BY DARREN REESE
Greeneville Sun Sports Editor
HERMITAGE – North Greene High School can now say it's home to one of the top girls' basketball players in the state.
Senior guard Mendy McNeese is one of three finalist up for the Class A Miss Basketball award, the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association (TSSAA) announced Friday afternoon.
There will be a total of 10 Mr. and Miss Basketball awards (A, AA, AAA, Division II-A, Division II-AA) given out during the state championships at the Murphy Center in Murfreesboro next month.
A statewide committee of sportswriters selected the winners based on performance during the 2013-14 regular season, with academics and character also being factored in.
District 2-AA – which features Greeneville, West Greene and Chuckey-Doak – also has a finalist. Grainger senior forward and Carson-Newman University signee Allison Hodge is up for Class AA Miss Basketball.
McNeese will go down as one of the most decorated players in the rich history of North Greene girls' basketball.
McNeese made her presence immediately known as a freshman in 2011 as she helped lead the Lady Huskies to a berth in the state championship game. She averaged 11.1 points per game that season and earned a spot on the All-State Tournament team.
Her playing career got temporarily derailed the next year as she tore her ACL just eight games into the 2011-12 campaign.
McNeese worked tirelessly on her rehabilitation, however, and came back last year to lead North Greene to a District 1-A tournament title while averaging 15.6 points. She received All-State honors for her efforts and was named the 2013 Greene County Player of the Year.
So far this year, McNeese is averaging 17 points, 5.7 rebounds, 5.8 assists and over three steals per game. North Greene is 21-9 overall, ranked No. 10 in the state, and is the top seed for the upcoming District 1-A tournament.
"Mendy has been a true blessing to coach," North Greene head coach James Buchanan said. "She is well deserving of any accolade she may receive. Her leadership, character and her level of motivation have set her apart from anyone I have ever had the privilege to coach."
McNeese is approaching 1,600 points scored for her career. Since her arrival, North Greene has won 94 games – the best four-year stretch in school history.
McNeese isn't the first Miss Basketball finalist for North Greene, though. Jennifer Weems earned the recognition back in 2000.
Buchanan describes McNeese as "the total package", noting that in addition to her talents on the court, she is also a great teammate as well as a tremendous asset to the community off the court.
McNeese is active with Fellowship of Christian Athletes, leading devotions and testimony during meetings before school. She is a member of the National Honors Society and several other clubs at NGHS.
She was crowned the North Greene homecoming queen earlier this school year and has a 4.0 grade point average.
McNeese also takes pride in her contributions to her church, where she is part of a Pledge to Purity Class and helps teach lessons at such things as Bible School. She also enjoys singing at church.
"Nowadays, most people are jealous of other people's successes," Buchanan said. "But that community really supports Mendy, if for no other reason than the sheer fact that she is just so kind to everyone she meets."
"I see her walk into a special education class with a bunch of kids she doesn't know and speak to every single one of them, asking them how their weekend was and things like that."
"I say this every year, but I really have good kids year in and year out. It has been a blessing to have Mendy in this program. She has never looked at me wrong. She has never questioned me. She is always on time. She is always enthusiastic."
Like McNeese's time at North Greene, Hodge has been a part of a remarkable run in Rutledge.
Hodge has been starting for the Lady Grizzlies since her freshman season, and amazingly enough, she has averaged a double-double all four years.
This year she has Grainger sitting atop the Class AA state rankings while averaging 20.2 points and 10.4 rebounds per game.
For her career, Hodge has recorded 1,939 points and 1,316 rebounds while being a 60% lifetime shooter from the floor.
During her time at Grainger, Hodge has helped her team to a 110-19 record. She is the reigning District 2-AA Player of the Year, and has been the District Tournament MVP the last two years. She garnered All-State honors at the conclusion of last season.
Hodge also excels in the classroom with a 4.0 GPA. She currently ranks second in her graduating class.
Class A Miss Basketball Finalists
Jaycee Coe, Jackson County
Cariona Hassell, Goodpasture
Mendy McNeese, North Greene
Class AA Miss Basketball Finalists
Rachel Bell, Creek Wood
Allison Hodge, Grainger County
Abbey Sissom, Cannon County
Class AAA Miss Basketball Finalists
Crystal Dangerfield, Blackman
Keiana Gilbert, Columbia Central
Alexa Middleton, Riverdale
Division II-A Miss Basketball Finalists
Emily Lytle, Evangelical Christian School
Kaylan Pugh, St. Mary’s
Micah Scheetz, Webb School of Knoxville
Division II-AA Miss Basketball Finalists
Jasmine Cincore, Briarcrest
Kennesha Nichols, Ensworth
Kennedy Potts, Harpeth Hall
Class A Mr. Basketball Finalists
Desonta Bradford, Humboldt
Derrick Spears, Middle Tennessee Christian
Levi Woods, Meigs County
Class AA Mr. Basketball Finalists
Braxton Blackwell, Christ Presbyterian Academy
Jordon Varnado, Haywood
LeGerald Vick, Douglass
Class AAA Mr. Basketball Finalists
C.J. Anderson, Arlington
Leron Black, White Station
Daniel Norl, Kenwood
Division II-A Mr. Basketball Finalists
Clay Hertel, Donelson Christian Academy
Rob Marberry, Franklin Road Academy
Justin Wertner, St. George’s
Division II-AA Mr. Basketball Finalists
Josh Bougher, Christian Brothers
Andrew Fleming, Ensworth
Slate Rider, Father Ryan