By BRIAN WOODSON
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
If only the walls could talk. Jamie Brown’s favorite subject is history, and that has come in handy at Mercer Christian, where she is fully aware of the tradition of girls basketball, just from looking at gymnasium walls that are full of banners and pictures of glory days gone by.
“Every practice I always point out all the pictures on the walls of the state champions,” Brown said. “It means a great deal to everybody.”
Mercer Christian has won seven state championships, including three straight from 1993-96 and four in a row from 1999-2002, but lean times have followed, with the program not even existing in recent years.
Bringing back the tradition is what Mercer Christian girls coach Shelia Otey wants to do, and Brown is a key part of that plan.
“Words can’t explain, a great player off and on the court,” Otey said. “She is very generous with the basketball, she tries to keep the whole team involved.”
Brown was a little-used backup last year at PikeView, but a change of scenery has helped make the 5-foot-3 1/2 inch junior point guard one of the top performers in the area.
“For her to score what she is scoring, it is not because she is a ball hog, that is a blessing,” Otey said. “You don’t find that too much.”
Especially last week when Brown and the Cavaliers defeated New Life Academy 57-52, and Brown had 40 of those 57 points, with 24 coming after the halftime break when Brown missed most of the second quarter with an ankle injury.
Otey said that Brown told her at halftime, ‘I am playing, wrap my ankle, I am playing.’
“I had too much adrenaline for it to bother me,” said Brown, who had three 3s, was 9 for 12 from the free throw line, and also contributed six rebounds, two steals and two assists. “We were down two going into the second half, my team did really good, I was proud of them.
“I was determined after that, I didn’t want our team to lose and I didn’t want to let them down.”
She didn’t. That performance earned Brown the Pocahontas Coal Association/Bluefield Daily Telegraph Player of the Week award, which just adds to a dream season for a youngster who estimates she has played basketball for 13 of her 17 years.
“This has been a dream of mine for a long time,” Brown said. “When I found out I was super excited.”
It’s been that kind of season for Brown. Heading into Thursday’s game at Greater Beckley Christian, she had averaged 27.5 points (357 points), 7.0 steals, 5.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists for the Cavaliers, who are 6-7 on the year.
“I would never have expected it,” said Brown, of her season, which also includes 70 percent (73-119) from the free throw line, 56 percent from the 3-point line, and 47 percent from inside the arc, which is where most of her points come from.
“She understood when she came here it was going to be a rebuilding year for the school,” Otey said. “She has really took on the role of being a leader and trying to help the girls, she has just done a phenomenal job for us.
“She doesn’t care. For her size, she will play inside, she will rebound, she doesn’t care who she takes it to, she just has a love for the game.”
Brown transferred to Mercer Christian prior to this school year, not only due to the suggestion from Otey and a few friends, but perhaps from a higher power as well.
“Everything kind of seemed better and it is kind of what the Lord was telling me to do,” Brown said. “I have been close with Sheila, we go to church (together) and she told me how their games went last year and how the sports program, they are rebuilding it, and it just seemed like the Lord wanted me here to rebuild the program.”
Brown was immediately placed in a leadership role with three starters — including Brooke Bradford and Sammi Goings — who had never played before, but are now averaging a combined 24 rebounds a game.
“It is a more family-oriented because everybody is really close and there is not as much drama as a public school would be,” Brown said. “Size-wise it was different and the classes are smaller so you get more learning experience.”
Mercer Christian won those seven state titles as part of the WVSSAC. The Cavaliers are now part of the West Virginia Christian Education Association (WVCEA), but don’t think that Brown and the Cavaliers have no competition waiting for them on the court.
Otey thinks that Cross Lanes Academy, which defeated MCA convincingly earlier this season, is talented and experienced enough to even beat what might be the best team in the area.
“...Cross Lanes would beat Princeton hands down, they have an awesome group of girls, they have been together for a long time,” Otey said. “We have played two or three schools actually that have been very, very competitive as far if we compare them to public schools so the competition is there.”
Also a volleyball player for the Cavaliers, the 17-year-old Brown has been playing since she was 4, and simply grown to love the game. No wonder, 40 point games — and wins — will do that for anyone.
“I love playing ball,” said Brown, who plays on the AAU circuit in the summer. “I was super excited with my team and with how we all performed together and they did amazing. I wouldn’t get the points I did without them.”
Brown, whose sisters, Heather Goodman and Audra Brown, played at PikeView, did more than just score 40 points, seven more than her previous high of 33. She also broke a family record. Her older sister, Heather, had 38 for the Panthers a few years ago.
“I beat my sister’s record in that game,” said a grinning Brown, who didn’t know how many points she had until the game was over. “I just determined to make sure I had enough.”
—Contact Brian Woodson
Player of Week Honorable mention
Bland County (0-1): Amber Eaton 10 vs. Graham.
Bluefield (1-0): Khadijah Brown 10 vs. Greenbrier West.
Council (0-3): Adriane Rasnake 16 vs. Grundy, 13 vs. Haysi, 26 vs. Honaker; Haley Stevens 15 vs. Grundy, 11 vs. Haysi
Graham (1-1): Ashley Moretto 13 in loss to Grayson County; Emaleigh Gallinger 15 in win over Bland County.
Grundy (1-1): Savannah Charles 18 pts in win over Council; Morgan Hall 14 vs. Council, 13 in loss to Haysi.
Haysi (2-0): Hannah Mondrage 15 pts, 8 assts vs. Council, 12 pts vs. Grundy; Erin Hyden 13 vs. Council, 19 vs. Grundy; Sydney Counts 12 vs. Council; Montana Robinette 11 vs. Council.
Honaker (2-0): Laken Robinette 11 pts vs. Twin Valley, 17 pts and 11 rebs vs. Council; Katelyn Jackson 18 pts vs. Honaker; Morgan Stevens 13 pots and 10 rebs vs. Council.
Mercer Christian (1-0): Jamie Brown 40 points in win over New Life Christian (team scored 57).
Princeton (1-1): McKenzie Akers 27 vs. Woodrow Wilson, 26 in loss at Parkersburg; Marissa Mullins 10 vs. Woodrow; Khadijah Payne 10 vs. Woodrow.
Richlands (3-0): Brittany Allen 22 vs. Abingdon, 24 vs. Tug Valley, 18 vs. Tazewell; MaKenley Davis 10 vs. Abingdon, 11 vs. Twin Valley, 22 vs. Tazewell; Cassidy Richardson 11 vs. Abingdon, 10 vs. Twin Valley.
River View (1-0): Chelsey Dobbs 20 points, 20 rebs, 5 blocks, 4 assts; Kiersten Dority 17 vs. Mountain Mission.
Tazewell (1-1): Taylor Catron 16 pts., 7 assts, 3 steals vs. Marion; Autumn Hash 11 pts, 6 rebs vs. Marion; Haley Christian 13 vs. Richlands; Whitney Saunders 10 vs. Richlands.
2012-13 Girls Winners
Week 1: Emaleigh Gallinger, Graham
Week 2: Taylor Catron, Tazewell
Week 3: McKenzie Akers, Princeton
Week 4: Shelia Hopkins, Bluefield
Week 5: Chelsea Dobbs, River View
Week 6: Brittany Allen, Richlands
Week 7: Lyndsay Hatfield, PikeView
Week 8: Kelsie Mann, James Monroe
Week 9: Miranda Kendrick, Montcalm
Week 10: Jamie Brown, Mercer Christian