2022-23 Season Wrap-Up

2023 Mingua Beef Jerky Girls’ Basketball Sweet 16

The KHSAA is made up of 280 member schools, but at the end of each season, all of those schools are playing for one state championship. 64 district champions and their runners-up compete in 16 regions across the state for their chance to play for that state championship. In the end, making it to state is a huge accomplishment in itself. Here are the 16 schools that earned a trip to the 2023 Mingua Beef Jerky Girls’ Basketball Sweet 16 Tournament:

Region 1 – McCracken County

Region 2 – Henderson County

Region 3 – Owensboro Catholic

Region 4 – Bowling Green

Region 5 – Bethlehem

Region 6 – Mercy

Region 7 – Sacred Heart

Region 8 – Simon Kenton

Region 9 – Cooper

Region 10 – George Rogers Clark

Region 11 – Frederick Douglass

Region 12 – Mercer County

Region 13 – North Laurel

Region 14 – Knott County Central

Region 15 – Lawrence County

Region 16 – Ashland Blazer

From the teams above, the following were able to make it past the first round of the tournament: Owensboro Catholic, Sacred Heart, George Rogers Clark, North Laurel, Ashland Blazer, McCracken County, Mercy, and Henderson County. While all of those teams showed why they were able to make it that far in their post-season run, only four of those teams could advance to the semifinals. Sacred Heart and George Rogers Clark were the first teams to advance, which set up a highly anticipated re-match between these two programs.

Sacred Heart was undefeated against in-state competition this season, but George Rogers Clark was the team that came the closest to defeating them in the regular season as they took them down to the wire nearly a month earlier. In the end, the Valkyries were able to come out victorious once again, earning them a spot in the championship game. The other two teams that advanced to the semifinals were McCracken County and Henderson County. McCracken County, who only suffered two losses going into the tournament, was able to win that game in decisive fashion to earn the other spot in the championship game.

The stage was set. Two teams that had only lost a combined five games all season long were going to meet for their chance at the title.

For McCracken County, this was the focus from day one. They made it to the state tournament in the previous season, but were not happy with the result: a first round loss. Fast forward a year and it was clear from the start of the tournament that they were not going to let that happen again.

For Sacred Heart, they were playing to make history. Going into the tournament, they were one of only two programs that had previously won three straight state championships and winning the 2023 title would make them the first program to ever win three straight on two different occasions.

Ultimately, the back-to-back state champions turned into the back-to-back-to-back state champions as Sacred Heart defeated McCracken County, 68-53.

The following players were named to the all-tournament team:

  • Hailee Johnson, Owensboro Catholic
  • Brooke Nichelson, North Laurel
  • Kenleigh Woods, Ashland Blazer
  • Leah Macy, Mercy
  • Brianna Byars, George Rogers Clark
  • Ciara Byars, George Rogers Clark
  • Shalyn Sprinkles, Henderson County
  • Jarie Thomas, Henderson County
  • Caroline Sivills, McCracken County
  • Claire Johnson, McCracken County
  • Destiny Thomas, McCracken County
  • Triniti Ralston, Sacred Heart
  • Reagan Bender, Sacred Heart
  • Most Valuable Player: ZaKiyah Johnson, Sacred Heart

Post-Season Awards

The other big thing that comes at the end of the season are the post-season awards, such as the Rise Up Sports Media awards, Miss Kentucky Basketball and the various player of the year awards.

There were eight Rise Up Sports Media award categories this year: Rise Up Sports Title IX Award, Cassidy Rowe Courage Award, Lea Wise Prewitt Humanitarian Award, Rise Up Sports Player Of the Year, Jada Walker Heart & Hustle Award, Rise Up Sports 6th Woman Award, Valerie Still STILL I RISE Award, and the Rise Up Know HER Name Playmaker Award. You can read more about these awards by clicking here. The 2023 recipients include:

Rise Up Sports Title IX Award – Kristy Orem (Pikeville High School)

Cassidy Rowe Courage Award – Audrey Biggs (Boyd County) & Destiny Jones (Louisville Central)

Lea Wise Prewitt Humanitarian Award – Diamond Gray (Paducah Tilghman)

Rise Up Sports POY – Haven Ford (Rowan County) & Ciara O’Shea (Madison Central)

Jada Walker Heart & Hustle Award – Teigh Yeast (Mercer County)

Rise Up Sports 6th Woman Award – Kylie Ritter (Whitefield Academy)

Valerie Still STILL I RISE Award – Jayla Sky Miller (Buckhorn), Cassidy Adams (Buckhorn), Kylie Napier (Buckhorn), and the Buckhorn Volleyball Program

Rise Up Know HER Name Playmaker Award – Lauren Cummings (Billings, Montana) & Heaven Bailey (Montgomery, Alabama)

Similar to the state tournament setup, each region has one representative from the senior class that is a candidate for the Miss Kentucky Basketball award (some regions have two candidates due to a tie in the initial voting). Here were the 2023 Miss KY Basketball candidates:

Region 1 – Destiny Thomas (McCracken County)

Region 2 – Taylor Guess (Crittenden County)

Region 3 – Adylan Ayer (Daviess County)

Region 4 – Meadow Tisdale (Bowling Green)

Region 5 – Emma Filiatreau (Bethlehem)

Region 6 – Haley Dillman (Bullitt Central)

Region 7 – JaKayla Thompson (DuPont Manual)

Region 8 – Grace Brewer (Walton-Verona)

Region 9 – Whitney Lind (Cooper)

Region 10 – Brianna Byars (George Rogers Clark)

Region 11 – Kylee Dennis (Sayre)

Region 12 – Timberlynn Yeast (Mercer County) & Ayden Smiddy (Southwestern)

Region 13 – Emily Sizemore (North Laurel)

Region 14 – Courtney Hoskins (Leslie County) & Abby Maggard (Hazard)

Region 15 – Kensley Feltner (Lawrence County)

Region 16 – Haven Ford (Rowan County)

While there are a ton of talented players on the list above, Rowan County’s Haven Ford was ultimately named 2023 Miss Kentucky Basketball. Ford also received the Donna LJ Murphy Award which “honors a standout female senior basketball player who exemplifies the meaning of being a great student athlete.” Some other awards given at the event were for the regular season stat leaders:

Scoring Leader – Kensley Feltner, 28.9 PPG (Lawrence County)

Field Goals Leader – Alyssa Daughrity, 65% FG (Murray)

Free Throws Leader – Carly Smith, 87.3% FT (Owsley County)

*Sydney Martin has since been added to the top of the leaderboards, 89% FT (Pulaski County)

Three Point Leader – Noelle Hubert, 3.6 made 3’s per game (Notre Dame)

*Niah Rhodes has since been added to the top of the leaderboards, 3.7 made 3’s per game (Frederick Douglass)

Rebounding Leader – Grace Mbugua, 16.6 RPG (Danville Christian)

There are a couple of national services that also have Player of the Year awards at the end of each season, including the Kentucky Gatorade Player of the Year and MaxPreps Player of the Year awards. For the 2nd straight year, Sacred Heart’s ZaKiyah Johnson was the recipient of both of these awards. Johnson is ranked as the 2nd overall in the 2025 class per ESPNw and averaged 22.4 points, 8.2 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 2.0 steals per game throughout her sophomore season. 

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