SPORTS AWARDS: A PLAYER who is the leading scorer in senior women's basketball in this country, as well as U18 women's and U16s women's sections, is a worthy winner of our Female Sports Personality award.

At the age of just 16, Johannah Leedham has emulated the achievement of popular tae kwon-do instructor Tony Littlejohns in being voted a winner by our readers for two successive years.

England international Johannah currently represents the Ellesmere Port Panthers club at three levels, often playing at least a hat-trick of competitive games each weekend. But her amazing stamina and scoring prowess have enabled her to stay top of the points charts in all divisions.

The opponents she has faced in senior competition this season are not only larger and more experienced than herself but also the very best in the UK with Panthers entering Division One of the women's game.

But it has been a campaign to relish for the Ellesmere Port Catholic High School pupil, who believes she is now a much better all-round player.

Johannah said: 'It's been really hard playing in Division One but it's improved me loads. We've been used to winning most of our games in the past but we've only had a couple of victories at senior level. The basketball is tougher and more physical but I've loved the challenge and it's certainly been my favourite year so far.

'My highlight of the season up to now was the senior team's big win over Sheffield Hatters as they're one of the best women's teams in the country.'

Panthers' coach Jim McGinn is also delighted with the progress that the club's scoring ace has made over the past 12 months.

He said: 'Johannah has improved mentally and she's a lot stronger. She's so talented offensively but this year she has improved on some of the technical elements of the game, such as three-point shooting. She works hard and come game-time, she's always ultra-competitive. Johannah's the sort of player you'd want to go into war with you.'

Turning out at three different levels, Johannah operates in different roles against different types of opponents.

McGinn said: 'The size of the opponents tends to go up by three or four inches at each age level, so while Johannah can play what we call the three, four or five spots in U16 games, operating as a power forward or even centre, we use her at two or three in the senior games and she is predominately on the wing.'

Once this season is over, Johannah is looking forward to a big summer in the USA where she will be attending recruitment camps with her older sister Jennifer.

She said: 'We hope to attend an American High School for a year before going on to play college basketball.'

The move will signify the end of an era for Panthers with senior team players Jennifer Fields and Alex Lodge hoping to go off to universities in the UK. But McGinn is philosophical about the predicament.

He said: 'The American experience will be good for Johannah and Jennifer as they're light years ahead of us when it comes to basketball and college sports.

'Losing four of our senior starters may mean that we have to withdraw our senior team or certainly move down to Division Two. It might take another couple of years until we return to the top, but we'll be back.'