1 of 6
5A MVP, Dani Peterson, Skyline

What makes a player valuable differs from team to team. Some are fiery and physical, others are hard-working, talented leaders who may not have a lot to say. But regardless of how different their personalities or skills are, an MVP always offers her squad what it needs most to be successful.

Whether they did it through vocal leadership or working harder than anyone else on the team, this year's Deseret Morning News Most Valuable Players led their teams to state titles by elevating the play of those around them while offering their best to the teams and schools they represent.


Dani Peterson, Skyline

For the past three seasons, the Eagles have relied on the athleticism, size and skill of Dani Peterson in the paint. But this year, her consistency and leadership elevated the play of her younger, more inexperienced supporting cast.

With just two returning starters, some expected the Eagles to struggle. And while they lost one non-region game and one region contest, the Eagles found a way to continue doing what they've done so well the past few years.

With Peterson in the post, Skyline has compiled an impressive 65-7 record and two 5A state titles. This year she averaged 17.1 points, 10.7 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game as she led the squad to a 5A championship.

"She's competitive, versatile and has an amazing set of skills for a post player," said Skyline head coach Deb Bennett. "She has improved each year and will continue to tap into her wealth of potential as she is challenged at the (collegiate) level."

Peterson and her Skyline teammate, Jenteal Jackson, will join forces next season as members of the BYU women's basketball team. The duo has helped three different sets of teammates to the 5A finals the last three years, and part of that is due to Peterson's friendship with her teammates.

"She is a great teammate and supports others," Bennett said. "When she asserts herself, she is vocal and leads with fiery determination. Her teammates respond to that and follow her lead. ... She has learned to fight through adversity and, when focused and confident, she's unstoppable."


Amy Andrus, Sky View

Courage and toughness have always been trademarks of Amy Andrus, but this year the sophomore post player showed off her court sense, maturity and athletic skill as she led the Bobcats to their first-ever girls basketball title.

"She's a hard worker," said Sky View head coach Paul Hansen. "She's self-driven and self-motivated. She leads by example and plays 100 percent all the time."

In fact, just before the state tournament, the Bobcats were trying to practice at 80 percent.

"I didn't want anyone to get hurt," Hansen said. "But after missing several shots she usually makes, Amy turned to her coach and said, 'Hey, this 80 percent thing isn't really working for me.' So we let her do her thing. She's never sitting; she's never standing around. She's one of the last ones shooting free throws at the end of practice, and for such a young player, she's very confident."

Andrus' ability to mix it up down low may come from having older brothers who played football. The only girl, she wasn't about to be left out, so she kept up. She learned to harness her energy and control her emotions this season, which made her invaluable to have on the floor when the game was on the line.

"Her maturity really developed this year," Hansen said.


Tara Gehring, Wasatch

The Wasps finished a perfect 25-0 season behind the leadership and athletic ability of one of the most humble players in the game, senior Tara Gehring.

"She is simply the best basketball athlete we have," said Wasps head coach Roger Pyper. "Everything we've done has been centered around her skills. ... She's one of those gifted athletes who can do almost anything you need her to do."

Winning a 3A title without a loss takes consistency and mental toughness, and those were qualities Gehring possessed aplenty.

"She was the most focused kid we had all year," Pyper said. "It's been really amazing this season. The kids just didn't want to be beat. Sometimes you have letdowns, but this team was always focused."

Gehring wasn't the team's vocal leader, but when something needed to be done, she jumped right in and did it.

"She's a little shy, but when she wants to get her point across, she is not afraid to tell you," he said. "I think she's very underrated. She's just one of these gifted athletes who is always moving to get open, to make something happen. You can't teach it; you can't really coach it. Very few athletes have what she has inside."

Gehring, also a soccer standout, hasn't decided if she'll play sports in college, despite several offers, but with a 3.9 GPA she also has academic scholarship offers.


Jaden Parsons, S. Sevier

The Rams earned their second-straight title with junior Jaden Parsons at the helm of a talented, athletic team.

"She's our point guard, so everything we do runs through her," said South Sevier head coach Randy Madsen. And not only does she run that offense with precision, averaging nearly six assists per game, she can also put points on the board herself. She averaged 14 points per game this season for the 2A champions.

"She's one of the state's top 3-point shooters," he said. "Her leadership really helps us."

Parsons' leadership skills were put to the test when the Rams' 27-game win streak came to an end with a double-overtime loss to region rival Richfield. South Sevier stumbled again against North Sevier, although it was missing two starters from its lineup.

"She's both vocal, and she leads by example," said Madsen. "She has a great work ethic, and she works hard off the court as well. She is a great fundamental player."

She won't monopolize a conversation, but "she will say what needs to be said." Parsons' favorite go-to player is junior Aubrey Lindgren, and Madsen said watching the two of them team up "is something special."


Allie Eastman, Rich

There isn't much Allie Eastman can't do on the basketball court.

The junior is so versatile, it's hard to define her skills with a position. The program lists her as a forward, and she averaged seven rebounds per game. Her coach considers her a guard, and she scored 15 points per game and grabbed three steals per game.

"She has a great court awareness and vision," said Rebels head coach Scott Ferguson. "She's a huge part of why we're able to fast-break as much as we do."

Eastman can shoot from anywhere and is a solid free-throw shooter.

"She shoots effortlessly," Ferguson said. "She has the touch. ... That helps out a lot more aspects of our game, especially inside because teams have to worry about her."

Also a volleyball player, Eastman thrives under pressure.

"Stress doesn't seem to bother her," Ferguson said. "When it's crunch time, she wants the ball. Her desire and focus is motivating to her teammates."

Her leadership and athletic ability helped the Rebels to their first 1A title in girls basketball.

"She's just a super kid," Ferguson said. "She's fun to coach and pleasant to be around."

E-mail: [email protected]