Rhyne Howard continued her knack for coming up big in the clutch Tuesday night when she was named Class AAA Miss Basketball for Tennessee.
The Bradley Central senior, who has led her team to the state tournament, won the state's highest prep basketball award Tuesday night during a ceremony at Middle Tennessee State University.
Also, Van Buren County senior Caden Mills was named Class A Mr. Basketball, becoming the first winner of the award in program history.
Brainerd's Jessie Walker (Class AA) and McCallie's Jr. Clay (Division II-AA) were Mr. Basketball finalists in their classifications but did not win.
"I felt pretty confident before, but it was a huge relief to actually hear my name called," said Howard, who is the Bearettes' third all-time leading scorer but ranks first since the girls' game switched from 6-on-6. She joins former University of Tennessee player Brittany Jackson as the only Miss Basketball winners in Bradley history.
"It felt like a weight was lifted off of me, like all the hard work I had put in finally paid off. It means a lot to me, but now I'm already thinking about our next game."
Howard is a Kentucky signee who is averaging 21.2 points, 7.2 rebounds 3.8 assists and 5.2 steals per game this season. She scored 41 points in the District 5-AAA championship game, added 32 (on 14-of-17 shooting) in the region quarterfinals and finished with 27 points and 15 rebounds in the Bearettes' sectional win.
They play Daniel Boone today at 2:15 at MTSU.
"This means a lot to our program," Bradley coach Jason Reuter said. "To win this award you're in very elite company, and now she's right up there with the best. It's big for our community as well.
"I'm very proud of her. She was a finalist last year, too, but we drove home as a runner-up. It was an honor just to be a finalist then, but I really wanted her to walk away with this award tonight because she's so deserving."
Mills, a Tennessee Tech signee, averaged 27.9 points, 7.1 rebounds, 3.2 assists per game this season and scored more than 3,000 career points.
"I was just thankful to be there and be recognized with all the other great players," Mills said. "But then it was even nicer to hear my name called as the winner. I know I couldn't have done anything I've accomplished without my teammates, and this is a pretty special way to cap off my high school career."