2008 in local sports
By Mike London
Local sports in 2008 will be remembered mostly for Associated Press Football Coach of the Year Scott Young and West Rowan running back K.P. Parks, but it also was the year of Austin Greenwood, Hannah Lebowitz, John Bostick, Will Mowery and Preston Penninger.
It was also the year of Bobby Parnell. The former East Rowan third baseman made it to the mound at Shea Stadium, fuel for all the dreamers out there that anything is still possible.
And there was Jordon Vaden, the former Livingstone Blue Bear who sprinted in the semifinals of the Olympic Trials. He came close to fulfilling his own impossible dream.
Too many positive things happened in local sports to possibly acknowledge them all, but we’ll take a shot. Apologies in advance to those who aren’t mentioned in the space available.
Prep boys basketball
The game of the year was West Rowan’s 60-56 overtime victory at T.C. Roberson in the 3A playoffs on Feb. 26.
Exactly 21 West fans were on the visitor’s side as tipoff approached. They saw 6-foot-7 K.J. Sherrill score 34 points and grab 15 rebounds, and they watched 5-foot-10 Clay Browning tip in a shot to force overtime ó maybe the most improbable offensive board of all time.
2. Carson’s 41-40 victory against visiting West in a rocking gym last January was astonishing. West entered the game 16-3 and Carson was 5-13, but with teenagers, almost anything can happen. Josh Doby sparked the upset with 21 points.
3. The Sam Moir Christmas Classic is huge, and Salisbury overcame a 15-point deficit to beat West for its second straight title. MVP Darien Rankin scored 20 points for the Hornets.
4. Hunter Morrison’s 25-point fourth quarter led South Rowan to an 89-77 victory against A.L. Brown in December. That might be an entry in the Guinness Book of World Records.
5. North-Salisbury is still a rivalry. Bryson Gaymon scored 22 points to lead the Cavs to a 54-51 upset of the Hornets in February. It marked the fourth straight season North had gotten one from the Hornets.
6. The John Handy Game. The Salisbury senior scored 18 points as Salisbury got back at North with a 59-54 victory in the CCC tournament championship game.
7. Seventeen of Justin Vanderford’s school-record 1,684 points came in East’s 63-62 NPC victory against North Iredell in February. East played without flu-ridden Shawn Eagle but held on when Vanderford stole the ball with three seconds left.
8. Drew Absher, one of the top guards in Davie history, scored his 1,000th point in February in a loss against R.J. Reynolds.
Prep girls basketball
The best game was Salisbury’s 63-57 victory on Feb. 22 against eventual 2A state champ East Davidson in the CCC tournament championship game. It took two overtimes to settle things.
Salisbury got 20 points from Bubbles Phifer and scored the first 10 points of the second overtime after East Davidson standout Anna Freeman fouled out in the first extra session.
Ashia Holmes had two late buckets in regulation to help force OT.
2. The individual performance of the year was by West freshman Ayana Avery. She dropped 35 points on eventual 3A state champ Concord in a wild 90-80 loss to the Spiders in the first round of the playoffs.
3. De’Rya Wylie’s tireless rebounding and defense lifted the Hornets to a physical 46-32 victory over East Rutherford in a regional semifinal for their 28th and final win.
4. Three-time MVP Shi-Heria Shipp led the Hornets to their sixth straight Moir title with a 75-56 victory against East.
5. Senior Haley Miller’s 24-point outburst in an NPC tourney semifinal lifted East to a stunning 57-32 demolition of Lake Norman.6. In January, UNC Asheville signee Katie Wise’s stickback at the horn gave South a 49-47 victory at Northwest Cabarrus.
The game of the year was West’s 20-16 victory against Winston-Salem Carver in the third round of the 3A playoffs on Nov. 28 in Mount Ulla.
Carver was the toughest, fastest team West encountered in the playoffs, and the Falcons trailed 16-7 before a trick pass play from Jon Crucitti to Brantley Horton got them back in the game.
Greenwood’s 50-yard sprint down the West sideline on a fake punt with 5:16 left was the pivotal moment. He hurdled people, ran over people and dodged people to get to the end zone.
2. West’s pass defense, keyed by two A.J. Little picks, dominated West Craven for a 35-7 victory in the 3A title game, and Parks rolled 81 yards on the first play from scrimmage.
3. A.L. Brown finally broke through against Charlotte Catholic, tying a third-round playoff game on Jamill Lott’s pass to Colby Reid in the closing seconds and winning 28-27 on Morgan McDaniel’s PAT.
4. Salisbury’s 28-25 CCC victory against Lexington at Ludwig Stadium in October was a phenomenal game.
Lexington’s Chris Bush rushed for 328 yards and the Yellow Jackets scored three unanswered TDs to lead 25-14, but a Martin Hosch-Cathcart interception turned the game. Sophomore quarterback John Knox combined with speedsters Romar Morris and A.J. Ford for huge scoring plays.
5. West was considered an underdog against South Point in the Western final but crushed the Red Raiders 35-7 with physical play on both lines.
6. Lake Norman nearly handed West a rare NPC loss in October, but a TD-saving tackle by Greenwood helped West get to overtime. The Falcons won 23-17 in the second OT on a sneak by B.J. Sherrill.
7. Carson’s first win in history (over North Rowan) was big, but it also was pretty easy. Carson’s 34-30 win at Lake Norman in September was nothing short of tremendous. Daniel Yates was most of the story with two terrific catches and a kickoff return for a TD.
6. Davie spotted Greensboro Page four touchdowns but rallied to win 50-49 in overtime in October.
9. South Rowan’s 24-20 loss to West Iredell in September defied the odds. South blocked a field goal on the last play of the game to apparently preserve victory, but West’s Iredell’s alert holder picked up the ball and threw a game-winning pass.
10. A.L. Brown demolished Concord 56-6 in November for the most lopsided win in the long-running rivalry.
1. East appeared finished when Mooresville scored three runs in the top of the seventh for a 4-0 lead in the fourth round of the 3A playoffs, but the Mustangs staged an improbable five-run rally in the bottom of the inning to advance. Ethan Fisher’s walk on a 3-2 pitch and Kent Basinger’s pinch hit fueled a stirring comeback.
2. Penninger, South’s freshman catcher, clubbed a ninth-inning walkoff homer to beat Davie 5-3 for the Raiders’ first Easter tournament championship since 1996.
Pitcher Jordan Lowder got out of bases-loaded jams in the eighth and ninth to set up Penninger’s blast.
It was one of the biggest wins of retiring coach Linn Williams’ tenure at South.
3. East beat South Point 3-2 in the final game of the best-of-three Western final series to earn a spot in the state championship series. Justin Roland went the distance on the mound and fanned 11.
East lost two out of three to Rocky Mount in the state championship series and finished 29-5.
4. West’s 11-10, eight-inning loss to Mooresville in the second round of the playoffs was mind-boggling.
The Falcons trailed 5-0 early after a controversial, down-the-line homer but rallied to lead 10-7. Crucitti, now a Falcon, beat West with a hit in the eighth.
5. East’s Corbin Shive turned in the individual effort of the year when he pitched six shutout innings and hit two homers in a game at Mooresville.
6. West’s 2-1 victory in the first round of the playoffs at SPC champ Marvin Ridge was a terrific win fueled by lefty pitcher Zach Simpson.
7. North Rowan entered the game 2-16, but it beat Salisbury with two runs in the bottom of the seventh.
8. Salisbury scored in the bottom of the eighth to beat West Davidson 4-3, a victory that helped the Hornets earn a share of their first league title since 1984.
American Legion baseball
1. Rowan’s entire third-round series with Burlington-Graham was wild, and a ruling that required a replay of Game 4 turned a seven-game series into a memorable eight-game marathon.
Rowan won the original Game 4 11-2 and took the replay 12-11 behind four RBIs by Noah Holmes.
The zany series ended in storybook fashion when a seventh-inning downpour at Graham closed the series in Rowan’s favor.
Micah Jarrett’s 12th-inning, three-run homer that went soaring out of Newman Park and ended Game 2 on July 20 may have been the most dramatic moment.
2. Rowan’s 21-18, 11-inning victory over Mooresville in Game 2 of the second round was as good as it gets. Roland and Holmes drove in five runs apiece.
3. Caleb Shore’s walkoff, two-run homer gave South Rowan a 6-5 victory against Asheboro in Game 4 of a third-round series.
4. Rowan’s 1-0 victory against Mocksville in the first round of the playoffs was Rowan’s first 1-0 triumph since 1996. Simpson started, Roland finished, and three pitchers worked in between.
5. Rowan’s 9-7 victory against South Rowan at Newman Park was special. South scored four runs in the eighth to lead 7-4. Rowan came back with five in the bottom of the inning and overcame a pair of Randy Shepherd home runs.
The football team had a quiet 6-4 season, but there were two big games.
Patrick Dennis threw for 357 yards in a 37-35 victory over Tusculum and won a shootout with Corey Russell, one of the top quarterbacks in Division II.
In the finale at Lenoir-Rhyne, Jamelle Cuthbertson ran amok for 223 yards and set three school records in a 58-23 romp that provided momentum for the offseason.
Catawba’s fourth-seeded men’s basketball team won three games by a total of seven points to take the SAC tournament. Antonio Houston scored 28 points in an 84-83 semifinal victory against top seed Lenoir-Rhyne.
The baseball team was one of the school’s best ever, putting up a 43-18 record and winning three games in the regional.
All-America outfielder David Thomas was the catalyst. He was a draft pick along with pitcher Timmy Smith and slugger Jerry Sands.
Around the horn
Chris Myers’ Salisbury girls tennis program claimed its second state title in three years when it downed Raleigh Cardinal Gibbons 5-1 in Burlington. Lebowitz, Kirstin Meyerhoeffer, Brooke Johnson, Shea Comadoll and Joy Loeblein won singles matches.
Lebowitz and Meyerhoeffer also topped Comadoll and Loeblein in the 2A state doubles final.
n Mowery won a wrestling state championship at 160 pounds in February, and East wrestlers recently won their third straight county championship.
n In track and field, North’s Bostick repeated as the 110-meter hurdles champ in 2A with a meet-record time of 14.10 seconds. Bostick was nosed out for gold in the 300 hurdles by teammate Rodney Smith.
South’s Maverick Miles took a break from baseball to clear 14 feet, 6 inches and won the 4A state title in the pole vault.
Earlier in the year, Bostick repeated as the 55-meter hurdles champion at the state indoor meet.
n With region player of the year Frankie Cardelle shining in goal, Salisbury’s soccer team won 17 games and reached the 2A semis.
Carson’s Valentin Nava was a scoring machine.
Salisbury’s girls soccer team turned in a 15-3-1 year.
n East’s boys and Salisbury’s girls again ruled county golf. Allison Lee, a Winthrop signee, led the Hornet girls to a sixth-place finish in the 1A-2A-3A state tournament.
n South’s girls posted the best volleyball season in school history.
n East’s softball team won its first league title in 10 years.
nSalisbury’s girls, led by Katherine and Emily Shields, took county and CCC cross country titles. East’s boys won a tiebreaker and nipped South for county honors.n South swept the county swim titles ó again. That’s six in a row for the boys and four for the girls.
n Former A.L. Brown and Appalachian State pitcher Garrett Sherrill was drafted in June. North’s Dominic DeSanto made a successful pro boxing debut. Salisbury’s Katelyn Horning excelled on a national level in inline skating. The Rowan Rampage football team won the league playoffs. Former Salisbury phenom Shayla Fields proved to be an ironwoman for N.C. State’s basketball team. Davie’s Cooter Arnold tossed a TD pass in the Meineke Bowl.
The list could go on forever. The bottom line is it was a spectacular year.