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Buckshots: Best of the Best
A final column from the Bulletin's sports editor
Bulletin Sports Editor Johnny Buck
Sunday, February 5, 2012
By JOHNNY BUCK - Bulletin Sports Editor
In the sports journalism world, many people write goodbye columns mentioning awards and laurels they've won.
I'd rather tell you about what's really important: The athletes, teams and coaches I've covered who made the job so enjoyable - the John Harris runs, the Latisha Belcher and-1s, the Pete Scouras-isms.
You know, the good stuff.
This Tuesday, I'll work my last shift at the Bulletin. I'm leaving to take a job at Patrick Henry Community College and to write a book that I've been meaning to start for quite a while.
I've worked two separate stints at the Bulletin, and I enjoyed both of them. They add up to more than five years of covering local games and NASCAR races, working with plenty of good people and sharing lots of laughs.
I owe thank-yous to my coworkers past and present - especially my editors. And the sports writers who put up with me, the coaches who called in their scores in victory or defeat, and the kids who didn't tell me to get lost when I asked for an interview after "the big loss."�
Somewhere along the line, I started writing "end of year" columns that named the best teams, athletes and games of that school year. They were generally well-received, so I figured I'd do another list for my last column.
Below, you'll find an off-the-cuff recollection of some of best-of-the-best from my relatively brief stint as a sports journalist.
I hope you enjoy it. Thanks for reading this one ... and those that came before it.
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q Brandon Johnson, Bassett football/basketball/soccer
I'll start with this one because sports shouldn't be viewed as the most important thing in a student's life.
Sports should be a vehicle to teach life lessons about winning, losing and respecting others. It should also be a free ride to college for the lucky few who combine talent with tenacity and relentless work.
Brandon Johnson was Mr. Everything at Bassett during my first stint at the Bulletin. He played quarterback on the football team and point guard on the basketball team. His senior year, he went out for soccer even though he admittedly had no idea how to play the sport.
When the season ended, he was one of the team's scoring leaders.
Johnson, who I'm delighted to say returned to the area to become a middle school teacher and coach, was hands down the best leader I ever covered. He led with his play on the field as well as his words. He was always sincere, never uselessly negative and had one of the biggest hearts of any athlete I've seen. He was also a darn fine athlete.
During the fall, he used to approach me during volleyball matches to discuss his team's upcoming football games. By the time the conversation was halfway done, I was usually ready to run through a wall myself.
I can't think of a better role model for our area's youth than Johnson. I hope he's happy being back home.
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Best sports story
q Martinsville boys basketball, 2005-06
Martinsville's last state championship in boys basketball came in dramatic fashion: A win over undefeated Robert E. Lee-Staunton, a team that hadn't lost in more than two years and carried a USA Today ranking among the nation's Top 25.
But many people forget that Martinsville began that season 0-5 and later lost at home to Bassett for the first time in 20-some-odd years.
Yet the Bulldogs were a team in every sense of the word - the whole of the unit was far greater than the sum of its parts.
This was before the VHSL went to the Division 3/Division 4 setup, and Martinsville's postseason run featured three wins over Bassett (sorry to bring it up, Coach Hering). The first came in the PD tournament finals, another happened in the Region IV finals and the last was in the Final Four in Richmond.
Coincidentally, that BHS team was led by Brandon Johnson, and it nearly came back from a massive deficit in the fourth quarter to topple the 'Dogs.
As it was, Martinsville upset R.E. Lee in the state finals 63-54 by going to a stall offense in the first quarter - despite trailing at the time - for what I consider the program's most unlikely of its VHSL-record 13 state titles.
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Most Dominant Team
q Carlisle Golf, 2006-2010
A lot of times when I see sports fans in the community, they'll stop me to talk about area teams or athletes. When the subject of Carlisle comes up, those fans will sometimes ask something along the lines of, "Yeah, but who the heck do they play that's any good?"�
While it's a valid question for many sports, it's not for private-school golf.
Which makes Carlisle's run of three losses in five seasons all the more impressive. The team, led for much of the way by Jack Adkins and Dylan Jensen, won two straight state titles while narrowly missing a third in the nastiest conditions you will ever see for a golf tournament.
The seniors of 2010 never lost a conference tournament and never allowed a non-Carlisle golfer to win the conference tournament during their four years in high school.
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Most Talented Team
q Magna Vista Golf, 2005
This group didn't have the longstanding dominant stretch like Carlisle, but its 2005 season was pretty special.
The Warriors won the state tournament by shooting a team-total 588, which was 13 strokes better than second-place Salem.
This team also featured two Division I golfers - Adam Webb (Longwood) and Jerel Whiting (Toledo) - plus Josh Williams, who won the state title as an individual that season.
Last time I checked, all three were playing professionally on regional mini-tours.
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Best Football Player
q Harvey Taylor, MVHS 2009-2011
If you've been conscious the past three years - and you read the sports section - you're well aware of Taylor's exploits.
So I won't go over them again.
I will say that it truly was a pleasure to cover Taylor, not only for his unbelievable ability to score touchdowns and win football games, but also because he's an outstanding person.
I'd also like to note that Bassett's Andrew Miller was a close second for this award, and Patrick County's John Harris an equally close third.
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q Mike Smith.
No, I didn't name a sport after the public relations director at Martinsville Speedway. After all, that's already been done ... it's called "cornhole." (Ha!) This award goes to the speedway's P.R. ace for putting up with me when I wrote "Race Chasers" every week. ... I still don't know how I got away with printing some of those.
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Since I'm running out of room, a few more accolades in list form:
Best Male Athlete: Alan Koger, MVHS soccer/football/basketball
Best Female Athlete: Latisha Belcher, MVHS basketball
Best coach: Troy Wells, MHS basketball
Most memorable finish: Martinsville's Ashmand Hughes hits a 3-pointer from the corner to beat Bassett in the PD tournament finals at BHS. This was part of the Bulldogs' run to the state title.
Best quote: Following that game, I asked MHS coach Troy Wells if he'd designed the last play to go to Hughes, a reserve, for a 3-pointer in the corner.
"Haha, no," chuckled Wells as he rushed his team to the bus immediately after the win. "Bless his heart, Ashmand can't even hit free throws in practice."�