NAPPANEE — When the games mattered most, Maddy Payne put on her best performances.

The NorthWood senior shined all season for the Panthers, but had particularly strong showings in the sectional final, regional final, semistate and state championship games. For that reason, Payne has been selected as The Goshen News’ 2019-20 All-Area Girls Basketball Player of the Year.

Payne averaged 13 points, 6.0 rebounds, 1.2 assists and 1.8 steals per game in helping NorthWood win the Class 3A state championship. Her performances in the big games, though, is what stood out from Payne’s season.

In the sectional final against Lakeland, the senior had 22 points and nine rebounds. A week later in the regional title game vs. Knox, Payne had 10 points and five rebounds. In the semistate contest against Benton Central, she tallied 13 points and nine rebounds. And finally, in the last game of her high school basketball career, Payne had 19 points and 10 rebounds as NorthWood beat Salem, 37-29, to win the state crown.

Payne led NorthWood in scoring in all four championship-clinching games.

“For me, it was always knowing that it could be my last game,” Payne said. “Before every game, coach (Adam) Yoder gave the four seniors time to talk and motivate. In the postseason, before every game I said right before we came out that this has the potential to be our last game, and I’m not ready to lose and nobody else is ready to lose. And I think I held myself accountable to that — I tried to, at least — and clearly it turned out pretty well.”

After the sectional championship victory, Yoder called Payne one of the best athletes in NorthWood history. Yoder double-downed on his statement after the state title game as well. Along with a four-year varsity basketball career, Payne has excelled in volleyball and track. She will be going to Bethel College in Mishawaka on a volleyball scholarship next year.

“It meant a lot to me, especially coming from him,” said Payne of Yoder’s praise. “I can’t say that I would’ve said that about myself.”

NorthWood came into the 2019-20 season with expectations to have a strong season. This was mostly due to Payne and fellow senior Kate Rulli returning for their final seasons. With both standing at 6-1 and 6-0, respectively, Payne and Rulli were expected to lead the Panthers to levels they hadn’t reached in six years — even if they didn’t know that until halfway through the season.

“It was just something we kind of realized together,” Payne said. “There was a little bit of pressure with it, but I think we handled it really well knowing all of that pressure wasn’t just on one of us; it was on both of us, so we could kind of share it equally.”

Payne’s work ethic is what drove her to handle that pressure so well.

“Naturally, when your senior year hits, you kind of know that it’s the end,” Payne said. “I think that caused me to work a little bit harder — I wasn’t ever going to be the person that gave up, I wasn’t ever going to be last; I was always going to do by best in everything that I do. I think that helped a lot.”

Along with the on-court accolades, Payne won an off-the-court one this year as well. She received the Patricia L. Roy Mental Attitude Award following the state championship game, awarded to “a senior participant in each classification who was nominated by her principal and coach and has demonstrated excellence in mental attitude, scholarship, leadership and athletic ability,” according to the IHSAA.

While her coach and teammates weren’t surprised she won the award, Payne was.

“The first thing that went through my head was, ‘What?’ Then, I was really excited for my parents because I knew they were going to be proud of me,” Payne said. “My mom was crying – I knew that was going to happen.”

For Payne, winning the mental attitude award validated all the hard work she had put in off the court.

“I feel like I’ve worked for a long time in this program to build a community and atmosphere where there’s friendship and camaraderie and joy all the time because it wasn’t always like that when I was an underclassman,” Payne said. “And so, I worked really hard to make that possible, and getting that kind of re-assured that everything I’d been doing had been noticed.”

Payne’s senior season of track is in jeopardy due to the coronavirus pandemic closing all schools in Indiana until May 1. While she has enjoyed tremendous on-court success, Payne hopes she’s remember for not just her athletic accomplishments.

“When I go anywhere, I don’t want to be remembered for the athlete that I am — which, while it’s a good thing, I don’t want to be remembered for that,” Payne said. “I want to be remembered for how I treat people and how I make them feel. I don’t want to make them feel bad about themselves — I want to encourage them, lift them up and make them believe in themselves and possibly help them do something that they didn’t think they could do.

“I want to be remembered as that person; someone that, in the future, can look back and say, ‘Oh yeah, she was really nice to me all the time, even when I felt other people weren’t noticing me.’”

ALL-AREA GIRLS BASKETBALL TEAM (in alphabetical order by school)

PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Maddy Payne, senior, NorthWood — 13.0ppg, 6.0rpg, 1.2apg, 1.8spg

1st team:

Payne (stats above)

Brynn Shoup-Hill, junior, Goshen — 15.5ppg, 11.5rpg, 0.9apg, 1.0spg

Bailey Hartsough, junior, Lakeland — 15.3ppg, 7.6rpg, 2.3apg, 3.0spg

Kate Rulli, senior, NorthWood — 12.5ppg, 8.0rpg, 0.8apg, 1.4spg

Gloria Miller, junior, Westview — 16.0ppg, 10.0rpg, 0.9apg, 2.3spg

2nd team:

Sydney Simon, senior, Concord 12.5ppg, 5.9rpg, 1.1apg

Jadelyn Williams, senior, Concord — 12ppg, 2.2rpg, 3.7apg

Jaci Walker, junior, Northridge — 12.9ppg, 5.2rpg, 1.0apg, 1.6spg

Juliana Weaver, senior, Northridge — 11.0ppg, 4.2rpg, 2.5 apg, 2.9spg

Lilly Mast, junior, West Noble — 13.8ppg, 5.4rpg, 2.4apg, 4.7spg

3rd team:

Kendal Swartout, junior, Concord — 9.7ppg, 5.0rpg, 1.0apg

Brea Garber, freshman, Fairfield — 9.4ppg, 5.3rpg, 2.0apg, 1.3spg

Beth Stroop, senior, Lakeland — 9.5ppg, 3.0rpg, 1.4apg

Alea Minnich, junior, NorthWood — 8.2ppg, 3.3rpg, 2.2apg, 1.6spg

Jazmyn Smith, sophomore, West Noble — 10.4ppg, 7.1rpg, 2.9spg


Mariah Miller, senior, Bethany Christian — 6.6ppg, 4.5rpg, 1.4spg

Kara Kitson, junior, Fairfield — 9.5ppg, 1.6rpg, 1.6apg, 1.4spg

Tori Eldridge, sophomore, Goshen — 6.7ppg, 3.5rpg, 1.3apg

Makena Knepp, junior, Northridge — 8.6ppg, 2.4rpg, 2.0apg, 1.4spg

Kendal Miller, junior, NorthWood — 7.5ppg, 2.7rpg, 1.4apg, 1.4spg

Emily Haines, sophomore, Wawasee — 8.0ppg, 4.4rpg, 1.2apg, 1.5spg

Kate Welsh, freshman, Westview — 6.8ppg, 3.3rpg, 3.2apg

Austin Hough can be reached at or at 574-538-2360. Follow him on Twitter at @AustinHoughTGN.

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