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Braintree's Russell wins Gatorade Player of the Year

3/13/2014

In its 29th year of honoring the nation’s best high school athletes, The Gatorade Company, in collaboration with USA TODAY High School Sports, today announced Ashley Russell of Braintree High School as its 2013-14 Gatorade Massachusetts Girls Basketball Player of the Year. Russell is the first Gatorade Massachusetts Girls Basketball Player of the Year to be chosen from Braintree High School.

The award, which recognizes not only outstanding athletic excellence, but also high standards of academic achievement and exemplary character demonstrated on and off the court, distinguishes Russell as Massachusetts’s best high school girls basketball player. Now a finalist for the prestigious Gatorade National Girls Basketball Player of the Year award announced in March, Russell joins an elite alumni association of past state girls basketball award-winners, including Candace Parker (2001-02, Naperville Central HS, Ill.), Diana Taurasi (1998-99 & 1999-00, Don Antonio Lugo HS, Calif.), Maya Moore (2005-06 Collins Hill HS, Ga.), Rashanda McCants (2004-05, Asheville HS, N.C.), Shyra Ely (1999-00, Ben Davis HS, Ind.) and Lisa Leslie (1988-89, Morningside HS, Calif.)

The 5-foot-10 junior point guard has led the Wamps to a 23-1 record and a berth in the Division 1 state final against Westford Academy, scheduled for March 15. At the time of her selection, Russell was averaging 13.7 points, 11.1 rebounds, 6.9 assists and 3.1 steals per game. The 2014 Bay State Conference Player of the Year, she is a three-time First Team All-Conference honoree.

Russell has maintained a B-plus average in the classroom. A member of the Braintree High prom committee, she has volunteered locally with Relay for Life, the Best Buddies International program and as a youth basketball coach.

“Ashley Russell is the best player in our league,” said Wellesley High coach Kristin Cieri. “She is tall, quick, athletic, smart, can shoot and plays outstanding defense. She is as good a player as I have seen.”

Russell will begin her senior year of high school this fall.

Russell joins recent Gatorade Massachusetts Girls Basketball Players of the Year Olivia Healy (2012-13, Reading Memorial High School), Nicole Boudreau (2011-12 & 2010-11, Andover High School), Lauren Battista (2009-10, Oliver Ames), Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir (2008-09, New Leadership Charter School), Felicia Barron (2007-08, Springfield Central), and Carolyn Swords (2006–07, Lincoln-Sudbury) among the state’s list of former award winners.

Here are the winners from the other five New England states:

CONNECTICUT: KIAH GILLESPIE, CAPITAL PREP

The 6-foot-2 junior forward and guard led the Trailblazers to a 24-0 record and a berth in the Class L quarterfinals against Bristol Eastern, scheduled for March 14. Entering the round of eight, Gillespie is averaging 22.4 points, 10.3 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 1.8 blocks per game. A two-time First Team All-State selection, she is rated as the nation’s No. 42 recruit in the Class of 2015 by ESPN.

Gillespie has maintained a 3.67 GPA in the classroom. She has volunteered locally feeding and clothing the homeless, raising funds for cancer research and reading to elementary school students as part of a literacy-outreach initiative.

“Gillespie is a big, powerful guard who can play anywhere on the court,” said Catrina Hawley, head coach at Hillhouse High. “She plays with integrity and she plays hard, every single game. She’s a great example for all the young kids.”

Gillespie will begin her senior year of high school this fall.

RHODE ISLAND: TAYLOR BUCKLEY, NORTH KINGSTOWN

The returning Gatorade Player of the Year, the 5-foot-11 senior center has led the Skippers to a 19-2 record and a berth in the Division I state quarterfinals, scheduled for March 15. At the time of her selection, Buckley was averaging 15.5 points, 11.9 rebounds, 2.1 blocks and 1.5 steals per game. A two-time First Team All-State selection by the Rhode Island Coaches Association, she led all of Division I in scoring, rebounding and blocked shots during the 2012-13 season as a student at Exeter/West Greenwich High.

Buckley has maintained an A average in the classroom. A junior member of the Prudence Island Volunteer Fire Department, she has completed a mission trip to Belize, and has donated her time locally to the Providence Rescue Mission and as a youth basketball coach.

“Taylor’s presence in the paint for our team this year and her offensive mindset to rebound the ball and score is second to none,” said Bob Simeone, head coach of North Kingstown High. “She is a defensive presence as she controls the boards. Her love for the game and drive to succeed is a coach’s dream.”

Buckley has signed a National Letter of Intent to play basketball on scholarship at Cedarville University in Ohio this fall.

NEW HAMPSHIRE: ALIZA SIMPSON, LONDONDERRY

The 5-foot-9 senior point guard led the Lancers to a 19-3 record and a berth in the Division I state semifinals against Pinkerton Academy, scheduled for March 12. At the time of her selection, Simpson was averaging 18.2 points, 8.4 assists, 6.6 rebounds and 5.6 steals per game despite missing eight contests with a hairline fracture above her right kneecap. A two-time First Team All-State honoree, she had recorded two quadruple-doubles and one triple-double through 22 games and has twice earned Lawrence Eagle Tribune Super-Team recognition.

Simpson has maintained a 3.16 GPA in the classroom. She has volunteered locally on behalf of underprivileged and refugee families. She has also donated her time at an elderly care facility and as a youth basketball coach.

“Aliza Simpson controls every game and takes over games when needed,” said Mike Wenners, head coach of Manchester Central High. “She fills a stat sheet like no other player in Division I. She plays with as much passion on the defensive end as she does on the offensive end.”

Simpson has signed a National Letter of Intent to play basketball on scholarship at the University of New Hampshire this fall.

MAINE: ALLIE CLEMENT, CATHERINE MCAULEY

The 5-foot-8 senior guard led the Lions to a 21-1 record and their fourth straight Class A state title this past season. Clement averaged 18.2 points, five rebounds, four steals and three assists. The 2014 Maine Miss Basketball award-winner, she scored 17 points to go with five assists and three steals in the title-clinching, 67-41 win over Oxford Hills.

Clement has maintained a 94.9 average in the classroom. A member of the National Honor Society, she has volunteered locally on behalf of the Falmouth Food Pantry, as an elementary school library assistant and as a youth basketball coach.

“I really believe Allie Clement will go down as one of the top players Maine has ever seen,” said Catherine McAuley High head coach William Goodwin. “Her ability to play offense and defense at such a high level while under pressure is what really sets her apart. Mentally and physically, she is a special kid.”

Clement has signed a National Letter of Intent to play basketball on scholarship at New York’s Marist College this fall.

VERMONT: EMILY KINNESTON, CHAMPLAIN VALLEY UNION

The 5-foot-8 senior guard led the Redhawks to a 24-0 record and their second straight Division 1 championship this past season. The state’s returning Gatorade Girls Basketball Player of the Year, Kinneston averaged 11.8 points, 4.9 rebounds, 3.2 steals and 2.9 assists per game. Named Miss Basketball by the Burlington Free Press in 2013, she is a three-time First Team All-Metro selection and a member of the Vermont Basketball Coaches Association Dream Dozen.

Kinneston has maintained a 3.94 GPA in the classroom. Also a soccer standout, she has volunteered locally on behalf of the Special Olympics, youth sports programs and the U.S. Youth Soccer TOPSoccer program serving young athletes with disabilities.

“Kinneston’s got a very, very smooth game,” said Sheila Burleigh, head coach at South Burlington High. “You can always count on her to make the big play when the game is on the line. What makes her special is her mental toughness. She has an ability to block everything out and she never gets flustered.”

Kinneston has signed a National Letter of Intent to play basketball on scholarship at American University this fall.