By Greg Price
Another successful season has come and gone for the W.R. Myers Rebels varsity girls basketball team, but not without some Southern Alberta High School Girls Basketball League recognition to go along with it for three members of the team.
Not since the days of Janelle Bekkering has a member of the W.R. Myers Rebels varsity girls basketball team received MVP recognition and Millay Johnson did just that, getting co-MVP honours alongside Lethbridge Collegiate Institute’s Jessica Zarowny. Johnson also won a Shooting Stars 3A Player of the Year.
“People ask me how am I going to replace Millay, and you don’t replace that. You really don’t,” said Kenney Wood, head coach of the W.R. Myers Rebels varsity girls basketball team. “And for Jessica Zarowny to get it as well over at LCI, they are completely polar opposites. One is a power forward and the other runs the show, so I was really happy to see both get it. It would be really hard to say who is the best player when they play different types of games at different positions.”
The multi-faceted play of Johnson has got the attention of various post-secondary institutions including Lethbridge, Medicine Hat, Red Deer, and Edmonton.
“Almost every place in Alberta has contacted me or Marty about having her come,” said Wood of the humble Johnson. “She’s a very dynamic player. She is quick and fast. She can break your ankles and extend the distance between you and her if you give her a little room. She has natural ability, but she works and works at it. I can’t ever recall seeing her over the summer without a basketball. She has the full package where she’s a great shooter and she has that floor presence where she can see what’s going on and give the ball to people at the right moment. She can break down a defender with her dribbling. You get those types of players once in a blue moon.”
The Rebels also saw two players get second team all-star nods in Kitawna Sparks and Natalie Hoyt.
Sparks earned her all-star as a Grade 10 player, as her game improved as the season progressed and she found her confidence that she could more than compete against players two years her senior in the paint as a forward.
“A lot was expected of her and from November until March she improved dramatically with her confidence and understanding the speed of the game. She worked at it and you could see that improvement from month to month,” said Wood. “At the beginning of the year, the phrase for her was, ‘This isn’t Grade 9 basketball anymore’. You could dominate easily before, but now you can’t because you are playing against fellow six-footers who are in Grade 12 who mentally are two years advanced.”
While her game will continue to grow and mature in her next two years of high school basketball, Sparks still managed to stuff the stat sheet plenty of times with double-doubles in points and rebounds.
“It was nice to see her get a nod all-star wise. I think she got 20 double-doubles out of 35 games. To be able to do that as a Grade 10 is amazing,” said Kenney, adding Sparks also got a Shooting Stars 3A Rookie of the Year award out of Chestermere as well.
Hoyt received her third straight all-star selection for her stellar guard play since she was in Grade 10, powered by a motor that won’t quit and a heart to drive against players much larger than her — where the word ‘fearless’ comes to mind for Wood.
“I tease her that people don’t understand that if they get you mad, then look out because they are not going to have the ball and you are going to be doing a lay up,” said Wood. “Being an all-star all three years, it’s rightly so. She is such a determined player. She’s a drop-dead shooter. During the provincial final, McCoy was in her face all game long and Natalie was getting frustrated. But I was telling her, ‘they are terrified of you because they don’t want you to get going, take it as a compliment’. She puts the works in, in the offseason. Shooters don’t become good shooters from November to March. They become good shooters from March to November.”