- Tuesday, 07 January 2020
- Written by Earl Vaughan Jr.
Cumberland County had a good showing in the recently-completed Holiday Classic basketball tournament, with county schools taking championships in three of the four brackets.
This was the second year of a major format change in the tournament that was instituted by Cumberland County Schools student activities director Vernon Aldridge.
After years of the county schools facing each other as many as five times in one season, Aldridge instituted the change that divided the 10 county schools into four brackets and brought in outside schools to lower the chance county schools from the same conference would meet each other in the tournament.
“We got a lot of compliments from the outside schools on how the tournament was run,’’ Aldridge said. One email from Eric Davis, coach at Wilmington Laney, called the tournament the best run event of its kind he had seen in his 19 years as a coach.
Here’s a look at the three brackets of the tournament that were won by Cumberland County Schools.
Len Maness Bracket
Westover’s boys downed Middle Creek, Laney and county rival Cape Fear en route to the championship.
Wolverine head coach George Stackhouse felt his team’s depth allowed Westover to utilize different styles of play and maintain poise in a couple of games when they didn’t get off to a good start.
Ma’Nas Drummond of Westover was named the Most Valuable Player of the Maness bracket, scoring 18 points in the title game to lead Westover to the win.
“We felt confident he was going to be able to contribute a lot this year,’’ Stackhouse said of Drummond. “His teammates and everybody were very happy he was able to get MVP.’’
Stackhouse said he feels his team is in a good place as it heads into conference play immediately after the holiday break. “We’ve still got a few things we need to work out,’’ he said. “I’d like halfcourt execution to be better.
“We’ve got to get everyone playing up to their ability, playing together as a team, see if we can’t keep improving.’’
Ike Walker Sr. Bracket
Terry Sanford downed Corinth Holders, Pine Forest and Southern Lee en route to winning the Walker bracket. Coach Karl Molnar said he’s been impressed with his team’s ability to work hard and move the basketball all season, and that continued during the run through the tournament.
If there was a shortcoming the team showed during the tournament, it was the inability to slow down individual opposing players who were on a shooting hot streak.
“It’s hard to win much of anything without playing some good defense,’’ Molnar said. “We’ve not quite mastered how to shut down that one kid that gets going. But we’ve managed to keep our opponents quiet as a whole and put us in a position to move the ball around and be successful offensively.’’
Molnar’s son, Davis, was chosen as the MVP of the Walker bracket, scoring 25 in the title game with Southern Lee.
Molnar said he and his son have frequent basketball conversations on and off the court. “Davis knows as player-and-coach or father-and-son he can talk to me,’’ Molnar said. “He had a good run of three games, and they came at a good time.’’
Molnar felt it was a good sign for county basketball that three of the four finalists in the boys’ brackets of the Holiday Classic were from Cumberland County.
“It’s looking pretty strong for us,’’ he said of the county teams. Things are looking good for the Bulldogs as well as they’ll enter into January’s conference schedule awaiting the return of football standout Ezemdi Udoh, who missed the Holiday Classic because of his participation in the Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas.
"We can’t wait until we get him on the same sheet of music,’’ Molnar said.
Gene Arrington bracket
E.E. Smith’s girls served notice on the rest of the Patriot Athletic Conference that even though they are young, they’ve apparently recovered from the graduation losses suffered last season.
Smith downed Corinth Holders, Westover and Wilmington Hoggard en route to the Arrington bracket championship.
Ke’Onna Bryant won MVP honors for Smith, playing a critical defensive role for her team en route to the championship.
Smith coach Dee Hardy praised Bryant for her aggressive play in the tournament and said she stepped up in key situations where Smith needed a steal or a rebound.
In the 41-32 win over Hoggard in the tournament final, Hardy said she learned some things about her young team and its perseverance and ability to maintain focus.
"We were able to get a lot of five-second counts and out-of-bounds plays,’’ Hardy said. “That was great to see.’’
If there was one troubling result from the tournament it was the fact Smith was the only Cumberland County girls team to make the championship round.
The next highest finishes from the county were third by Jack Britt in the Tom Jackson bracket and third by Westover in the Arrington bracket.
Hardy said she hasn’t seen all the county teams yet so she really can’t say how strong the conference is. For now, she’s focusing on her team.
“Our main focus will be trying to be disciplined and play self-motivated,’’ Hardy said. “We really need to fine tune some things and go back to some basics.’’
Picture 1: Ke’Onna Bryant won MVP honors for Smith, playing a critical defensive role for her team en route to the championship.Photo Credit: Matt Plyler
Picture 2: Ma’Nas Drummond of Westover was named the Most Valuable Player of the Maness bracket. Photo Credit: Matt Plyler
Picture 3: Davis Molnar was chosen as the MVP of the Walker bracket, scoring 25 in the title game with Southern Lee. Photo Credit: Matt Plyler
- Monday, 23 December 2019
- Written by Earl Vaughan Jr.
Here are the top ten Fayetteville and Cumberland County high school stories as selected by a panel of voters:
1. Tyler Bazzle scores for South View.
Tyler Bazzle, a student at South View High School, suffers from a form of cerebral palsy that causes him to be nonverbal and require a walker to get around.
He’s beloved by both students and faculty, and he is a fan of the South View football team and its star player, Matthew Pemberton.
South View athletic director Chad Barbour went to head coach Rodney Brewington with the idea of letting Bazzle suit up for a game, then running a play, giving Bazzle the ball and letting him score a touchdown.
The event was held at South View’s homecoming game with E.E. Smith, with the full support of the folks from Smith and the officiating crew.
Just prior to the kickoff, the ball was given to Bazzle, and best friends Kevin Brewington and Pemberton helped him into the endzone.
After the game, Pemberton gave Bazzle his game cleats.
“It’s an experience I’ll never forget,’’ Barbour said.
2. Wilson excels at wrestling
Dallas Wilson is following in the footsteps of his dad, Cape Fear High School wrestling coach Heath Wilson. His dad is a former state champ and Dallas has already surpassed his efforts.
Dallas won his second consecutive state 3-A wrestling title last year. Also winning from Cape Fear was Jared Barbour.
This year, Dallas is seeking to become only the second wrestler in Cumberland County history with three state titles.
The other is Richard “Pnut” Tolston of Jack Britt High School, who won three straight for Jack Britt High School from 2013-15.
3. Cumberland County athletic signings
Cumberland County Schools had a banner year for its athletes signing letters binding them to compete in athletes for colleges.
According to Cumberland County Student Activities Director Vernon Aldridge, 126 county athletes committed to play for a variety of colleges.
4. Special Olympics honors Gray’s Creek High School
Gray’s Creek High School was one of only two high schools in the state recognized by Special Olympics North Carolina for helping to provide inclusive sports and activities for students with and without disabilities.
Gray’s Creek became an early leader in the Unified Sports program, which partners able-bodied athletes with special needs athletes so the latter can compete in sports including wrestling, track and bowling.
5. Terry Sanford’s Herz drafted by Chicago Cubs
After a brilliant high school career, Terry Sanford pitcher D.J. Herz was chosen by the Chicago Cubs in the 2019 Major League Draft.
Herz was selected in the eighth round by the Cubs. In his final season at Terry Sanford he was 8-1 with a Cumberland County Schools best 0.50 earned run average. He pitched 56.1 innings and led the county with 106 strikeouts.
Herz played for one of the Cubs’ two Arizona rookie league teams last year.
The lefthander appeared in six games, finishing with an 0-1 record and no saves in 10.1 innings pitched. He had eight walks and eight strikeouts.
6. Terry Sanford football stadium demolished
After years of debate about its future, the oldest and biggest high school football stadium in Fayetteville was torn to the ground.
That forced this year’s Terry Sanford football and soccer teams to play all of their games away at Reid Ross Classical High School’s John Daskal Stadium.
The football team played one game at Fayetteville State’s Nick Jeralds Stadium.
The new stadium won’t be used until the first football game of the 2020 season, which is scheduled on Thursday, Aug. 20, against Lumberton.
7. Jason Norton leads Pine Forest while battling cancer
If there was ever a profile in courage, it has to be former Pine Forest athletic director Jason Norton. First diagnosed with cancer in 2016, Norton continued to make a regular commute from his native Hamlet to work as athletic director at Pine Forest.
He continued to fight to regain his health and remain at Pine Forest until the strain finally forced him to step down as Trojan athletic director, taking temporary leave in September.
8. Cape Fear ends South View cross country streak
The Cape Fear boys’ cross country team ended one of the longest winning streaks in Cumberland County history this season when they halted South View’s run of 21 straight conference cross country championships.
Jonathan Piland sparked the Colts by placing second in the championship race with a time of 17:04.20.
Julius Ferguson was third overall for the Colts while Juan Alvarado took fifth, giving Cape Fear three runners in the top five.
Placing in the top 20 for Cape Fear were Collin Gaddy 10th, Alden Bostic 13th and Colton Danks 20th.
The Colts went on to place fourth in the regional meet and qualified for the North Carolina High School Athletic Association state championship meet.
9. Fayetteville Academy wins state basketball title
Bill Boyette is no stranger to championship basketball. After a long record of earning titles in public schools, Boyette added a private school championship to his resume.
Boyette’s Fayetteville Academy boys won the North Carolina Independent Schools Athletic Association 2-A championship, defeating Wayne Country Day 64-45 in the title game.
Fayetteville Academy finished 27-3.
According to rankings posted at MaxPreps.com, the Eagles were No. 6 in the state among all schools, public and private, and No. 1 in their classification in the NCISAA.
Multi-sport standout and football broadcaster Don Koonce dies.
Don Koonce was one of the greatest multi-sport athletes in Cumberland County history.
After a successful stint in the minor leagues, he returned to his native county and became involved with the Mid-South Sports broadcasting team as a color commentator.
Eventually, he branched out on his own, founding DK Sports, Inc., which led to the creation of multiple broadcast teams covering everything from football to basketball to softball.
Koonce passed away shortly before the 2019 football season started.
His loss left a void in local high school sports coverage that will be almost impossible to fill.
Terry Sanford’s Dorian Clark sets school rushing record
There have been some great running backs at Terry Sanford, names like Nub Smith, Roger Gann, Dwight Richardson and Louis Craft just to list a few.
But among all of them, Dorian Clark now stands as the all-time leading rusher.
The senior running back finished his stellar career with the Bulldogs with 5,945 career yards and 67 touchdowns.
For the season he had 2,346 yards and 33 scores. The former was tops among Cumberland County running backs.
Picture 1: Tyler Bazzle celebrates his touchdown.
Picture 2: L-R, Dallas Wilson and Jared Barbour of Cape Fear pose with their championship brackets on the floor of the Greensboro Coliseum after winning NCHSAA state 3-A wrestling titles.