High School Highlights

High school shot clock debate not going away

18 Shot ClockThe calendar has turned to March, which in the world of high school sports can only mean one thing — basketball. It is time for state tournaments, March Madness and, yes, the annual rhetoric about the merits of the shot clock. 

For the almost one million boys and girls who participate in high school basketball, there is nothing quite like the state tournament. Although there are great memories from the one-class days, led by Carr Creek’s almost upset of powerhouse Ashland in Kentucky in 1928 and Milan’s Cinderella victory in Indiana in 1954, today, basketball provides more opportunities for girls and boys teams to be crowned state champion than any other sport.

This month, about 450 girls and boys teams will earn state basketball titles in championships conducted by NFHS member state associations. Multiple team champions are crowned for both boys and girls in all states but two, with the majority of states sponsoring tournaments in 4-6 classifications for each and four states conducting state championships in seven classes.

That is truly March Madness, which is appropriate since the term was first used in connection with high school basketball. Although the tag line became familiar to millions on a national scale in relation to the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship, the NCAA shares a dual-use trademark with the Illinois High School Association (IHSA), thanks to H. V. Porter, the first full-time executive director of the NFHS. 

In his final year as IHSA executive director in 1939, Porter published his “March Madness” essay in reference to the mania surrounding the IHSA’s annual state basketball tournament. Eight years later, in a 1947 Associated Press article, Porter said, “Naturally, we think basketball has done a lot for high school kids, but it’s done something for the older people, too. It has made community life in general a lot more fun each winter.”

While many things have changed in the past 73 years, the value of high school sports — and especially state basketball tournaments  — remains as strong as ever today. In some states, seemingly the entire community will travel to the site of the state tournament in support of the high school team. 

As a footnote to the use of March Madness, Scott Johnson, recently retired assistant executive director of the IHSA in his book “Association Work,” discovered through research that the first recorded mention of March Madness in relation to basketball occurred in 1931 by Bob Stranahan, sports editor of the New Castle Courier-Times in Indiana. 

While the sport remains strong and March Madness is set to begin in earnest across the nation, there is a belief by some that the addition of a shot clock would make the game even better.

Although there are some arguments for implementing the shot clock, the NFHS Basketball Rules Committee, similar to the other 14 NFHS rules committees, must make decisions based on what is best for the masses — the small schools with less than 100 students as well as large urban schools with 3,000-plus students. Rule changes will always be made with considerations for minimizing risks, containing costs and developing rules that are best for high school athletes. 

Nine of our member state associations have elected to use a shot clock in their states, which certainly adds to the clamor for its implementation nationally. And, we at the NFHS have read the headlines, seen the social media posts and received the phone calls advocating for the shot clock’s adoption. However, the Basketball Rules Committee will continue to assess the shot clock based on the aforementioned considerations, as well its members representing all areas of the country.

We encourage everyone to support their local high school teams by attending this year’s exciting state basketball tournaments.

Photo credit: NFHS.

Scholar athletes of the week: 3/11/20

17 01 MarshaunDemarshaun Worley

Gray’s Creek • Basketball/track • Senior

Worley has a 4.25 grade point average. He’s an analyst for the Bears Sports Network. He is active in the New Light Church youth group. He has been a competitor and winner in his church’s oratorical contest. He is also a crew member at a local fast food restaurant.

17 02 ChassieChassie Jacops

Gray’s Creek • Volleyball/swimming • Junior

Jacops has a 3.91 grade point average. She is a member of the Student Government Association, National Honor Society, Future Business Leaders of America and works at a local sandwich shop.

Cape Fear, Gray's Creek set to duel for softball honors

The last time Cape Fear didn’t win its conference regular-season title in softball was 2013.

But since joining the 3-A Patriot Athletic Conference in 2018, the Colts have had a new rival nipping at their heels, Gray’s Creek.

In that first season together, the only losses Gray’s Creek suffered in conference play were to the Colts. Last season, the teams split their regular-season meetings and shared the regular-season conference championship.

But with Cape Fear losing 16 seniors over the past two years and Gray’s Creek returning some key veteran players, the Bears appear ready to contest the Colts’ string of league titles this spring.Here’s a closer look at both teams:

Cape Fear

Colt coach Jeff McPhail said his team is in a rebuilding mode after so many graduation losses over the last two seasons. “It’s going to be a learning experience for us this year,’’ he said. “The graduating thing caught up with us. We’re all eager to see what we can do this year with these young kids.’’

Toni Blackwell is the most experienced Cape Fear pitcher returning. She was 3-0 last season with a 2.33 earned run average, striking out 38 batters in 21 innings.
McPhail expects the leader of the pitching staff to be freshman Alexza Glemaker. “She’s been doing a good job throughout the fall and winter,’’ McPhail said of Glemaker, who transferred to Cape Fear from the South View district.

The infield will also be dominated by youth, with freshmen scheduled to start at nearly every position.

One of the most experienced players on the team is outfielder Morgan Nunnery, who has been with the Colts four years. She was around as a freshman the last time Cape Fear made the finals of the North Carolina High School Athletic Association softball playoffs.

“She keeps everything together,’’ McPhail said of Nunnery. “She’s done a really good job in the classroom and the softball program.’’

Nunnery, a slap hitter, batted a whopping .671 last season for Cape Fear. She led Cumberland County Schools with 55 hits, including nine doubles and one home run. She scored a county-best 49 runs and drove in 31.

Nunnery said the rich tradition of softball at Cape Fear helps push each year’s players to do their best. “We’ve always been pretty big competitors in our conference,’’ she said. “We are here to represent. You have to play to the standard of Cape Fear softball.

“It means a lot to wear the jersey, having the community behind you.’’

With all the youth on this year’s team, Nunnery said it will be important to develop chemistry early and get to know each other.

McPhail agrees. “For us to be competitive, we’ve got to know each other,’’ he said.

Gray’s Creek

With a veteran lineup returning, Bears’ head coach Stuart Gilmer hopes his team will be able to compete head-to-head with Cape Fear again this season.
Heading the returners for the Bears is one of the best players in the county, Patriot Athletic Conference Player of the Year Jaden Pone.

Pone led all hitters from Cumberland County Schools last season with a .700 batting average. She had seven doubles, six triples and six home runs while driving in a county-best 45 runs.

Also back are Kylie Aldridge who hit .583, Morgan Brady who hit .489, Courtney Cygan who hit .446 and Becca Collins who batted .385. Collins, who plays first base, is the younger sister of former South View star Whitney Sirois Maxwell.

Returning to lead the pitching corps is Madi Bagley, who was 6-2 last season with a 1.03 earned run average. She threw 54 innings and recorded 57 strikeouts.

“Madi has a good fastball and likes to mix in some movement and a changeup now and then,’’ Gilmer said. “She does a good job of hitting
her spots.’’

Gilmer thinks offense is going to be critical for Gray’s Creek to win this season. “Hopefully, our bats can get us in positions early in games where we can get up and help us relax on defense,’’ he said. “We’ve got to be defensively sound. I tell them at practice every day, little things make big things happen. If we take care of little things defensively, big things could happen for us.’’

While the Bears have experience on the field, there are only three seniors on the roster. One of them is Collins at first base.

She thinks the team comes into the 2020 season with a positive attitude and a strong bond as teammates.

Her top goal personally is to improve her reaction to different game situations. “They don’t always go as planned,’’ she said. “How we react to them sets the tone for the next play.’’

While Cape Fear may be the team to beat for conference honors, Collins plans to respect every opponent on the schedule. “We need to think everyone is going to give us a run for our money,’’ she said.

Gilmer is expecting plenty of competition from the traditional powers in the conference. “Cape Fear, South View, Pine Forest and Overhills should all give us a run for our money,’’ he said.

Terry Sanford baseball has younger lineup

16 01 Jackson deaverTerry Sanford’s baseball team has won three consecutive conference titles and hasn’t lost a conference game for the last two seasons.

But veteran head coach Sam Guy is looking at a much different landscape as he prepares his team for the 2020 season.

Gone are most of the pitching stars from his 2019 team, including pitcher D.J. Herz, who was chosen by the Chicago Cubs in the Major League Baseball draft and is now pitching in the minor leagues.

16 02 Sam GuyA core group of four seniors including Jackson Deaver, Dorian Clark, Tommy Cooney and Jack Cooney will form the nucleus of this year’s Bulldog team. After that, Guy said Terry Sanford will be counting on some inexperienced faces.

“We will have a carousel of lineups depending on who is pitching,’’ Guy said. “We’re going to be really young on the mound.’’

He said it’s likely instead of having a starter go five or six innings and a reliever taking the mound to wrap things up, many games will see the Bulldogs use as many as three pitchers.

“There’s going to be a lot more trying to manufacture runs, trying to find the best nine that play the best together to carry us through,’’ he said.

Guy’s biggest concern during the preseason has been the way the team is hitting the ball. “We’ve been missing too many fastballs and we can’t do that,’’ he said.
That is why he’s counting heavily on Deaver to help lead an inexperienced lineup of hitters. Last season, Deaver was one of five .400 hitters for Terry Sanford, ending the season with a .418 batting average. He was second among players from Cumberland County Schools in RBI’s with 27. He had eight doubles and a triple.

“He was a big run producer last year,’’ Guy said. Guy will use Deaver at three positions in the field, catcher, first base or third base, depending on who is pitching for Terry Sanford.

Deaver, who was the defensive Player of the Year on last fall’s Patriot Athletic Conference All-Conference football team, said the weight training he does for football carries over to help him in baseball.

“I definitely thinks that helps with my swing and my explosiveness,’’ he said. He also said the quickness football helps him develop are assets on defense, especially when he’s playing catcher or third base.

While the Bulldog pitching staff will be young, Deaver thinks there is a lot of potential there.

Cruise Herz is the younger brother of the departed D.J. Herz. Joining him will be Brady Gore, Cason Puczylowski and Tommy Cooney.

“They are not going to throw 94 or 95 miles per hour like D.J.,  but they are going to get you the ground ball outs, the pop fly outs,’’ Deaver said. “They are more than capable of getting the strikeouts that we need.’’

Deaver said the goals for both himself and the team are the same: win the regular season, the Bulldog Easter tournament and the state title.
Terry Sanford’s annual Easter baseball tournament will be held April 11, 13-14.

Competing teams in this year’s tournament in addition to the Bulldogs are Triton, Hobbton, Pittsboro Northwood, Apex Middle Creek, Western Harnett, East Bladen and Richmond Senior.

Scholar athletes of the week: 3/04/20

17 01 Amari TaylorAmari Taylor

Pine Forest • Indoor track • Junior

Taylor has a 4.32 grade point average. History is her favorite subject. She loves R&B and jazz, enjoys movies and hanging out with friends. Her dream college is the University of Miami, where she would like to major in premed.

 

17 02 Marquis eskewMarquis Eskew

Pine Forest • Basketball • Senior

Eskew has a grade point average of 3.8. English is his favorite subject. He plans to attend college and major in business entrepreneurship. He has been accepted at East Carolina and North Carolina A&T. He wants to own his own accounting business. He likes listening to rap music and R&B.

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