High School Highlights

Patriot All-Conference softball

Here is the Patriot Athletic All-Conference softball team as chosen by the league’s head coaches.

Coach of the year: Stuart Gilmer, Gray’s Creek

Player of the year: Jaden Pone, Gray’s Creek

Pitcher of the year: Katie Murphy, Cape Fear

First team:

• Terry Sanford — Anna Suggs, Maddie Beard

• E.E. Smith — Kayla Parson

• Pine Forest — Zareeya Watson, Brianna Crosby, Brittany Maultsby, Korie St. Peter, Mary Lee Sullivan

• Gray’s Creek — Mackenzie Mason, Drew Menscer, Kylie Aldridge, Morgan Brady, Courtney Cygan, Jaden Pone

• Overhills — Malik’s Dones, Kiana Jones

• Cape Fear — Katie Murphy, Morgan Nunnery, Alyssa Meredith, Taylor Melvin, Aubrey Griffin, Jess Oxendine

• South View — Mia Ayers, Danielle Golcher, Alex Deville

• Westover — Alaina Walker

Honorable mention:

• Terry Sanford — Mylie Leahy

• E.E. Smith — Madilyn Hotchkiss, Abraonna Williams

• Gray’s Creek — Summer Powell, Madi Badley, Rebecca Collins

• Overhills — Taylor Nunn, Megan Maurer, Liz Mitchell

• Cape Fear — Marlin Horne, Aleiyah Payne, Lauren Adams, Ava Basket, Toni Blackwell

• South View — Faith Franklin, Raven Camacho, Bailey Lockwood, Katie Smith

• Westover — Chkylie Boado, Jasmine Kelsey, Maya Johnson

Patriot All-Conference baseball

18davidjohn HerzHere is the Patriot Athletic All-Conference baseball team as chosen by the league’s head coaches.

Coach of the year: Sam Guy, Terry Sanford

Player of the year: Davidjohn Herz, Terry Sanford

Pitcher of the year: Nick West, Cape Fear

First team:

• Cape Fear — Cade Oliver, Cole Altman

• Douglas Byrd — Edwardo Alfons

• Gray’s Creek — Landen Harris, Tyler Strickland, Aaron Smith, Ryan Miller, Dillon Taylor

•Overhills — Ricky Kelly

• Pine Forest — Justin Honeycutt, Isaac Gonzales, James O’Brien, Lance Lockamy

• South View — Riley Caudle, Damon Evans, Keshawn Dunham

• Terry Sanford — Justin Ebert, Jackson Deaver, Marcus Sanchez, Dorian Clark, Tommy Cooney, Hunter Wiggins

Honorable mention:

• Cape Fear — Nick Minacapelli

• Gray’s Creek — Hunter Smith, J.J. Rivera

• Overhills — Johnny Vickers, Richard Hooks

• South View — Caleb Shinn

• Terry Sanford — Jack Cooney

Scholar Athletes of the Week

16IsabellaWitherow

Isabella Witherow

Gray’s Creek  • Cross country/swimming/ Unified track •  Junior

Witherow has an unweighted grade point average of 4.0. She is a member of National Honor Society and the Yearbook Club. She will attend North Carolina Governor’s School this summer.

 

17NickQuinn

Nick Quinn

Gray’s Creek • Wrestling/Unified track • Senior

Quinn has a weighted grade point average of 4.4. He was a member of the Academy of Information Technology at Gray’s Creek. He will attend North Carolina State in the fall to study engineering

Freedom overcomes tragedy to win state softball title

15haleynelsonFreedom Christian Academy’s softball team experienced tragedy before its 2019 season ever started. But by season’s end, the coaches and players were able to move from tragedy to triumph as they bought home the school’s third North Carolina Independent Schools Athletic Association state title in four years.

The Patriots entered this year’s NCISAA 2-A state tournament as the No. 3 seed but cruised through the double elimination portion of the playoffs unbeaten. They beat both top-seeded Rocky Mount Academy and No. 2 Halifax Academy along the way, the former on its home field in a 16-inning duel lasting over three and a half hours.

Freedom finished the season 16-4 under the leadership of first-year head coach John Smith. Smith was no stranger to the Freedom softball program. He became the school’s director of security in 2016 after his longtime friend, the late Eddie Dees, had become Freedom’s softball coach and led the Patriots to their first-ever softball championship.

Dees passed away that same year. Smith, a former member of the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Department and the Hope Mills Police Department, continued in an assistant coaching role until he was asked to take over as head coach entering the 2019 season.

It wasn’t long after he was hired that the team experienced misfortune. Haley Roberson, the starting third baseman, died at her home in late September one morning before school.

“She was a solid defensive player and an offensive threat,’’ Smith said of Roberson. “Between the emotions of losing her, starting the season without her and trying to fill that void, it was some trying times.’’

It was reflected in the team’s record as they struggled to a 3-3 start.

“We only had five returnees and eight new girls,’’ Smith said. “The nucleus of that bunch was seventh and eighth graders. They had travel ball experience, but they hadn’t been with our program. We had to learn their skill set.’’

Smith praised the work of two veteran assistant coaches, Russell Montgomery and Jimmy Nelson. “They know the game inside out and were there to help me,’’ he said.

So were their two daughters, pitcher Haley Nelson and catcher Molly Montgomery. Nelson, a junior, is committed to play at Queens University of Charlotte. Montgomery, a senior, has a scholarship to Gardner-Webb University.

Just getting to the postseason was a brutal test for Freedom because of the tough competition it faced in its own league, the Sandhills Athletic Conference. Cape Fear Christian Academy won the NCISAA 1-A state championship. Fayetteville Christian made the final four in the 3-A playoffs, and Village Christian was a top ten seed in the same classification.

The Patriots lost at Rocky Mount Academy 4-0 in their second game of the season, so Smith knew when they faced them again in the state playoffs it was going to be a challenge.

“It was definitely a pitching duel for 16 innings,’’ he said of the rematch in the state tournament. Finally, Marissa McQueen, a seventh grader, drilled a double to right center to score a pair of runs that held up for the win.

Nelson went the distance on the mound and recorded 13 strikeouts in the win. Both she and Montgomery were selected to the NCISAA 2-A All- State team.

But those aren’t the most interesting numbers about the championship season. Roberson’s jersey number was three, her position third base, and that number kept popping up for Freedom in the postseason. To begin with, they were the third seed in the state tournament.

They won the final game of the tournament over Halifax 6-3, after scoring three runs late to break a 3-3 tie. And when the season was over, the Patriots had their third state title.

“Although Haley was not present, she was there in spirit and mind with us,’’ Smith said.

Photo: Haley Nelson

Patriot All-Conference boys tennis

15tennisterrysanfordHere is the Patriot Athletic Conference tennis team as chosen by the league’s head coaches.

Player of the year: Alexander Kasari, Terry Sanford

First team, singles:

• Terry Sanford — Nathan Lieberman, James Barefoot

• South View — Christian George, Ben George

• Overhills — Roger America, Chase Thompson

• Pine Forest — Jacob Green, Colby Blackwell

• Gray’s Creek — Garrett Hoyt, Dylan Daniel

• Cape Fear — Jalen Farmer, Hunter Edwards

First team, doubles:

• Terry Sanford — Nathan Lieberman, Alexander Kasari

• South View — Christian George, Ben George

• Overhills — Roger America, Chase Thompson

• Gray’s Creek — Garrett Hoyt, Dylan Daniel

• Cape Fear — Hunter Edwards, Eli Benbenek

Photo:  Left to right: Terry Sanford’s Nathan Lieberman, Coach Gene Autry, Alex Kasari

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