that the Alabama Sports Writers Association announces the cancellation of the 2020 Mr./Miss Basketball banquet and awards ceremony due to ongoing concerns regarding the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic,” ASWA president Creg Stephenson said in an email press release this week.
“We had hoped to go on as planned with the event, or at least postpone it to another date. However, with each passing day, it has become more and more apparent that either option would not be feasible, both for health and safety reasons and due to the constraints of the calendar.
“We still hope we will be able to publicly honor this year’s Mr. and Miss Basketball recipients at a later date, and will make the appropriate announcement when more information is available.”
Eufaula’s Peterson, a 5-foot-9 guard, was named one of the three finalists in Class 6A. She averaged a Wiregrass-best 23.7 points a game this past season for the Tigers, who finished 25-7 and reached the 5A Southeast Regional Tournament. She also earned 7.1 rebounds, 6.0 assists and 5.5 steals per game.
Joining Peterson as a 6A finalist are Farrah Pearson, a 5-foot-10 senior forward for state champion Hazel Green, and Sara Puckett, a 6-foot-1 junior guard-forward at Muscle Shoals. Pearson, a member of Alabama’s team for last week’s Alabama-Mississippi All-Star game, was a finalist last year, which was won by her teammate, Marisa Snodgrass, a senior who graduated. Charles Henderson’s Jones, a 5-foot-7 guard who has signed with Belmont, is one of three finalists in Class 5A girls. She averaged 19.6 points, 6.0 rebounds and 7.4 steals a game this past season in helping the Trojans to an unbeaten 29-0 record and to the Class 5A state title.
She also helped Alabama last week to a 70-63 win over Mississippi in the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Game, scoring 14 points, grabbing four rebounds and earning two steals.
Voting by ASWA members for the player of the year honors was done before the Alabama-Mississippi game, but after the team roster was announced.
Joining Jones as 5A finalists are Central of Tuscaloosa’s Quintasia Leatherwood, a 5-foot-3 senior guard, and Fairfield 6-foot-0 sophomore forward Shaniah Nunn. Leatherwood was last year’s 5A player of the year award.
Geneva County’s Striplin repeats as a 2A finalist as she was also named one of the final three last year. The 6-foot-3 Striplin, a center who has committed to play for the University of Tennessee, averaged 21.2 points, 13.3 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 5.7 blocks per game this year in helping the Lady Dawgs to a 25-6 record and to the 2A regional tournament finals.
The other Class 2A finalists along with Striplin are Cold Springs 5-foot-11 senior forward Elizabeth Hill and Collinsville 5-foot-9 senior forward Brittany Rivera. Hill, who played for Alabama in last week’s Alabama-Mississippi game, was last year’s 2A player of the year winner after guiding Cold Springs to the title. Rivera led Collinsville to the state title this season.
Below is the complete list of girls finalists.
Sarah Ashlee Barker, Spain Park
Aniya Hubbard, Hoover
Amiya Payne, Hewitt-Trussville
Farrah Pearson, Hazel Green
Kaitlin Peterson, Eufaula
Sara Puckett, Muscle Shoals
Niaira Jones, Charles Henderson
Quintasia Leatherwood, Central-Tuscaloosa
Shaniah Nunn, Fairfield
Allasha Dudley, Anniston
Madie Krieger, Rogers
Jada Watkins, Sumter Central
Molly Heard, Pisgah
Jemeriah Moore, Midfield
Ruthie Smith, Lauderdale Co.
Elizabeth Hill, Cold Springs
Brittany Rivera, Collinsville
Karoline Striplin, Geneva Co.
Katie Jones, Decatur Heritage
Ally McCollum, Phillips
Bailee Usrey, Skyline
Augusta Arnold, Southern Academy
Mya Brooks, Glenwood
Chloe Johnson, Lee-Scott