Minyon Moore’s off-the-charts 40-point game for Salesian vs. Mitty and with her team getting Miramonte of Orinda next, got us to thinking that while we have a huge favorite who already is collecting numerous honors, the season isn’t over yet and that’s why we always wait until all games are in the books before announcing anything.
(Here are eight top candidates currently on our board to be Ms. Basketball State Player of the Year; all are listed in alphabetical order)
Mi’Cole Cayton (St. Mary’s, Stockton) Sr.
Sabrina Ionescu and Leaonna Odom are first team on the WABC High School Coaches All-American team but like Valerie Higgins, the Nebraska-bound Cayton (and Ally Rosenblum of Mater Dei) was one of 20 honorable mention choices. For the first time ever, a team has three Ms. Basketball finalists and despite the fact Cayton doesn’t put up the biggest numbers she is the clear leader of a national No. 1 team in every ranking that goes a dozen deep with players that would be huge contributors on almost any other team. She had her usual solid game in an 89-65 win over Carondelet in the NorCal Open quarterfinals after finishing 14 points, five rebounds and three assists. Her season averages are 12.0 points, 2.4 assists, 2.1 rebounds and 2.1 steals but its deceiving since many games she only plays one half or less.
Aquira DeCosta (St. Mary’s, Stockton) Sr.
The underclass finalist of the three St. Mary’s girls, and one of two underclass finalists overall, is also the leading candidate for State Sophomore of the Year after winning the 2015 State Freshman of the Year award. St. Mary’s has had some great players, including 2006 Ms. Basketball Jacki Gemelos, but the way DeCosta looks at this stage of her high school career the ESPN No. 1 rated player in the nation at any position may very well be the best Rams’ player ever. You could see it in the way she played against 2015 Ms. Basketball Katie Lou Samuelson in the CIF Open title game victory over Mater Dei last season. She had 10 points and nine rebounds against Carondelet and is averaging 14.8 points, 9.1 points and 3.3 steals per game.
Valerie Higgins (Chaminade, West Hills) Sr.
The other half of the 1-2 punch at Chaminade is higher on the pecking order of some analysts but hasn’t received as many honors so far the teammate Odom. The USC-bound Higgins followed up a 24 point, five assist outing in the CIFSS Open title-game win over Long Beach Poly with a triple-double 15 points, 15 rebounds and 10 assists in the Eagles win over Palisades on Friday night in the SoCal Open quarterfinals. Higgins is second to Odom in scoring on the team at 20.7 ppg, first in rebounds at 10.8 per game with 6.2 assists and 6.1 steals a game as well.
Sabrina Ionescu (Miramonte, Orinda) Sr.
The clear favorite that already has the Gatorade state award in her pocket and a spot on the McDonald’s team seemingly toyed with Stockton Brookside Christian in a 109-41 NorCal Open quarterfinal victory in which she helped orchestrate 100 points after three quarters with a double-double 33 points and 13 assists with six rebounds all before the fourth quarter. After a double-double 25 points and 13 rebounds with seven assists in a CIF North Coast Section Division III 82-67 title-game victory over Bishop O’Dowd of Oakland, the No. 1 rated guard and No. 4 overall player in the nation by Dan Olson of ESPN came into the Brookside game averaging 26.5 points, 9.0 assists, 7.5 rebounds and 5.5 steals a game.
Destiny Littleton (Bishop’s, La Jolla) Jr.
The leading candidate for State Junior of the Year and the reigning Sophomore Player of the Year finished the season with 1,178 points (35.7 ppg) after 28 points in the Knights 57-52 loss to Oaks Christian. She also had 10 rebounds for her 19th double-double of the season. With the loss Littleton didn’t get a chance to be the first girl to ever go over 3,000 points after her junior year but her 2,934 points is still the most ever after three seasons. It also puts her ahead of legendary Lisa Leslie (2,896 points) on the all-time list and leaves her only 903 points short of the all-time record of 3,837 points of Charde Houston, who incidentally was coached by Bishop’s head coach Marlon Wells when he was head coach at San Diego.
Minyon Moore (Salesian, Richmond) Sr.
About the only thing you can say about Minyon is she is a smaller version of her sister Mariya Moore (now a starting sophomore at Louisville) who two years ago was a runner-up to current UCLA star Jordin Canada for Ms. Basketball. The USC-bound Moore is a perfect example of why at Cal-Hi Sports we wait until the season is over to name our All-State honors. After her 40-point, nine-steal, five-assist and four-rebound performance in her team’s biggest game and win of the season with its 70-66 victory over Archbishop Mitty, it’s pretty clear Moore should have already received some honors but has been under the radar screen of some organizations that make their All-American choices before the season is over.
Leaonna Odom (Chaminade, West Hills) Sr.
The other McDonald’s All-American along with Ionescu followed up her big 23-point, five-assist effort in the CIF Southern Section Open Division win over Long Beach Poly with a double-double 25 points and 10 rebounds in the Eagles’ 79-67 victory over Palisades in the Southern Regional Open quarterfinals. Over the past few weeks, the Duke-bound Odom has been playing her best basketball of the season and it could not come at a better time as Chaminade makes a drive toward a CIF Open Division state title game appearance. Odom is now averaging 21.3 points, 9.5 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 2.4 steals a game.
Kat Tudor (St. Mary’s, Stockton) Sr.
The Oregon State-bound long-range shooting specialist has improved her overall game to the point where she is just as adept at slashing to the basket as she is a three-point shooter. Her defense in the all out pressing style of St. Mary’s is excellent although she rarely gets in foul trouble and had a high of four fouls on two occasions this season. She had 18 points against Carondelet (4-of-5 on 3-pointers) and is averaging 13.3 points, 3.7 rebounds and 2.1 steals a game. Her chance to break the 3-point record took a hit with her playing time limited in so many St. Mary’s blowouts, but still has made 65 from outside the arc and shot 41 percent, and now also has 364 on 3-pointers for her career.
Harold Abend is the associate editor of CalHiSports.com and the vice president of the California Prep Sportswriters Association. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Don’t forget to follow him on Twitter: @HaroldAbend