Eagle senior Jalen Cook tops the Addison Independent team

ADDISON COUNTY — Once again the Mount Abraham Union High School girls’ basketball team proved to be the cream of the local crop, winning 20 games before falling in a Division II semifinal.
And a senior team leader who was the Eagles’ only returning starter from their 2018 title team is the 2019 Addison IndependentGirls’ Basketball Player of the Year — Jalen Cook.
Two more of Coach Connie LaRose’s Eagles join Cook on the 2019 Addison IndependentGirls’ Basketball All-Star Team.
Coach Billy Waller’s Vergennes program enjoyed its most productive campaign in more than a decade, winning nine games and taking D-II’s No. 5 seed to overtime in a first-round playoff loss. The Commodores were deep, and 10 team members earned major playing time, a situation that also limited individual stats. Four are honored here.
Coach Kelly Trayah’s youthful Otter Valley squad played hard and won six times, but an at-times inconsistent offense limited the Otters as they posted six wins. Two juniors earned recognition on the Independentteam.
Coach Jen Heath’s Middlebury team went through a major rebuild and infusion of youth, and despite some competitive efforts did not post a victory. One of the team’s promising younger players made the Independentsquad.
Selections were made based on observation, statistics and consultation with the coaches.
JALEN COOK, MOUNT ABE SENIOR, PLAYER OF THE YEAR.Notes: Quick, athletic and skilled offensive player who also helped spark the Eagles on the defensive end … Led all local scorers with 12.7 points per game while shooting 43 percent on two-point attempts and 32 percent on threes … Contributed across the board with 5.7 rebounds, 3.0 steals and 2.5 assists per game … Worked the top of the press effectively … Made key plays at the end of close games … Voted Lake Division Player of the Year by opposing coaches.
LaRose’s Quotes: “She was a tough rebounder and a good defender … She’s got a very quick first step … She had a very quick release on her shot … She was a good leader, always trying to help her teammates with defensive coverage, talking to people. She was probably the best communicator on the team … She’s got some length, she’s athletic, she’s quick, all the things the ballhandler doesn’t want to be looking at when they’re trying to break a press … She came up big in really a lot of the games.”
CHLOE JOHNSTON, MOUNT ABE JUNIOR.Notes: Quick and relentless defender whose 10.3 points per game trailed only Cook locally … Averaged 4.8 steals and deflected another 4.2 passes a game while playing tough on-ball defense … Led the Eagles with 3.0 assists per game and chipped in 3.4 rebounds … Good ballhandler and shooter who connected at a 44 percent rate on twos and 33 percent on threes. 
LaRose’s Quotes: “She was rarely in foul trouble as the season progressed, which was really good for us, because we couldn’t really afford to have her off the floor … She’s such a hard worker, a committed worker, on the court … She wants to get better every day … She’s got a refreshing eagerness about playing the game … I wouldn’t trade her for a point guard I saw this year. I really wouldn’t.”
CIARA McCLAY, VUHS SENIOR.Notes: Provided ballhandling, speed and defense in the backcourt for Vergennes and played particularly well down the stretch … Helped in all departments by averaging 5.5 points, 2.8 rebounds, a team-high 3.5 assists, and 2.6 steals … Routinely sliced through opposing presses with her quickness handling the ball … Team leader who embraced fewer minutes to allow Waller to platoon two groups of five athletes each. 
Waller’s Quotes: “She picked up a notch the last 10 games of our season. She was very, very good … Her assists went sky-high over the last 10 games, and the turnovers went way down …  She was beating presses to the point that teams were taking them off … She was not just stealing passes, she was picking kids’ pockets …She was one of the first kids to buy into my platoon system, and it was going to be her minutes that were going to be cut … That says a lot about her.” 
ALIA EDMUNDS, OV JUNIOR.Notes: Versatile two-way player and team leader who averaged 8.1 points, a team-high 7.6 rebounds, and 1.6 assists … Had the skills, quickness, outside shot and floor vision to play on the perimeter and strength and size to be effective in the post and on the boards … Strong individual and smart team defender and communicator at both ends of the court.
Trayah’s Quotes: “She was the field general for the defense … She is our voice … She’s a very good passer. She plays multiple positions. She could probably play point guard if we needed her to … She was our best shooter, and she’s also good inside … She would post up with anybody … She consistently works on her game.” 
KATE GOSLIGA, VUHS SOPHOMORE.Notes: Go-to scorer for the Commodores who averaged 9.0 points per game with a variety of moves in the low post … Could score with either hand effectively and had a strong first step to the hoop … Improved as an individual and help defender and led all local players with 55 blocked shots, or 2.6 per game, adding 5.1 rebounds per contest. 
Waller’s Quotes: “She was a target player for us … If games were close and we needed shots made down the stretch it was her … Her low-post game is very old-school, in a good way … She’s got back-to-the basket moves … She passes out of the post pretty well, and she can draw fouls … Her defense was a giant improvement over last year. She moved her feet … She could slide across the lane and help.” 
LIVIA BERNHARDT, OV JUNIOR.Notes: Effective low-post scorer whose 10.0 points per game were third-best locally … Found a way to put the ball in the basket even though opponents routinely packed the paint to defend OV’s inside game … Strong rebounder who averaged 7.4 boards per game …Sound interior defender who improved in that department as the year progressed.  
Trayah’s Quotes: “We knew we were going to get points through her … She’s quick to the basket … She finishes really well around the basket. She’s got nice soft hands … She has a good little shot from 10, 12 feet out and rebounds like a monster … She was always battling in there for rebounds … In quite a few games she was a double-double … She’s such a good kid to coach.
EMILY ROONEY, VUHS JUNIOR.Notes: Major contributor to the Commodores with strong defense, passing, ballhandling and rebounding from the guard position … Averaged 4.3 steals, 3.5 assists (tying McClay), 5.7 rebounds (more than half on the offensive end) and 2.9 points … Typically defended opponents’ top guards … Led VUHS in plus-minus rating in the games that stat was tracked. 
Waller’s Quotes: “Rooney is probably one of the top two or three post passers I’ve had … More than anything she has a will that she imposes on others. Usually it’s on the defensive end … She does take that challenge of guarding that best guard on the opposing team … She reads the play on both ends … Her anticipation is just outstanding … She’s in tremendous condition.”
BRIANNA VANDERWEY, VUHS SENIOR.Notes: Big presence in the paint for VUHS, especially at the defensive end, averaging 8.2 rebounds, a local best, and 2.5 blocks per game … Showed a real knack for blocking her own opponent’s shots and helping out, all while not never fouling out in four years of varsity play … Could hit the open shot and convert offensive rebounds efficiently, averaging 6.0 points. 
Waller’s Quotes: “She does lot of her damage facing up … She’s got pretty good range … Her defensive rebounding is outstanding … Bri does a great job of coming over and making that shot difficult or just flat-out blocking it … She blocks a lot of shots without fouling … She can challenge shots on a nightly basis and never get in foul trouble … She has impeccable timing.”
IVY DORAN, MUHS FRESHMAN.Notes: Poised, competitive and skilled freshman point guard who led the Tigers with 5.0 points and 1.5 assists per game … Strong, athletic defender who averaged 1.5 steals and often guarded opponents’ top scorers … Good rebounder from the guard position, picking off 3.4 per game.  
Heath’s Quotes: “We were a different team when she was in foul trouble or wasn’t on the court … Her composure as a ballhandler really stuck out. She’s got great ballhandling ability … She played some of the other teams’ top players because she’s a really intense player … She’s just a really intense player and competitor … She’s a very hard worker with a great attitude … She’s only going to get better with that kind of work ethic.”
MOLLY MURRAY, MOUNT ABE SENIOR.Notes: Glue player for the Eagles at both ends of the floor … Good defender, ballhandler and passer who helped the Eagle offense run well, took good care of the ball and could hit the open shot … Strong rebounding guard who averaged 3.0 per game … Also averaged 4.1 points, 2.0 steals and 1.5 assists.
LaRose’s Quotes: “Molly was just consistent game-in and game-out. She’s going to work hard defensively, going to grab some boards here and there … She’s a pretty consistent shooter … I wish she’d shot a whole lot more …She’s really a hard worker. She could go all game long, just a real battler out there … She did a great job really denying shots and closing out on shooters.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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