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Column: Handing out end-of-year hardware
Looking back on fun year in the Piedmont

Sunday, June 23, 2013

By MARK THOMPSON - Bulletin Sports Editor

Graduation has come and gone, and summer officially started Friday, which only means this column is well past due.

That’s right, this is the year-end column where we give our thoughts on a few of the standouts and best moments the Martinsville and Henry County high school sports year had to offer.

And what a year it was. On behalf of current sports staffers Chris Pride, Doug Powell and myself, as well as the departed David Reynolds, thanks for a great season of prep sports.

To all the players, coaches, athletes, school administrators, parents and fans, thank you for the dedication and work you put in that makes this whole thing so much fun.

We know you don’t have to — especially you coaches, administrators and players who took our calls and talked to us, even when you didn’t want to after a loss. Without you, the sports pages would project no semblance of what they are.

Best team: Carlisle boys basketball

Magna Vista’s football team has won this award the last three years, and although the Warriors turned in another great season, this year the honor goes to Carlisle’s boys basketball team.

The Chiefs almost went undefeated through the regular season, losing only a non-conference game against G.W.-Danville by eight points.

Still, in spite of all the numbers, the best thing about Carlisle’s squad this season was it was a mixture of show and familiarity. After new coach Jason Niblett helped assemble a handful of Division I prospects, he mixed it up with familiar names like Mitchell Hamlett and Cole Dickerson, among others.

There were home-grown elements and there was the show Niblett promised. And boy was it a show.

Outside of a race weekend at Martinsville Speedway, Carlisle’s basketball team may have been the biggest show in town.

The Chiefs eventually lost to North Cross in the VISAA D-III semifinals. Carlisle knocked off North Cross three previous times that season, and it lost the fourth encounter by one point, 34-33.

Just how good was this team this season? Going into the state playoffs, Carlisle was outscoring its opponents by an average of 28.7 points a game.

Honorable mentions: Carlisle boys soccer, Bassett girls basketball, Tunstall baseball, Tunstall football, Bassett baseball, Martinsville boys basketball.

Male athlete of the year: Paris Jamison, Martinsville

It’s hard to imagine Martinsville’s boys basketball team making it as far as it did without Paris Jamison. Jamison eclipsed the 1,000-point mark in his career at Martinsville this season and averaged more than 18 points a game to help lead the Bulldogs to the state playoffs. Martinsville eventually lost to one-loss Spotswood. Jamison scored a game-high 23 points in that loss.

Jamison’s numbers, though impressive, can’t really paint a picture of his value. What made Jamison so important to his team was his ability to make the best of the team’s worst nights.

Martinsville head coach Jeff Adkins said Jamison was the best finisher at the rim he ever coached. He was also a heck of a rebounder and racked up double-doubles like his next breath depended on it.

When Martinsville wasn’t making its 3-point shots, Jamison was always there to clean up the glass or direct Martinsville’s offense inward. His efforts not only kept the Bulldogs in most every game, but led Martinsville to a handful of wins, including a 69-66 overtime win against Magna Vista for the Piedmont District Championship.

Honorable mention: Brandon Carter, Martinsville (track and field); Luke Simpson, Tunstall (baseball); Kemper Terry, Bassett (baseball); Preston Key, Carlisle (soccer); Thon Maker, Carlisle (basketball); Keon Mabin, Magna Vista (football and basketball); Wendell Hutchens, Patrick County (golf and baseball).

Female athlete of the year: Ebony Reynolds,

Patrick County

Reynolds wasn’t just dominant in one sport this season, she ruled two. The Patrick County basketball standout was a co-Piedmont District Player of the Year in hoops before raking on Piedmont District softball pitchers.

Although Reynolds and the Cougars were defeated in the Piedmont District Championship by Bassett in basketball, Reynolds was recognized as the co-PD Player of the Year along with Bassett’s Åndrea Venable.

She was the most consistent offensive weapon on the Cougars’ roster.

After that, Reynolds was voted as the preseason favorite to win Player of the Year in softball, and it was easy to see why. No player in the district possessed the power she did.

Reynolds didn’t finish the softball season as the PD Player of the Year, but she was a first-team selection and also made the all-Region IV first team.

Honorable mention: Hannah Helbert, Patrick County (volleyball and basketball); Andrea Venable, Bassett (basketball); Corbin Holder, Tunstall (softball); Nicole Shelton, Bassett (soccer); Victoria Hutchens, Patrick County (cross country and track).

Best moment:

Magna Vista’s 61-58 win against Martinsville

My deepest condolences go to the Martinsville fans, players and coaches, but this game remains one of the craziest finishes I’ve ever seen. There were wins that led to region- and state-playoff berths. Bassett’s football win against Magna Vista to earn a share of the PD football title was certainly a close runner-up in this category. But nothing tops what happened in the Dog Pound at Martinsville Middle School on February 8 in my eyes.

Martinsville looked to be in control with about two minutes left and a six point lead against the Warriors. That’s when a loose ball went out of bounds and all three officials failed to see whose ball it was. Magna Vista was the recipient of a jump ball and Chris Hampton hit a 3-pointer on the inbound play to cut Martinsville’s lead to 58-55.

Martinsville head coach Jeff Adkins, upset with the jump ball call, argued with officials and picked up a technical foul to put Hampton on the line. Hampton hit both free throws and the Warriors got the ball back. The 3-pointer and technical foul swung the score by five points in a matter of seconds.

And Magna Vista closed the game out and won, holding Martinsville scoreless down the stretch.

Hampton scored six of his 22 points in the final few minutes. More importantly for Magna Vista, the win helped the Warriors lay claim to a share of the Piedmont District regular season title with Tunstall and Martinsville. One of the best photos Bulletin photographer Mike Wray took this school year, in my opinion, came from this game as well.

Toughest moment:

Bassett baseball’s 3-2 loss to Amherst

In its state quarterfinal baseball game against Amherst County, Bassett was trying to do something none of the 24 teams to play ACHS had done that season — beat the Lancers.

And Bassett almost did it. No really, the Bengals were a throw and an out away from the state semifinals.

Bassett had a 2-1 lead in the seventh inning with its ace pitcher, Kemper Terry, on the mound. Terry walked and hit the first two batters of the seventh inning. Then a sacrifice bunt moved the runners to second and third base, so Terry loaded the bases with an intentional walk.

Amherst’s next batter hit a ground ball to third base, and Bassett third baseman Logan Woodall elected to go for the force at third and try for the double play at first instead of going home. The tying run scored and Amherst later scored the winning run. Had Woodall thrown home for a force, Bassett may have held on to win. There’s no way to know for sure. Had Terry not walked and hit the first two batters he faced in the inning after giving up one run through six, maybe Bassett wins. There are a number of areas where the Bengals could have done more and not just in the final inning. But there’s no mistaking the disappointment every member of that team felt after an already impressive playoff run.

Boy to watch:

Thon Maker, Carlisle

Was it going to be anyone else? As a freshman, Thon Maker led Carlisle to a near-perfect regular season and took the Chiefs deep into the VISAA playoffs.

Maker averaged 23.4 points, 12.9 rebounds and 4.9 blocks a game. ESPN recently named Maker the No. 2 overall prospect in the Class of 2016. We’re not talking in the region or in the Commonwealth. That’s nationwide.

Maker is 7-feet tall and has a 7-foot-4 wingspan. He can also shoot 3’s at a 30 percent clip and he can make some passes most high school point guards can’t.

Niblett said it best when describing Maker’s potential in an article published in the Bulletin earlier this year.

“I’ve been around ball a long time,” he said. “I’ve played against a lot of the guys. The Chris Webbers and those guys. I tell you, I’m blown away by some of the things he has done as a freshman.”

Girl to watch:

Jasmine Agee, Magna Vista

Jasmine Agee transferred to Magna Vista from Martinsville for her sophomore season and anchored the Warriors pitching staff.

She was selected to the Piedmont District’s first team. She had games where she dominated, such as a two-hitter she threw against G.W.-Danville where she struck out nine batters. Agee also had games where she just worked groundouts but she was almost always on her game.

Agee was an at-large first-team PD selection this season, and if she continues to improve, she will likely continue to make that list among others.

Piedmont District hitters are going to have fun trying to figure Agee out the next couple of years.


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