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All-County Basketball: Gallagher column: The awards the athletic banquets might have forgotten

We can talk about all of the exciting basketball games we want, but most of them wouldn’t be exciting at all without the crowds.
Especially the student sections.
There was one student section that stood out among all of the uproarious, fun-loving groups that have made Rowan County a basketball hotbed.
Ladies and gentlemen, presenting those wacky, wacky Mustang Maniacs of East Rowan.
When fans come to see the student sections as much as the game itself, you know you’re entertaining. And the Andy Austin-led Maniacs gave us a show just about every night. They wore pink. They wore pajamas. They wore tu-tus. They had a beach party. They were decked out as old people. They pretty much had a theme every single game.
And they stormed the court a few times, once when East’s boys beat a losing team. That was enough to win the Student Section of the Year right there.
Don’t think the players didn’t appreciate it. When Hakeem Gittens slammed home a thunderous dunk against South Rowan, he turned to his people.
“I heard our students yelling,” Gittens told the Post afterward. “I wanted to do something for them.”
And I want to do something for the Maniacs. They are this year’s best student section.

That’s just one of the awards the athletic banquets may have forgotten. Here’s some more:
Team of the Year: East Rowan boys. No one else had a plus-12 in wins. The Mustangs went from 1-20 last year to 13-12.
“The main thing is,” said Jordan Shepherd, “we got tired of losing all the time.”
Happy Birthday to Me: On her 17th birthday, West Rowan’s Shay Steele scored a career-high 33 points in a 55-43 win over North Rowan.
• On her 18th birthday, Carson’s Chloe Monroe hit four 3-pointers and scored 20 points in the Cougars’ 82-31 win over Cox Mill.
Performance of the Year: East Rowan’s 6-foot-3 center Karleigh Wike scored 30 points and grabbed 27 rebounds in a win over North Rowan.
The Throwdown Award: To North’s Malik Ford, who had five dunks in a 77-65 win over South.
The Throw Up Award: To coaches Brian Perry of Carson and John Davis of South, who wanted to after watching their teams combine for 62 turnovers in Carson’s 67-52 win. Thirty-three of the miscues came by the winning team.
Team of the Future: Watch out for Perry’s Cougars, who were led by sophomores Tre Williams, Colton Laws and Myquon Stout.
Milestone: In his third year at South, Raiders girls coach Jarrod Smith won his first game in the Moir Christmas Classic.
The Sixth Man Award: To West’s Seth Martin, the lanky stringbean who fires up the 3 with the confidence of Austin Rivers, and East’s Donte Means, who always gave the Mustangs a spark.
Quote of the Year: “I’m elated. Elated. Elated. Just feeling very elated right now.” — North girls coach Tony Hillian after a 65-58 win against North Moore.
Runnerup: “They rejected coaching tonight and didn’t listen.” — North’s Andrew Mitchell after his boys lost to West Rowan 85-71.
Play of the Year: In the Moir Christmas Classic, West’s Keshun Sherrill drove past Davie’s 6-foot-4 Shannon Dillard and 6-7 Cody Martin for a reverse scoop that Derrick Rose would have been proud of.
Runner-up: During a win over West Davidson, Salisbury’s 6-7 Tyler Petty went for a lob on the right side of the rim. He was too far away to dunk so he flipped it over his head into the basket while being fouled.
P.A. Man of the Year: To Carson’s Don Mitchell, who played music the old people could enjoy like the Beach Boys and Simon and Garfunkel. (Kids are asking themselves right now, “Simon and Gar-who? What?”) Familiar singers or not, you’d be surprised how many kids were tapping their feet to the music.
Mr. Clutch: Dontae Gilbert banked in a long jumper at the end of overtime to give Carson a 50-48 win over East Rowan.
Runnerup: South freshman Robbie Sherrill hit a free throw with 4.9 seconds left to beat East 58-57.
The Diaper Dandy Award: The best freshman in the county was South’s Avery Locklear.
Family Affair: Coaches of the Year Trey Ledbetter of East and Brooke Misenheimer of Carson are second cousins.
Players weren’t left out, either. North’s Oshon West and Salisbury’s Doreen Richardson are cousins.
Statement of the Year: Unhappy with the attitudes, West girls coach Todd McNeely sat his starters the entire game and played everyone on the end of the bench in a 37-32 loss to previously winless Statesville.
“Our basketball mindset is going to change if I’m here,” he said.
Best Comeback: West’s boys trailed Carson 28-7 after one quarter but rallied for a 94-84 overtime win.
Best Eight Minutes: Carson’s Kelly Dulkoski scored 17 of her 32 points in the first quarter against East Rowan.
Streak to Remember: Salisbury’s boys finished second in the CCC, the ninth straight year the Hornets have been first or second.
Most Photogenic: Which players were indentified in the most photos in the Salisbury Post this season? Try the players of the year.
Salisbury’s Brielle Blaire was in a whopping 36 times, nipping West’s Sherrill, who had 35.
The most photographed team was the defending state champ North boys. How balanced were the Cavaliers? Eight different players had at least 10 photos.
The most photographed coach? North’s dapper Mitchell with 16.

Contact Ronnie Gallagher at 704-797-4287 or rgallagher@salisburypost.com.

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