Surrounded by her teammates, freshly cut net hanging around her shoulders. This is exactly how Kayla Pedersen envisioned her high school career coming to an end.
“This is a life-lasting memory,” Pedersen said. “This will be one of the best days ever. Probably right there with getting married and having kids.”
The Mesa Red Mountain senior closed out her prep career with a 15-point, 11-rebound effort Wednesday night in a 46-35 win over Mesa Mountain View in the 5A Division I girls basketball championship game at Jobing.com Arena in Glendale.
Until Wednesday’s win, Pedersen’s career was marked by outstanding individual play, but no championships. The Stanford University-bound forward is the 5A Conference’s all-time leading scorer, with 2,612 points. Later this month, Pedersen will play in the McDonald’s All-American game at Louisville, Ky.
Pedersen was often compared with Phoenix Mountain Pointe’s Nicole Powell, who, like Pedersen, ended her prep career as the all-time leading scorer in 5A. Powell, also like Pedersen, went on to attend Stanford.
But Powell failed to win a state title.
“State championship is number one,” Pedersen said. “I don’t care if I have all of those individual records, as long as I have a state championship. That’s what it’s about, winning.”
For Pedersen, the journey toward the state championship began with the first step: going to Red Mountain. While she lives in Fountain Hills, Pedersen enrolled in the Mesa district as a freshman, and she was a starter at Red Mountain that season. From then on, Pedersen, and the Mountain Lions program, have grown.
“It was the best decision I’ve ever made in my life,” Pedersen said. “I love coach (Martin) Appel to death, all my teammates, they’re the best teammates ever.”
Fountain Hills did provide a little extra motivation for Pedersen this year. Her brother, Kyle, was a sophomore on the Falcons’ state title team, which won its third straight championship on Feb. 24.
“He brags about it all of the time,” Pedersen said. “He’s got two now, so he’s like, 'You don’t even have any.’
“So for me to get that title, he’s going to be so proud of me.”