The All-Neuse News girls' basketball team
Kinston’s Taliyah Jones helped the Vikings advance to the 2A Eastern Regional for the second straight season and was named Neuse News Girls’ Basketball Player of the Year. Photo by William ‘Bud’ Hardy / Neuse News
The wait is over.
For the inaugural Neuse News Girls’ basketball team, the format is simple: a Player of the Year, Coach of the Year, First Team, Second Team, Third Team and Honorable Mentions. The Player of the Year won’t be on the first team in order to get one more person on the teams.
Let’s get into this list:
PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Taliyah Jones, Kinston
Stats: 11.4 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 3.0 spg
There were quite a few good candidates for this honor. North Lenoir’s Ashanti Lynch showed poise beyond her years and helped North Lenoir get its first home playoff game in quite some time — to know this was only her freshman year is scary. South Lenoir’s Gralicia Jenkins did a little bit of everything for the Blue Devils to keep the team moving in a positive direction after the team lost the best player in school history in Hunter West to graduation. Jones had a pair of teammates in Anzaryia Cobb and Michyla Dove who had tremendous seasons and were instrumental to the team’s success throughout.
Ultimately, Jones got the nod for her consistency on both ends of the floor. Kinston’s depth was an issue for most of its competition as at least 10 girls could score 15 points on any given night. Jones would get her points, but also finished second on the team in rebounds and steals. Jones had great versatility and was an integral part of the team’s success in 2018-19.
COACH OF THE YEAR: Christopher Bradshaw, Kinston
This was one of the easier decisions made in this entry, but props have to go toward other coaches. Arendell Parrott Academy lost Virginia Edmondson early in the season, but Kelly Johnson had the Patriots advancing to the playoffs and winning a game for the second straight year. North Lenoir’s Howard Wooley helped guide the Hawks to 15 victories, including a second-round trip as well. Ayden-Grifton went 0-20 last year, but improved to eight wins in 2018-19, so Charles Kessel has to get credit for the Chargers not becoming such an easy out.
Ultimately, Bradshaw got the selection for how the Vikings bounced back from early adversity. A five-game skid to close out 2018 turned into a 20-game winning streak to start 2019 and déjà vu — a second straight undefeated regular-season conference record, tournament title and trip to the 2A Eastern Regional. Kinston may have immense talent and depth, but Bradshaw had the team playing as one instead of individually with a great focus on defense. This was a true family atmosphere and it was another great season for the Vikings.
Now, on to the all-Neuse News teams (in alphabetical order).
Anzaryia Cobb, Kinston
Stats: 9.8 ppg, 12.2 rpg, 2.0 bpg, 2.0 apg
At times this season, the junior was borderline unguardable. Not too many teams have an answer for her anyway, but Cobb forced the issue on numerous occasions, getting stronger as the season progressed. Cobb led the Vikings in rebounds and blocks, and should get only better next season.
Michyla Dove, Kinston
Stats: 10.2 ppg, 3.0 apg, 2.0 spg
The junior gave the team a great lift offensively and could score in bunches if she got hot. Dove was second on the team in scoring and assists, also guaranteeing at least one highlight play per game. Kinston has plenty of talent on its team and Dove certainly made her presence felt on a great roster.
Ashanti Lynch, North Lenoir
Stats: 17.0 ppg
There must've been scores of individuals asking the same question throughout the year: she's a freshman? Lynch took the ECC by storm this season and was the leading scorer in the area, but also threw tremendous passes and played very solid defense. Expect her to be a POY recipient sometime in the next three years.
Taniejah Mitchell, South Lenoir
Stats: 13.6 ppg, 8.7 rpg, 2.4 spg, 1.1 bpg
The senior looked to make up for lost time after missing most of her junior season due to injury. Mitchell led the Blue Devils in scoring, rebounding and blocks, expanding her range beyond the arc while continuing her role as a reliable finisher in the paint.
Kanijah Taylor, North Lenoir
Stats: 13.0 ppg
As Lynch did her damage on the perimeter and driving to the basket, the junior provided a great balance with strong post play. Taylor was a consistent double-double threat and played a big role in the Hawks finishing with their best record in more than a decade.
Zy’keriah Andrews, Ayden-Grifton
Stats: 10 ppg, 4 rpg, 3 spg, 2 apg
The Chargers went from a winless 2017-18 campaign to eight victories this season, and the senior played a significant role. Andrews had no issues driving through the lane and was a very good defender as well.
Gralicia Jenkins, South Lenoir
Stats: 11.9 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 3.9 apg, 1.7 spg, 0.9 bpg
The senior was about as reliable as a player could be for the Blue Devils. Jenkins was the starting point guard for South Lenoir, leading the team in assists and blocks with great leadership overall.
Sheriece Jones, Kinston
Stats: 8.1 ppg, 6.0 apg, 3.0 spg
The junior focused more on an all-around game this season, and it paid off for the Vikings in spades. Jones led the team in assists while locking up other guards as Kinston reached its second straight Regionals.
Emmenia Lynch, North Lenoir
Stats: 7.0 ppg
The junior didn't score a lot, but her presence on this list was based on setting up teammates and great defense. While the official stats aren't applicable, Lynch was a terror on the other side of the ball.
Integrity McPhail, North Lenoir
Stats: 11.4 ppg
The junior was already one of the best shooters in the area, but she took a step forward toward refining her game this season. McPhail handled the ball a little more this season to good results for an improved Hawks team.
Tanayja Green, Jones Senior
The junior was one of the quickest players in the Coastal Plains Conference, and she pestered opponents on the perimeter defensively. Green led the Trojans in points and steals, and will be a great building block for next year.
Destiny Hall, South Lenoir
Stats: 7.6 ppg, 2.3 spg
The junior was arguably the best reserve in the ECC and flashed great potential at times. Injuries slowed Hall down a bit this season, but don't be surprised if she has a breakout senior campaign.
Samantha Lee, Kinston
Stats: 7.0 ppg
Kinston had a lot of depth (stop me if you've heard that before) but the senior stood out as a reserve and providing instant offense. Lee also had some of the best handles in the conference, as the ankles of defenders will attest.
Kaliya Sutton, Greene Central
Stats: 7.9 ppg, 9.6 rpg, 1.2 spg
The Rams had a rough 2018-19 campaign, but the senior did her best to help the team. Sutton led Greene Central in scoring and rebounding, and was a good post presence.
Lesley Sutton, Kinston
Stats: 3.3 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 4.0 spg, 3.0 apg
The senior didn't look for her shot much, but she contributed well in so many other facets of the game. Sutton was a tremendous perimeter defender and got her teammates involved on the offensive end.
Zykia Andrews, Kinston
The junior was the most feared shooter in the Eastern Carolina Conference and hit the game-winner against Ledford to bring the Vikings to Regionals.
Comya Baker, Kinston
The senior didn’t score much, but made her contributions defensively and finished with six rebounds per game.
Ava Blair, Arendell Parrott Academy
The freshman led the Patriots in steals (3.3 spg) and finished second in scoring (5.5 ppg) and rebounding (6.9 rpg).
Nyesha Battle, Jones Senior
The senior made her presence more known on the defensive end and rebounding for the Trojans.
Ryan Case, Jones Senior
The senior finished second on the team in scoring and was a double-double threat for the Trojans.
Laura Lee Fulcher, Bethel Christian Academy
The sophomore led the Trojans in just about everything, including scoring (7.1 ppg), rebounds (6.5 rpg) and steals (2.7 spg).
Maya Hardy, Ayden-Grifton
The junior was a solid distributor (3.0 apg) and could cause havoc in the passing lanes on defense with three steals a game.
Khalia Hargett, Kinston
The sophomore picked up more minutes as the season went on, spelling the starters at point guard and playing good perimeter defense.
Cedaria Little, Ayden-Grifton
The sophomore finished second on the team in scoring (7.0 ppg) and averaged two steals defensively for the Chargers.
Rachel Okonkwo, Arendell Parrott Academy
Just an eighth-grader, she stepped up when Edmondson went down, leading the Patriots in scoring (8.0 ppg) and rebounding (7.8 rpg).
Caroline Ouano, Arendell Parrott Academy
The eighth-grader showed flashes of brilliance, leading the team in assists (4.7 apg) and 3-pointers (20).
Quiaira Powell, Kinston
The junior was one of the best perimeter shooters in the conference, but was arguably a better defender, getting two steals a game as a reserve.
Alena Rivers, Kinston
The junior was another key reserve for the Vikings, providing the team with a little bit of everything.