ALL-EMPIRE SMALL SCHOOL GIRLS BASKETBALL

PLAYER OF THE YEAR

Ashlyn Welton, sr., Middletown

FIRST TEAM

Angel Bernardi, sr., Cloverdale

Taylor Gravier, sr.r, Round Valley

Taylor Helms, sr., Clear Lake

Natalie Karlsson, jr., Upper Lake

Alma Perez, jr., Kelseyville

SECOND TEAM

Olivia DeGraca, sr., St. Vincent

Savanna Dilks, sr., Point Arena

Jayden Gardner, sr., Fort Bragg

Riley Goff, jr., Kelseyville,

Makenzi Smith, jr., Middletown

COACH OF THE YEAR

Anthony Bazzzano, Middletown


Special.

That’s the word Middletown coach Anthony Bazzano used on more than one occasion to describe his center Ashlyn Welton

Talking with other coaches and analyzing stats it’s easy to understand why he thinks so highly of Welton and why she was the choice for All-Empire Small Schools Player of the Year.

While leading the Mustangs to a share of the NCL I title with Kelseyville, the 5 foot-11 Welton averaged more than 10 points and 10 rebounds per game.

A three-year varsity starter, she owns the school record for points (1,316) and rebounds (1,004).

“Players like her don’t come along often,” Bazzano said. “Just about every game we played, she was the best player on the court.”

Kelsyville coach Jim Hale also praised Welton.

“We double-teamed and triple-teamed her,” he said. “When she’s in the lineup, the smart thing to do is try to make somebody else on that team try to beat you.”

Kelseyville broke even with Middletown this past season. The Knights won 55-42 in their gym and the Mustangs prevailed 55-45 on their home court.

While compiling a 23-7 record, Middletown defeated larger schools Analy, Casa Grande and Rancho Cotate.

Welton enjoyed those victories, but the highlight of her senior season came Feb. 24. That night the Mustangs defeated Fortuna 59-43 in the first round of the NCS Division 4 tournament.

“That was the first time in our school’s history that a Middletown team has won a NCS home game,” she said. “It’s something we’re very proud of.”

Three nights later, the Mustangs’ title dreams ended when they lost to eventual state champion Cardinal Newman.

Welton was also an All-Empire player in soccer, but she didn’t hesitate to answer when asked her favorite sport.

“Definitely basketball over soccer,” the 18-year-old said. “When on the court, I’m in my happy place. I get an adrenaline rush.”

Welton will continue her career next season at College of the Siskiyous and then hopes to play at a four-year school.

“She can do it,” coach Bazzano said. “She’s incredibly athletic, has soft hands and a high basketball IQ.”

ALL-EMPIRE SMALL SCHOOL GIRLS BASKETBALL

PLAYER OF THE YEAR

Ashlyn Welton, sr., Middletown

FIRST TEAM

Angel Bernardi, sr., Cloverdale

Taylor Gravier, sr.r, Round Valley

Taylor Helms, sr., Clear Lake

Natalie Karlsson, jr., Upper Lake

Alma Perez, jr., Kelseyville

SECOND TEAM

Olivia DeGraca, sr., St. Vincent

Savanna Dilks, sr., Point Arena

Jayden Gardner, sr., Fort Bragg

Riley Goff, jr., Kelseyville,

Makenzi Smith, jr., Middletown

COACH OF THE YEAR

Anthony Bazzzano, Middletown