2023-24 Girls All-Area Basketball Team: A group of game-changers: Steele, Layne elevate Red Devils program, grab All-Area honors

Apr. 20—CANNONSBURG — Caitlin Clark elevated the game of basketball during her time at Iowa and will keep doing so in the WNBA.

The players on The Daily Independent girls All-Area basketball team made the same impact a little closer to home.

Russell coach Mandy Layne can say the same about her star guard and the rest of her Red Devil teammates over the last few seasons.

Russell collected Layne's fourth region title in March, the third with her current core group of players, providing a fitting end to their careers.

"When you get a year taken away and to be able to go back more two times, it's an amazing opportunity that they get to share," Layne said. "To go (to the state tournament) twice is a special memory that will last forever.

"It just makes me happy because I've seen all their hard work. All three of them live in the gym. It's awesome to see their hard work pay off."

The Red Devils' 2020 trip to Lexington ended before it began due to the early stages of the pandemic. Russell returned the following season and won its first state tournament game since 1976.

The team returned to Rupp Arena this year but fell to eventual state finalist McCracken County. Shaelyn Steele still felt playing on the big stage provided one more memorable moment in her historic career.

"It really means a lot," Steele said. "It's the goal of every season to make the state tournament. It was especially nice given how it ended the season before. It was the best way to end it."

Steele became the first Russell player to exceed 3,000 career points. The school's all-time leading scorer led the Red Devils with 21.1 points a game and grabbed 6.2 rebounds a contest. The senior has collected over 1,000 rebounds during her time in a Russell jersey.

"She has definitely brought the program to new heights," Layne said. "She's made it to where it is recognized now on the state level. Our senior class overall is really special. They have been here six years and they continue to build the program and continue to make it better."

Steele and Layne were named All-Area Player and Coach of the Year, respectively. Steele, a Penn State signee, garnered the award for the second time and claimed her fifth consecutive All-Area selection.

Bella Quinn and sophomore Kennedy Darnell joined Steele on the All-Area team. Quinn averaged 10.0 points a game and made 40% of her 3-point attempts. The guard earned her third team honor. Darnell (8.5 ppg) impacted both ends of the floor and recorded her first appearance on the team.

"It's so great playing with them," Steele said. "It gives me a lot of confidence on the court, knowing I have players like that around me. I can drive and attack and I have shooters like them in the corners ready to knock it down. It gives the team a lot of confidence."

"I am very fortunate to play with such a close-knit group of girls," she added. "I will always remember my teammates."

Layne said the trio have become role models during their careers.

"There are so many kids that look up to them and want to be like them," Layne said. "They hope to have careers like them."

Ashland placed the most players on the team with four. Kenleigh Woods (22.1 ppg) battled a knee injury late in the season as she continued to control games with her speed and scoring ability. Ella Sellars (13.4) provided continued leadership. Gabby Karle (9.2 ppg) and Jaidyn Gulley (7.4 rpg) gave the Kittens toughness and tenacity.

Woods and Sellars are making their third straight appearance on the team. Gulley made it for the second time.

Taylor Bartrum, Audrey Biggs and Jasmine Jordan are the Boyd County All-Area representatives. Bartrum had her senior season cut short due to a knee injury but lent her continued support to her teammates on the sideline during the second half of the season, according to coach Pete Fraley.

Biggs tallied her fourth All-Area pick. Jordan earned her third. The duo accepted different roles so the Lions' backcourt injuries would not derail their season. Biggs (15.5 ppg, 5.6 rpg) and Jordan (19.6, 10.4) helped guide Boyd County to its eighth straight region final.

Fleming County, Morgan County and Raceland put two players on the All-Area team.

The Panthers claimed their first 61st District title under coach Evan Cox and fell to Boyd County by just two points in a region semifinal thriller.

Ariana Adams averaged 14.2 points and 6.6 rebounds a game. Laci Burns was a steady guard who had two stellar games in the 16th Region Tournament.

The Cougars repeated as 62nd District champions with first-year coach Jordan Brangers. Emma Clinger (16.1 ppg) and McKenna Smith (13.9) were key players to keep Morgan County moving forward.

Nim Maynard (15.1 ppg) continued to put up big numbers for Raceland. The sophomore plays well beyond her years and her impact has changed the trajectory of the Rams program. Raceland advanced to the 16th Region Tournament for the second time in three years after a decade-long absence.

Teammate Carley Boyd (11.5) joins Maynard on the team. Boyd made 69 3s this year. Maynard added 65.

Paintsville's Emilea Preece earned her third straight All-Area selection. She averaged 21.8 points and 10 rebounds a contest during her senior season.

Lawrence County's Sophie Adkins (19.9 ppg, 7.8 rpg), Bath County's Ashtyn Barrett (21.6, 7.5), Rowan County's Kelbie Ford (11.6), East Carter's Kinsley Rutledge (13.0, 7.6), Elliott County's Molly Howard (14.3) and Lewis County's Carriann Highfield (11.8, 8.9) round out the All-Area team.

Coaches' vote comprised the team. The Daily Independent sports staff selected the Player and Coach of the Year.

2023-24 The Daily Independent All-Area Girls Basketball Team

Ariana Adams (Fleming County)

Sophie Adkins (Lawrence County)

Ashtyn Barrett (Bath County)

Taylor Bartrum (Boyd County)

Audrey Biggs (Boyd County)

Carley Boyd (Raceland)

Laci Burns (Fleming County)

Emma Clinger (Morgan County)

Kennedy Darnell (Russell)

Kelbie Ford (Rowan County)

Jaidyn Gulley (Ashland)

Carriann Highfield (Lewis County)

Molly Howard (Elliott County)

Jasmine Jordan (Boyd County)

Gabby Karle (Ashland)

Nim Maynard (Raceland)

Emilea Preece (Paintsville)

Bella Quinn (Russell)

Kinsley Rutledge (East Carter)

Ella Sellars (Ashland)

McKenna Smith (Morgan County)

Shaelyn Steele (Russell)

Kenleigh Woods (Ashland)


Shaelyn Steele (Russell)


Mandy Layne (Russell)


Savannah Adams (East Carter), Maci Adkins (Morgan County), Shalyne Baker (Menifee County), Olivia Beach (Rowan County), Payton Burgess (Menifee County), Dharia Crum (Greenup County), Leandra Curnutte (Lawrence County), Baylee French (Bath County), Jaycee Gevedon (Menifee County), Kailey Hamilton (Elliott County), Maddie Johnson (Lewis County), Kylie Kinner (Paintsville), Kaylyn McKenzie (Johnson Central), Taylor McKenzie (Johnson Central), Jada Patton (Lawrence County), Sadie Price (Fleming County), Jada Ray (Boyd County), Katie Shaffer (Greenup County), Kennedy Spencer (Greenup County), Karlea Stanley (Johnson Central), Maddy Steele (Greenup County), Rylee Sturgill (Elliott County), Brynlee Walker (Rowan County), Kaison Ward (Lawrence County), Ava Watson (Fleming County), Kiley Whitt (Elliott County), Diamond Wills (Rowan County), Becca Wright (Johnson Central).

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