Girls basketball: This year's MVPs led their teams with passion, dedication and affection

Sometimes the best player on the floor doesn’t have to say anything to inspire confidence and cooperation among her teammates.

None of this year’s five Deseret News MVPs is the loudest player on the court. But they all have several traits in common — a relentless work ethic, an insatiable competitive desire and an unfettered affection for their teammates. Those traits coupled with their athletic ability helped them lead their teams to successful seasons.


There isn’t much that rattles junior guard Mercedes Staples.

“She is just the calmest, most confident kid,” said Viewmont head coach Clint Straatman. “She seems like she’s always really cool under pressure.”

While Staples has the skills to take over a game, she has a respect for the game and an affection for her teammates that allows her to elevate the play of those around her.

“When she was a freshman, she didn’t want to come in and just take over,” Straatman said. “She was skilled enough, she probably could have.” But what she did was come in and make her teammates the beneficiaries of her timely, well-placed passes.

In fact, her coach said she’d pass when she could score, just to get her teammates more involved or to build their confidence.

“I think they felt the confidence Mercedes had in them,” he said. “She knew she was the best player and so did they, so she deferred quite a bit and got some of the other kids involved.”

Staples led the Vikings to the 5A state championship game with 17.4 points, 4.2 assists and 2.3 steals per game.

Her leadership style is more “Let’s do this together” than “Hey, you really need to do more of this.”

“She had a real finger on the pulse of what the team needed,” Straatman said. “That could mean switching from zone to man or running a certain offense. She just had a real knack for what they needed to do.”

His confidence in Staples translated into a lot of freedom for the soft-spoken guard with deceptive speed.

“I’d just kind of look over at her and say, “What do you think?’” Straatman said. “And she’d know what to do.”


Madison Grange was always hungry for feedback. Whether it was drills, practices or games, the junior guard had an insatiable desire for constructive criticism.

“She is really coachable,” said Skyline head coach Lynette Schroeder. “She wants to be the best. She wants to know what she needs to do to improve. She always wants to be critiqued.”

Grange worked hard in the offseason to improve her basketball skills, and it was most evident in her defense.

“She has great length,” Schroeder said. “You’re not aware of the length she provides defensively until you try and pass the ball over her. She just creates awkward passing angles for other teams.”

Her hustle, athleticism and length allowed her to disrupt opposing offenses with regularity.

“She was also able to grab a lot of offensive rebounds,” she said. “And then offensively, her length gave her an extra inch to get shots off, and she was able to extend to the basket and finish.”

Her work ethic and natural ability allowed her to help Skyline to a 4A state title. Part of her success, Schroeder said, was knowing how to get her teammates involved.

“We had a really talented team, and she realized when she needed to step up and when she needed to pass the ball,” she said. “She balanced that really well.”

Like the other MVPs being honored this season, she is shy and quiet.

“She leads by working as hard as she can every minute she steps on the floor,” Schroeder said. “On the floor is when she lets her game do all of the talking.”


During one midseason practice, Juan Diego head coach Tim Turpin asked his players to line themselves up on the baseline from best free-throw shooter to the worst.

“Becca (Curran) put herself near the end, the worst,” he said of the senior guard. “I was really surprised. …She’d missed a couple in a game, but she was a really good free-throw shooter.”

The coach points to that story as an example of Curran’s commitment to excellence. Whether it’s in the classroom or on the court, Curran gives her best effort without complaint or excuse.

“She works her guts out at practice,” Turpin said. “She doesn’t say much, but she’ll dive over every ball, and people respect that.” Curran averaged 10.1 points, 3.8 rebounds and 3 steals per game in leading the Soaring Eagle to this year’s 3A state title.

“She’s not a huge kid,” Turpin said of the 5-foot-7 guard. “But she’s a tough kid, a good ball handler and a great shooter. She’ll go hard to the basket and she’s a really tough kid on defense.”

She also possesses that intangible knack for finding her way to the ball.

“That’s what makes her a really great player,” Turpin said. “She comes up with a lot of steals. When you’ve got to have a great play in a game, she comes up with it — whether that’s a steal or a tip or a rebound.”

Curran isn’t going to be the player to jump on a soapbox and give an inspirational speech. But she will be the hardest-working player at every practice.

“She’d win the sprints almost every time,” Turpin said. “The only time she didn’t is when she was hurt. She’s a kid who doesn’t argue back, doesn’t say a lot, but just works hard.”

Her competitive drive pushes her to find the best in herself while bringing out the best in her teammates.

“Becca has that special thing,” he said, detailing how in a critical region game she hit a big shot, grabbed a steal and then when a teammate missed a layup, she tipped it in for a last-second win. “She just doesn’t want to fail. She doesn’t want to lose.”


There are no stats for the most important contributions made by two-time 2A MVP Peyton Torgerson.

“She really tries to build everyone up and make them feel like they’re important,” said North Sevier head coach Lexa Larsen. “She did so much that wouldn’t show up in stats — encouraging them, high fives, telling them she believes in them, driving to the basket and kicking it out to them and telling them to shoot and that she knows they can hit that shot.”

Torgerson has obvious athletic talent. But the senior guard’s goal was never about what she could do on the court.

Instead, it was how she could bring out the best in those she played with, even if it meant less glory for herself.

“She doesn’t care about stats — at all,” Larsen said of the 5-foot-11 senior guard who averaged 15.9 points, 6.7 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 2.3 steals in leading the Wolves to a 2A state title. “She’s not playing the game to get any kind of recognition. She had two main goals — get a D1 scholarship and win a state championship. She accomplished both.” Signing with Southern Utah University in November gave Torgerson a freedom and confidence that Larsen could see in every aspect of her game.

And while Torgerson has always been the team’s statistical leader, this year she also developed into the kind of leader other players naturally want to follow.

“Peyton is really sensitive to how everybody else feels,” Larsen said. “She wants everyone else to be happy. She tries to build their confidence.”

That leads to better chemistry, better synchronicity on the court.

“I feel like everybody wants to play with her and be on her team,” Larsen said. “It’s a great compliment to her that she’s a really, really good teammate.”


Danielle Brinkerhoff isn’t comfortable in the glare of the spotlight, but she also isn’t afraid of it.

“She had to adjust this season,” said her dad and Bryce Valley head girls basketball coach Tyson Brinkerhoff. “For the first time in her career, she had to be more of a scorer.” The four-year starting point guard led the team in every statistical category except scoring as a sophomore and a junior. But this year, if her team was going to achieve its goal of earning the school’s first 1A girls basketball title, she had to also lead the program in scoring.

“She’d much rather make a pass and let someone else have the satisfaction of scoring,” Brinkerhoff said. “I think it’s just her personality.”

She led the team with 10.1 points per game, 7.6 rebounds per game, 4.1 assists per game and 2.2 steals per game. Brinkerhoff said his daughter values team in a way many players don’t. It is as important to her that everyone on the floor have as much fun — and as much success — as she has.

“She’s interesting that way,” the coach said. “She’s always kind of been the one to help out.” Whether it’s on the court or in the classroom, Danielle gives her best effort while reaching out to help those around her. She is the school’s student body president, a Sterling Scholar nominee, and she earned Academic All-State honors in basketball.

“That was probably my proudest moment as a father in four years,” he said of seeing her honored for a 4.0 GPA during halftime of the state championship game.

In the waning seconds of Bryce Valley’s overtime win against Tabiona, Danielle Brinkerhoff hit the game-tying jumper shot that sent the game into overtime. She missed a free throw with the team clinging to a one-point lead, but then chased down her own rebound to help her team hold onto the ball with just a few seconds on the clock.

“It’s a rare and fun thing to win a championship,” Tyson Brinkerhoff said, “but to share it with your daughter is really kind of cool.”

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A closer look at the 2017 Deseret News boys basketball All-State team

Follow the links for stories and lists of the entire 2017 Deseret News All-State Boys Basketball Team.

High school boys basketball: Versatile Jaxon Brenchley named Mr. Basketball

High school boys basketball: MVPs flourished under the spotlight

5A boys basketball: A closer look at the 2017 All-State players

4A boys basketball: A closer look at the 2017 All-State players

3A boys basketball: A closer look at the 2017 All-State players

2A boys basketball: A closer look at the 2017 All-State players

1A boys basketball: A closer look at the 2017 All-State players

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High school girls basketball: Coaches' All-region teams

Here’s a rundown of the girls basketball all-region teams from 12 of the state’s 20 regions. These teams were tallied and compiled exclusively by the coaches from each region and submitted to the Deseret News for publication.

Region 2

MVP — Mercedes Staples, Viewmont

First Team — Mercedes Staples, Viewmont; Brianna White, West; Megan Carr, Viewmont; Livia Borges, Layton; Whitney Banz, West.

Second Team — Rachel Odima, Layton; Teuila Alofipo, Davis; Abena Bakenra, West; Taya Tobler, Syracuse; Lindsey Reich, Davis.

Honorable Mention — Emery Marshall, Syracuse; Angel Lui, Hunter; Grace Johnson, Viewmont; Eniketi Fonua, Granger; Brenda Gallegos, Layton; Kaetlyn Stubbs, West; Samantha Hogge, Viewmont.

Region 3

MVP — Sierra McNicol, Bingham

First Team — Kate Sisler, Copper Hills; Brooke Ingles, Brighton; Morgan Toluono, Taylorsville; Finau Tonga, Taylorsville; Breaunna Gillen, Copper Hills; Journey Tupea, Bingham.

Second Team — Peyton Naylor, Jordan; Shanyce Makuei, Bingham; Taela Laufiso, Copper Hills; Amberly Lazenby, Copper Hills.

Honorable Mention — Morgan Sterner, Jordan; Atalina Pritchard, Bingham; Kiarra Gasu, Copper Hills; Isamar Guzman, Cottonwood; Ariana Miller, Brighton; Sidney Kaufmann, Brighton.

Region 4

MVP — Taylor Moeaki, American Fork

First Team — Morgan Kane, Riverton; Paige Farnsworth, American Fork; Savannah Flanary, Lone Peak; Sara Hamson, Pleasant Grove; Malli Valgardson, Pleasant Grove; Milee Enger, Herriman.

Second Team — Emma Clark, Lone Peak; Sadie Nixon, Pleasant Grove; Macy Marcus, Herriman; Savannah Domgaard, Westlake; Addie Holmstead, American Fork; Marissa Scoresby, Westlake; Ashley Parry, Westlake; Bryanna Raff, Lehi; Brooklyn Heaton, Lehi; Brenn Blaser, Riverton.

Region 5

MVP — Keslee Stevenson, Box Elder

First Team — Jaimee Stahle, Bountiful; Emily Isaacson, Box Elder; Liana Kiatu’u, East; Logan Loftis, Woods Cross; Breanna Moeai, Highland.

Second Team — Mary Larson, Bountiful; Alex Debow, Highland; Lani Talialu, East; Daisy Barker, Ogden; Sara Noel, Woods Cross.

Honorable Mention — Natalie Eyring, Bountiful; Kiera Gillins, Bountiful; Talia Afuvai, Bonneville; Jenna Czarnecki, Bonneville; Hailey Shivers, Bonneville; Bailee Wooden, Bonneville; Saydee Larsen, Bonneville; Addisyn Peacock, Box Elder; Lana Olevao, Highland; Kaija Glasker, Highland; Precious Faa’Mausili, East; Aloma Solovi, East; Margarita Santini, East; Elina Tausinga, East; Chaleighe Elliott, Ogden; Aleah Knowles, Ogden; Paige McKenna, Woods Cross.

Region 8

MVP — Savannah Sumsion, Springville

First Team — Savannah Sumsion, Springville; Nicole Heyn, Maple Mountain; Cambrie Hazel, Spanish Fork; Sadie Hodgson, Salem Hills; Cheyanne Brown, Springville; Tori Dorrius, Wasatch.

Second Team — Maddie Eaton, Maple Mountain; Rylie Tobiasson, Spanish Fork; Kenzie McBride, Wasatch; Terissa Hamilton, Salem Hills; Lily Jex, Maple Mountain; Lucy Hales, Payson.

Honorable Mention — Mary Fredrickson, Springville; Olivia Sampson, Salem Hills; Tawnie Valdez, Uintah; Kami Warner, Springville; Faith Fitzgerald, Wasatch; Karlee Worthington, Maple Mountain; Addy Gillies, Spanish Fork.

Region 9

Offensive MVP — Ashley Beckstrand, Desert Hills

Defensive MVP — Ashley Beckstrand, Desert Hills

First Team — Kelsey Barker, Dixie; Jayden Langford, Hurricane; Claire Newby, Pine View; Lindsey Robinson, Cedar; Elly Williams, Desert Hills.

Second Team — Saraven Allen, Pine View; Carly Davis, Cedar; Maisie Elison, Cedar; Jasmine Leolao, Snow Canyon; Dream Weaver, Cedar.

Third Team — Madison Clark, Desert Hills; Tylei Jensen, Snow Canyon; Lindsy McConnell, Snow Canyon; Taylor Salisbury, Desert Hills; Kylee Stevens, Hurricane.

Region 10

MVP — Abby Butler, Grantsville

First Team — Tori Ross, Union; Jessica Perry, Park City; Rylie Ekins, Grantsville; Brayle Crosman, Grantsville; Taylor Hinds, Stansbury.

Second Team — Regan Anderson, Union; Lois Garlow, Park City; Carly Blake, Union; Emily Webber, Tooele; Hannah Butler, Grantsville.

Honorable Mention — Abby Webber, Tooele; Mia Thurber, Stansbury; Kennedy Ross, Union; Deanna Castillo, Stansbury; Mackenzie Sharkey, Tooele; Paige McCluskey, Grantsville; Blake Herbet, Tooele; Josie Warner, Stansbury; Montana Landis, Park City; Ashlee Edwards, Grantsville; Krystanne Idom, Stansbury.

Region 12

Co-MVP — Shandi Bastian, Richfield; Lindsey Blanc, Carbon

First Team — Cyene Bigelow, Carbon; Kelsey Sorenson, Carbon; Caitlyn Nabity, Richfield; Emma Jones, Richfield; Hannah Robins, Juab; Taylei Williams, Juab; Angela Clayton, North Sanpete; Aubree Ison, North Sanpete; Morgan Cheney, Canyon View.

Second Team — Taylor Passarella, Carbon; Bayli Heap, Juab; Madison Daniels, Richfield; Catherine Lund, North Sanpete; Amber Francisco, Canyon View.

Region 13

MVP — Sidney McDonald, Kanab

First Team — KC Houston, Kanab; Lacey Glover, Kanab; Jessi Anderson, Kanab; Sydnee Gillins, Beaver; Abbey Yardley, Beaver; Tavy Gale, Beaver; Sherri Platt, Enterprise; Ronnie Robinson, Enterprise; Sariah Swallow, Millard; Kaitlyn Kesler, Millard; Kaylie Jenson, South Sevier; Amber Partridge, Delta.

Region 15

MVP — Megan Jensen, Emery

First Team — Kinlee Toomer, Emery; Lainee Jensen, Emery; Peyton Torgerson, North Sevier; Hailey Higgs, North Sevier; Jordyn Moon, San Juan; Madison Palmer, San Juan; Paige King, Gunnison; Leah Howe, Manti; Katie McKay, Grand.

Region 16

Co-MVPs — Hunter Vernon, North Summit; Sammi Rogers, South Summit

First Team — Ashlin Blonquist, North Summit; Chelsey Drury, Summit Academy; Isabel Page, Providence Hall; Elise Richins, North Summit; Gracie Sorenson, Maeser Prep.

Second Team — Sydney Drummond, Summit Academy; Nicole Fitzgerald, South Summit; Micah Gustafson, Summit Academy; Kennady McQueen, North Summit; Hannah Peterson, South Summit.

Honorable Mention — Jesirae Berthoud, Providence Hall; Madi Birk, North Summit; Cassidy Hortin, South Summit; Grace Olson, South Summit; Erica Pederson, ALA.

Region 18

First Team — Julianna Kirschner, Dugway; Kathleen Tomon, St. Joseph; Addy Okwale, St. Joseph; Virginia Tomon, St. Joseph; Brianna Palmer, St. Joseph; Tanya Duran, Wendover; Adriana Delgadillo, Wendover; Bailey Wall, Tintic; Tina Wall, Tintic; Ashley Holden, Tintic; Rachel Mylar, ICS; Amber DeStigter, ICS; Crystalynn Peel, West Ridge; Sara Jenson, Merit.

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High school boys basketball: Versatile Jaxon Brenchley named Mr. Basketball

MILLVILLE — When Jaxon Brenchley steps onto a basketball court anything is possible.

He’s the ultimate “five-tool” talent, capable of contributing in any way necessary to win games. And winning was the only thing that mattered his senior season

With a scholarship offer from the University of Utah already in his back pocket, Brenchley’s primary focus this past season was putting the first state championship banner in the rafters at first-year school Ridgeline.

That’s precisely what he did, and Brenchley did it his way — playing the ultimate brand of team basketball and in the process has been named the 31st Deseret News Mr. Basketball recipient.

“How I always like to play is make the right play to win,” said Brenchley.

One 3A coach described his playing style as “unselfish to a fault,” but it was exactly what Ridgeline needed this season, and Brenchley was totally content to play that way.

“Jaxon has really bought in wholeheartedly to the whole team concept of doing whatever is needed,” said Ridgeline coach Graydon Buchmiller.

The 6-foot-5 point guard finished in the top 10 in the state in scoring (19.8), assists (5.8) and steals (2.8) this season, and ranked 20th in rebounds at 7.7 per game.

Brenchley follows in the footsteps of last year’s Mr. Basketball winner, Frank Jackson, and in fact, his head-to-head matchup with Jackson in the playoffs last year helped spur Brenchley onto a dominant senior season.

Brenchley played varsity basketball at Mountain Crest his freshman, sophomore and junior seasons before transferring to Ridgeline this year. Mountain Crest lost in the first round to Lone Peak last season 79-66, but in that game Brenchley dueled Jackson evenly, scoring 23 points, grabbing nine rebounds and dishing out six assists.

“I thought I played toe-to-toe with him, and now he’s at Duke,” said Brenchley.

Realizing how close he was to securing a scholarship of his own, Brenchley spent the offseason grinding away and trying to get better. The improvements were subtle as he finished his junior season ranking in the top 10 in 5A in scoring (18.8), rebounds (8.4), assists (t.0) and steals (2.0).

“I’ve seen kids that have been really good younger, but plateau off. The amount of improvement that Jaxon comes into the beginning of every season really shows his commitment to working hard and getting better,” said Buchmiller.

One of the knocks on Brenchley early in his career was he couldn’t shoot from outside and didn’t have a pull-up game — he was strictly a penetrator. He made only three 3-pointers his freshman year despite averaging 12.9 ppg, and then improved only slightly with 13 treys his sophomore year while averaging 17.5 ppg.

In his junior and senior seasons, however, Brenchley made a major jump in production from behind the arc. Despite his scoring average bumping up just two points, he nearly tripled his makes from 3-point range, hitting 35 and 33 respectively.

“Over the last couple years he’s made people believe he can shoot outside and you have to respect that. And that doesn’t just happen because you want it to, it’s hours and hours in the gym. He’s really passionate about basketball and rightfully so,” said Buchmiller.

Brenchley finished with one triple-double this year in a preseason game against Weber and was one assist shy of a triple-double twice more.

One of those near-misses came in Ridgeline’s 89-63 shellacking of Juan Diego in the 3A championship game at Utah State, as Brenchley finished with 31 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists.

That showcase performance came on the heels of a semifinal performance in which he scored only seven points to go along with his eight rebounds and six assists. That stark contrast on back-to-back nights is a snapshot of how Brenchley can impact a game.

In the semifinals against Desert Hills, teammate Theron Wallentine had the hot hand, scoring a career-high 33 points, and Brenchley was content to simply facilitate. The seven points he scored was his fewest since early in his sophomore season.

The championship the following day unfolded completely opposite.

“There’s been multiple times where I’ve pulled Jaxon aside and said if they guard you this certain way, you just need to show you’re the best player on the floor, and don’t worry about getting other people involved. You just need to be the best player on the floor,” said Buchmiller.

That’s what happened against Juan Diego. He challenged Brenchley to be aggressive, but then also encouraged everyone to enjoy the experience of playing in a championship at nearby Utah State, calling it a “celebration.”

“I just came out aggressive from the start instead of sitting back and waiting for things to happen,” said Brenchley.

Juan Diego never had an answer for Brenchley, who asserted himself as the best player on the floor.

Brenchley is planning on serving a two-year LDS Church mission in Taiwan before enrolling at the University of Utah in time for the 2019-2020 season. He projects as either a point guard or shooting guard.

“I feel like I can do both, but my whole life I’ve been a point guard so I’m more used to that, but I’ll do whatever,” said Brenchley.

That attitude served him well in high school, and should at the next level too.

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