Public Opinion Players of the Year, Dylan Gordon and Bronwyne Mellott team up with sports reporters Lizi Arbogast and Lindsey Smith for the battle of the century.
After three years with one of Fulton County’s best girls basketball players leading the program, it’s hard to picture what McConnellsburg would be like without Bronwyne Mellott.
Certainly not vying for a District 5 title and a place in the PIAA tournament — its first in 17 years.
Mellott’s competitive fire, stoked by her parents' basketball success in Fulton County, led the Lady Spartans to their first district final appearance since 1999, when they won the championship.
The team’s 17-year drought was riddled with nine first-round knockouts in the district tournament, and five seasons with no postseason action at all.
But Mellott is the catalyst of change in the McConnellsburg gym, and is at the helm of a new culture brewing in the program. She was named the Public Opinion Girls Basketball Player of the Year, edging out three other strong candidates for the award.
After putting up the area’s highest points per game average, 26.2, Mellott, a junior, is well on her way to being a 2,000-point scorer with her sights set on the McConnellsburg all-time scoring record.
“I’ve always been competitive in any sport I played,” Mellott said.
And with her focus on the blue banner listing McConnellsburg's leading scorers, Mellott is also making history in the gym by setting forth a new culture.
“She has really gotten so mature over the last year,” McConnellsburg coach Brent Seville said. “She has really stepped up at practice, encouraging other players.”
In practice, the team goes through a number of competitive drills, such as free throw shooting, where the losing team must run. But this year, Mellott was the first on the "winning" side to run with the losing team.
“These freshman coming in, they see the star, Bronwyne, giving them encouragement, and that means a lot to these young kids,” Seville said. “She stepped up that part of her game, just being that leader has really changed the way she approaches the team now."
Seville said he knew Mellott would be something special when he first coached her in sixth grade. Now five years later, she has grown into an unstoppable threat in blue and white.
“When she’s on fire, you might as well forget it,” Seville said. “She’s a beast when we put her inside, and you can’t stop her.”
Throughout the season, the Spartans saw a slew of different defenses catered toward Mellott, knowing she was responsible for 49 percent of the team’s total scoring this year, yet none could efficiently shut her down. She was limited to single-figure scoring only once this season, in which she scored seven in the second game of the year against Southern Huntingdon.
But two games later, she scored a school record 46 points in a narrow win over Northern Bedford.
"I think it’s really hard to guard me, even though I don’t really go to my right, I just have so many options," Mellott said. "I’m our team’s go-to, and it’s kind of like if I don’t score above 20 it will be a rough game. I think it’s just I’ve always been told even when I was young to keep working on my shots. Everyone can shoot the ball but not everyone can score. Over the years I’ve really focused on my game inside."
Mellott comes from a basketball family, with her parents Howard and Karla boasting 1986 district championship medals from when they each played basketball at Forbes Road.
“It’s not that I want to be better than them, I just look up to them so much and I admire everything they do,” Mellott said. “They do a lot for me. My basketball skills, I give credit to them.
“They are really proud of me and they tell me that all the time. They are hard on me, too, which I think is why I strive to be as good as I am and I’m going to continue to work as hard as I do.”
Bronwyne Mellott file
Parents: Howard and Karla Mellott
Other interests: She is consistently one of the top-ranked Class AA girls tennis players in the state, and plays on an elite AAU basketball team out of Altoona.
Favorite team: Cleveland Cavaliers
Pro athletes most admired: Serena Williams, LeBron James
Statistics: Mellott led the Lady Spartans in nearly every category this season, averaging 26.2 points per game and 7.1 rebounds ... She paced the team with 31 blocks and 59 steals ... Mellott added more than 200 points this season on free throws by shooting 89 percent from the line (201-for-227).