The Southeastern Conference’s five girls basketball coaches couldn’t beat Lumberton on the court this season, but a majority of them handed the Lady Pirates a loss on Thursday with the release of the postseason awards.
Lumberton coach Danny Graham was named coach of the year, but the Lady Pirates’ best player — London Thompson — was snubbed in player of the year voting.
Thompson, the 2016 co-player of the year, was expected to earn the honor for a second straight season after leading the Lady Pirates to an unblemished mark in conference play and a pair of league titles.
Thompson earned all-conference honors, but it was Hoke’s Mahogany Matthews that got the nod as player of the year from a majority of the league’s coaches.
It’s clear to me that Matthews, a 6-foot-1 center for the Lady Bucks, was the best post player in the conference this season. The junior averaged a double-double with 12.1 points and 11.1 rebounds per game, and led the league with 6.6 blocks per contest. She finished the season with 17 double-doubles — including 10 straight to end the year — and five triple-doubles.
But she wasn’t the best player in the league. That title belongs to Thompson.
When asked about Matthews winning the award, Graham offered no comment.
No worries, Danny.
I have a case for London — and it’s a strong one.
As a sophomore last season, Thompson scored 462 points, grabbed 251 rebounds, dished out 136 assists and nabbed 170 steals en route to earning co-player of the year honors for the league.
This season, she saw a nine-point decrease in points and assists but grabbed 11 more rebounds and nabbed 20 more steals for the Lady Pirates.
By comparison, Matthews scored 327 points, grabbed 300 rebounds and blocked 177 blocks this season. Those are great numbers for a post player that should, absolutely, put Matthews in the conversation for player of the year.
But Thompson was simply a better overall player.
Averaging a league-best 16.2 points and 6.8 steals per game during her junior campaign, Thompson paced the Lady Pirates on both ends of the court. She was also second in the league with 4.5 assists per game and fourth in the league with 9.4 rebounds per contest.
After finishing with six double-doubles last season, Thompson recorded 14 double-doubles this year, including four straight in late January. She also had 10 steals in four contests.
She had nine games with 20 or more points. Matthews only reached the 20-point mark once during the year.
With three all-conference performers by her side in Jasmine McBride, Madison Canady and Destiny Hardin, Thompson still managed to separate herself from the crew as the best player on the best team in the league.
So, the 2016 co-player of the year gets better in 2017, but doesn’t earn player of the year honors.
Thompson was the best the SEC had to offer this season. It’s too bad a majority of the league’s coaches don’t agree.