Donja Payne named California Co-Player of the Year

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Donja Payne
Donja Payne shoots a free throw earlier this season against Merced. Photo by Paul Muyskens

While the Delta College women’s basketball team is looking to make history this season with their first state championship, they scored another standout moment last week as freshman Donja Payne was named California State Co-Player of the Year.

“I felt amazing,” said Payne, reflecting on the moment when she heard she earned an honor that just two others had earned in program history. “I felt like my team really gave me that push. I could not have done it without my teammates.”

“I really just wanted to push myself to a different level,” said Payne about her goals coming into her first season at Delta. “I knew it was going to take some time and some work. I came in with a mindset of putting in the work.”

“She actually only plays 19 minutes,” said head coach Gina Johnson. The team does not have a single player that averages more than 20 minutes a game.

“Her numbers would be higher if we didn’t have such a deep team,” Johnson said.

Vanessa Cochrane currently holds the program’s all-time three-point made record with 107 and was named to the All-State second team while freshman Alicia Jones was named to the third-team.

“The biggest factor I think on this year’s team is the entire team really love(s) each other,” said Johnson. “They love playing together and for each other. They really are a bonded group which is really hard to get that in a team. As a head coach, I couldn’t ask for anything more.”

Currently ranked the top team in the state, the Mustangs are 28-1 and have won 21 games in a row. All but two of those wins this season have come by double digits, while no win has come by less than nine points. They are also averaging 84.3 points per game which is second-best in the state.

“I knew we were going to go really far but the way that we are going and the rate that we are going I am pretty impressed,” said Payne.

“This team keeps stepping up and surprising us as coaches,” said Johnson about the expectations that come with being ranked as the team to beat. “I don’t feel stressed because I feel like they are up for the challenge. The credit is to these young ladies. This team seems to be ready to play every game. They come out with a lot of effort. They have a good work ethic.”

“There is a lot of pressure because we want to go all the way,” said Payne. “We came this far, we don’t want to end on a bad note.”

That pressure doesn’t seem to be a bad thing for Payne and the Mustangs, however.

“I’d rather have the pressure,” said Payne. “The arrow is right on our back.”

The Mustangs will continue to shoot for a first state championship in program history when they host Redwoods this Saturday at 7 p.m.