King making her case for Miss Basketball

Published 6:15 am Thursday, January 31, 2019


Contributing Writer

Last year the 12th Region swept the Miss and Mr. Basketball awards with Mercer County’s Seygan Robins and Trevon Faulkner winning the state’s most prestigious high school basketball award.

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Could the 12th Region produce another Miss Basketball this year?

Maybe because Lincoln County’s Emma King is one of the top candidates, or maybe the top candidate to some. She became Lincoln County’s all-time leading scorer this year and has already signed to play at the University of Kentucky.

“I think Emma King is a serious candidate, if not the leading candidate, for Miss Basketball at this point in the season,” said Chris Souder, Robins’ coach at Mercer County for five years and now the head coach at South Laurel. “It really depends on what people think the award stands for? Some think you have to average a crazy amount of points and put up huge numbers every night but the award is not the person that scores the most points.”

Robins proved that. She averaged 14.6 points, 4.3 assists, 2.9 rebounds and 2.4 steals per game last season, became Mercer’s all-time leading scorer and signed with Louisville. However, she had one bonus — Mercer won the state title her junior year and then again as a senior.

Lincoln’s last two seasons have been ended by Mercer and that has kept King out of the state tourney spotlight.

Some of the other leading candidates are Maaliya Owens of Scott County, Savannah Wheeler of Boyd County, Cameron Browning of Male and Nila Blackford of Manual. Wheeler leads the state in scoring at 31 points per game. Owens averages 20 points per game and is among the state’s top 3-point shooters at 45 percent. Browning is averaging a double-double and Blackford is in the top 25 in both scoring and rebounding. Danville’s Ivy Turner, who recently went over 2,000 points, probably deserves to be among the top candidates but likely won’t be because of her lack of statewide name recognition.

King leads her team in scoring (17.5), rebounding (7.4), and free throw percentage (88). She’s also hitting 40 percent from 3-point range. She has now scored 2,295 points and has 699 rebounds in her career.

However, she has two senior teammates — Maddy Boyle (16 points per game, 60 percent field goal, 40 percent 3) and Kaitlyn Wilks (15.4 points and 7.2 rebounds per game) — who are productive scorers and have also already signed college scholarships. The other two starters — Trinity Shearer and Zaria Napier — both average 6.9 points per game.

That’s the same kind of balance Robins had on her team the last two years so she did not have to concentrate solely on scoring to help her team win.

Some have speculated about whether a 12th Region player could win the award back-to-back years. Lexington Herald-Leader sportswriter Josh Moore doesn’t think that will directly impact King.

“But it could hurt her that Seygan/Mercer had their number over the last few years. That isn’t Emma or Lincoln’s fault really — that Mercer County group was awesome, and deserved all the success it achieved and attention it garnered — but it did have the unintended consequence of reducing the rest of the region’s teams to ‘also-ran’ status the last few seasons,” Moore said.

“Emma’s name might not be as well known because she didn’t have the opportunity to play at state because she lived in Mercer’s big shadow. I do think she and Lincoln County have made up a lot of ground, though.”

Souder hopes that Robins winning Miss Basketball last year does not deter anyone from voting for King.

“It shouldn’t matter if you are the best player what region you come from or if a player won it from the same region the year before,” Souder said. “It does show how strong the 12th Region has been over the years.”

Moore believes Robins had a big trump card — a state championship — going into her senior season that none of the top players have this year.

“I think Maaliya Owens has an interesting case. Scott County is one of the state’s premier programs, they made the Sweet Sixteen last year and she’s a 2,000 point scorer — and is one of the other leaders,” Moore said.

However, he says if he had to vote today, he would vote for Wheeler.

“She’s an incredible scorer/shooter and led Boyd County to its deepest state tourney run ever. She’ll get an ample amount of votes from eastern Kentucky,” Moore said. “As much as it helps Maaliya being from a historic program, it also helps Savannah that her school isn’t a juggernaut. Some voters have soft spots for programs not often in the spotlight .”

Of course, that not being in the spotlight could help King, too, because Lincoln has never had a Miss Basketball, either. Lincoln recently beat three teams — Clark County, Scott County and Simon Kenton — favored to win their regions in a three-day period. The Patriots are 18-3 after Tuesday night’s win over Southwestern.

Souder said there is not a lot that Lincoln coach Cassandra McWhorter can do now to help King other than get information on her career out to coaches and media members.

“I feel that if you have a Miss Basketball contender you have to get exposure for her and her team throughout the season. Lincoln has played a tough schedule and will play in the upcoming LIT (this weekend) and let me tell you if that doesn’t prepare you (for the postseason) nothing will because it is a brutal but yet beneficial and crucial test for your team,” Souder said.

“I feel Miss Basketball contenders step up when the lights are the brightest or when a big play is needed. Emma proved that late in their win at unbeaten Scott County.”

King did that again Tuesday night. Lincoln was coming off an upset loss to Casey County — its only 12th Region loss this season — and she had 10 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists in a 54-36 win over Southwestern, a team that has given the Patriots fits the last two years. The victory boosted Lincoln’s record to 18-3 (the other two losses were to Louisville Christian and Highlands)

“Big-time players make big-time plays for their team when they need it most. I think you have be surrounded by a very good supporting cast — which they do have at Lincoln — and I don’t think you have to average a crazy amount of points to win the award,” Souder added.

So what does King have to do the last few weeks of the regular season before postseason play starts and the voting for Miss Basketball ends.

“She just needs to continue doing what she is doing and the rest will take care of itself,” Souder said. “Being a 12th region guy most of my coaching career, I would love to see back to back Miss Basketball represented by the 12th Region.

“To me, Emma checks all the boxes to win this award and she will get my vote! Just like Seygan, I am sure she would give up the award to win a state championship but winning both is definitely something special. I wish her nothing but the best,” Souder said.