Hope Lester gets better and better.
Westside’s 6-foot junior center was one of the state’s best post players as a freshman. She added a 3-point shot as a sophomore, and, this season, began creating her own shots, driving the ball to the basket with authority.
She averaged 20 points, 14 rebounds, three blocks, four assists and two steals in leading the 21-3 Renegades to their second state championship in the past three years.
Her efforts have landed her the captain’s position on the Class AA all-state first team, as named by the West Virginia Sports Writers Association.
“It all goes back to Hope’s work ethic. She works all year round on her game,” Westside coach Jamie Lusk said. “She plays AAU ball and faces the best competition around. She’s not intimidated by anybody because of what she sees during the spring and summer.”
At the state tournament, Lester topped all scorers in her class with 64 points, led the rebounders with 42, had the most free throws made with 13 and was third in 3-point goals with five.
Already committed to Marshall University, Lester will no doubt play outside on the next level. Preparing for that, Lusk often utilized her as a guard as well as a post.
“Hope is still learning the position, but she handles the ball as good as anybody around,” he said. “She sees the floor well and she’s a great passer. She has a very high basketball IQ.”
So what will Lester bring to her game for her final season?
“That’s a good question. She’s already put it all together,” Lusk said. “She’s got the skills needed to perform at the next level.
“I think she’ll be able to do whatever she desires to do. She works that hard.”
Summers County 5-11 center Brandy Morrison, a four-year letterman, saved the best for last. The team’s only senior starter had numerous high-scoring games early while her young teammates jelled around her.
Morrison averaged 17 points, eight rebounds and three steals for the 20-4 Bobcats.
Clay County’s McKinzee Barker, like Lester, is a holdover from last year’s first team.
The junior averaged 12.5 points a game, giving solid rebounding, playmaking and defense to the 16-6 Panthers.
Lincoln’s Emily Knight and Tolsia’s Savannah Winnett advanced from last year’s second team.
Knight, a 5-10 senior forward, averaged 11.4 points, seven rebounds, 4.5 assists and two steals for the 16-5 Cougars.
Winnett, also a senior, was a powerhouse in scoring and rebounding for the Rebels, who were 7-15 in a rebuilding year. She provided 15 points and 11 rebounds per game.
Runner-up Sissonville placed 5-8 senior Brittany Gould on the AA first team. She averaged 20 points a contest, tops among three high scorers on the 23-4 Indians.
Kaden Whaley, a 5-11 junior forward, contributed 21 points and nine rebounds for State Tournament top seed Fairmont Senior (21-2).
Senior guard Lexi Carr from Keyser wasn’t well known before the state tournament, but her performances there established herself as one of West Virginia’s top players. She averaged 18.1 points for the 24-3 Golden Tornado.
Emily Stoller, the other half of Fairmont Senior’s dynamic post game, captains the second team. The 6-1 junior gave the Polar Bears 20 points a game.
Also on the second team are Sissonville’s Madison Jones, North Marion’s Megan Haller, Ravenswood’s Hailey Miller, North Marion’s Anna Maria Moscufo, Herbert Hoover’s Hannah King, Weir’s Alyssa Shingle and Berkeley Springs Sarah Haynes.
The third team features Faith Davis from Westside, Whittney Justice from Summers County, Lyndsay Hatfield from PikeView, Ali Whitman from Scott, Kristen Desrocher from Chapmanville, Cassidy Taylor from Roane County, Hannah Griffith from Grafton and captain Lexi Taylor from Keyser.