Most anyone with athletic ability can turn herself into a player. It is not that hard to perfect a shot or a rebounding technique with a little ability and some hard work.
But this year's Deseret Morning News girls basketball Most Valuable Players offered their teammates more than scoring, rebounding or any other statistical lift. They provided emotional leadership and friendship and taught the very essence of success that a few committed people can accomplish more than any individual ever dreamed of doing alone.
5A MVP: Haley Hall, Clearfield
This senior point guard has always been the centerpiece of the Falcons' program. But in her senior season, the 5-foot-6, BYU-bound point guard went from being just another talented player to being a team leader.
She led the state in scoring, averaging 23 points per game, but also averaged seven assists, six steals and 4.5 rebounds per game. She had two games with triple-doubles and helped the Falcons to a quarterfinal finish in the 5A tournament. It was not the end she envisioned, but it was successful nonetheless.
"She's the hardest worker I've ever been around," said her father and coach, Dorne Hall.
Just a day after her team was eliminated from the 5A state tournament, Hall was hitting the weights and running.
"I think BYU is excited for her, but I think they're going to be surprised at what they're going to get day after day," Dorne Hall said.
Hall's speed and ball-handling ability were second to none as she led her teammates through some of the most exciting region games. Opposing coaches hated trying to guard her knowing they might be able to slow her down, but that would be about the extent of it.
"Haley in the open court is the best player in the state," said Skyline coach Deb Bennett after the Eagles figured out a way past Hall and the Falcons in the quarterfinals. "She's just a tremendous athlete."
4A MVP: Krista Farr, Bonneville
Not every team could do what the Bonneville Lakers did this season. Not only did they turn around a losing preseason and have a winning region record, but they played their way to the 4A finals, where they finished second to Orem. But then again, not every team has a leader who will do whatever it takes to win including taking a back seat to a talented teammate.
That's exactly what the 6-1 forward did this season. She averaged a double-double working hard in the paint and in the shadow of her higher-scoring teammate, Jessie Baddley. When asked about it during the state tournament, she just smiled.
"We're both part of the Bonneville team," Farr said. "We don't care who scores. We just want to win."
Through sheer determination, Farr has made herself one of the state's best players, averaging 13.7 points and 10.3 rebounds in her senior season.
"She's a great example for young people who want to accomplish something," said Laker coach Matt Williams. "She plays so much basketball, and that's how she's gotten better."
Williams said Farr's energetic play and supportive attitude were indicative of the entire team this season.
"They all were unselfish," he said. "They just wanted to play. Krista is a fun girl to be around, and on or off the court, the conversation is always about basketball."
3A MVP: Cassie Platt, Cnyn. View
Last year after this sophomore point guard had an off shooting night, she went home and asked her parents to let her go to a nearby LDS Church gym so she could "fix her shot."
"Her mom told her to just take the night off and relax," said Falcons coach Steve Hodson. "Her dad said, 'OK, let's go.' So at 11 at night, they went to the gym to shoot so she could straighten out that shot. They're just a really competitive, hard-working family."
That extra work showed already, as the sophomore went from just a great shooter to more of a true point guard this season. The result was a state title for the Falcons.
"She's probably the most humble superstar I've ever coached," said Hodson, who's coached boys and girls basketball for 28 years. "She's extremely unselfish, and for anyone who is as good as she is at such a young age, you just don't find that combination very often."
In addition to being hard-working and self-effacing, Platt is always grateful.
"She's so appreciative of everything she gets," Hodson said. "You'll just offer her some advice on her shot or a pass, and she'll thank you. It's really nice to hear, 'Thanks coach for helping me get to where I'm supposed to be.'"
2A MVP: Valma Cook, N. Sevier
Last year when the Wolves travelled to San Juan for a girls basketball game, they walked into the gym to see a sign that said, "Welcome, Valma!"
"She has a friend in every gym," said coach Lexa Larsen. "Everybody just wants to be around her."
Cook is only 5-7, but led her team in rebounding because she plays so hard. She has always been popular with her teammates, and statistically, she's always led her team, but this year she and Kasta Nielsen offered their teammates emotional leadership as well.
"She led mostly by example," Larsen said. "When we needed a big play, she came up with it. She's capable of scoring 30 points in a night, but she averages about 11 points because she does such a good job of getting all of her teammates involved."
The Wolves have felt like the state's best 2A team for the last several years, but it wasn't until Cook and Nielsen helped the team with that extra little emotional push that North Sevier earned the state title.
"They brought that determination, and they were going to do it no matter what," Larsen said.
Cook is a natural athlete, but loves hoops so much, she can't be persuaded to dabble in other sports.
"They did talk her into going out for track last year and they took state," Larsen said. "I think she's going to run track again this year."
1A MVP: Halie Sawyer, Panguitch
Halie Sawyer has always been the Bobcats' leader. Before she was their emotional leader, she contributed statistically in both rebounds and points. Her athleticism helped her earn a scholarship with the University of Utah something no other Bobcat player has done.
"She's the most versatile player I've had the opportunity to coach," said Bobcat coach Curtis Barney. "She is willing to do whatever it takes to make the team successful, whether it's rebounding, playing good defense or finding the open player when she is double-teamed...She is very unselfish, and she's a great team leader and a great person."Sawyer has always been able to rebound and score, but her ability to lead and help her teammates really developed this season and allowed her to lead the Bobcats to their second straight title. She averaged 19 points, 11 rebounds and five assists per game.
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