“What did Lebron say? Not one, not two, not three, but 15!” That was the rallying cry of Brooks Taylor, the PR Director of the Martinsville Speedway and MC for Sunday’s rally celebrating Martinsville’s basketball teams most recent VHSL 2A State Championship.
Martinsville won the state championship on Saturday night in Richmond with a 69-37 victory over Greensville County, and on Sunday, the entire city got to celebrate the win with the team with a parade that went through uptown Martinsville and concluded with a rally at the City Municipal Building.
The team was accompanied in the parade by city fire trucks and police, a pace car from Martinsville Speedway, the Martinsville band, cheerleaders, fans, family and coaches as they rode through the city with fans on either side of the street waving and cheering as they passed.
Several speakers gave their well wishes to the team at the rally, including Martinsville Mayor Danny Turner and Martinsville High School Principal Angie Weinerth.
Weinerth commended the team not only for their hard work on the court, but for the exemplary way they represented the team and school off the court.
“These fine young men represent Martinsville Bulldog pride. They are not only athletes, but they have shown us all what it means to work as a team and to strive for excellence,” Weinerth said. “They are role models in our city. You might not know this but they visit elementary schools and they work with kids to get them to show their best work every day. This community is a proud community. We support our own.”
“Thank you team of 2016 for not only bringing pride to your community but for continuing the excellence of the program. We wish you success in all you do from this day forward,” she added.
Martinsville head coach Jeff Adkins and athletic director Tommy Golding also spoke about the dominance the team showed throughout the playoffs. Golding said that he ran the numbers prior to the event, and found that, in eight playoff games, the Bulldogs outscored their opponents 601 to 374, and won each game by an average of 29 points.
“That’s a butt-kicking, I don’t care what you say,” Golding said. “The team, we removed no doubt who was the best team in Richmond.”
The 15th state championship gives Martinsville more championships than any other school in any of the big three sports, basketball, football and baseball.
Adkins said his team’s game plan was to not only win, but to leave no doubt that they were the better team from the start of the game to the final buzzer.
“I told the team I said, ‘You know when Gate City lost the game? When they got off the bus.’ That was our game plan,” Adkins said. We read before we went up there, they said there were four even teams up there. I didn’t see four even teams. And it really made us mad because we knew we had a special group. I watched the game film from last year, and this group got so much better. We were a dominating team, we were hitting on all cylinders.”
Martinsville booster club president Tim Byrd said the next step for the champions is to “pick out some big, nice, gaudy, shiny rings” which he said will go great with the nice, shiny rings the team received for last year’s state championship. Byrd said the ring ceremony will happen probably sometime in May, and will coincide with a ceremony to dedicate a new scoreboard at the Martinsville Middle School gym where the Bulldogs play their home games.
Golding said that VCU’s staff told him that Martinsville’s semifinal game Friday morning against Gate City had the most fans for a 10 a.m. game ever. The sea of red behind the stands made the game a virtual home game for the Bulldogs, Golding said, despite being more than three hours away from Martinsville.
For the Martinsville players, they said, no matter how many state championships they win, parades like Sunday’s never get old. In fact, getting to celebrate the victories with the fans who made it happen makes the win even sweeter.
“It’s always an honor to see our fans. They just get up and hype for us after we win states, just to show how much they love us,” said senior Devonnte Holland.
“This is a first for me, so it’s amazing to see the whole city come out and support us,” said senior JaQuice Sydnor. “Not only that we’re state champions ourselves as a basketball team but the whole community, the 276 is state champions as well. We won this not for us but for them as well. It’s always a blessing.”
Martinsville will graduate eight seniors off of this state championship squad, and Golding said each one of them will be remembered for the special role they played on the team.
Even with losing so many, though, Golding said the Bulldogs are not rebuilding, “just reloading.”
“This is a special bunch. Devonnte, I always said he was the total package. Cam (Bradley), he’s a game changer. Probably the best defensive player I’ve seen here in my 16 years at Martinsville. Jay (Dandridge), he’s cool under pressure, you can’t ask for anything better. TyTy (Carter), mister excitement when he comes in. Ryland (Gayle), the enforcer. Malik (Wallace), probably one of the best shooters we have. Gumby (Sydnor), he does whatever it takes to win, whether it’s in practice, whether it’s being on the bench being the biggest cheerleader. He does whatever it takes to win. KJ (Lewis), he’s like the energizer bunny out there,” Golding said. “This was a special ride. There won’t probably be one like it for a long time.”
Getting a second state championship in his fourth year of coaching the Bulldogs, Adkins said the group of players couldn’t be more special to him, and made his coaching experience one he won’t soon forget.
“After the game Devonnte came up to me and said ‘I really appreciate you coaching me’ and I said, ‘No, I just appreciate having the honor to coach you.’ These are 14 great kids and going to work every day, going to the gym everyday was great,” Adkins said.
“There’s only one thing we need to do now — win next year,” he added.
Cara Cooper is the sports editor of the Martinsville Bulletin. You can reach her at (276)638-8801 ext. 241.