The high school season may have ended earlier this month, but with the Bulletin Athletes of the Year special section arriving today, the sports department thought it would be fun for one final look back at our favorite things from the 2018-2019 school year.
Chris Doherty — Throughout the entire school year, I can’t count how many games I attended. Some I saw start-to-finish. Others I stopped in and took a few pictures before moving on to the next game. There were a number of great games and nail-biting finishes, so it’s hard to think of just one as the best I saw all year.
After thinking back on it, to me, the best game I watched this year was the Region 3D quarterfinal girls basketball game in Stuart between Patrick County and Northside. It had it all – two great teams, great individual performances, an electric crowd and a game that came down to the final 0.1 seconds. Oh, and it was win-or-go-home. What more could you ask for?
On a night where Northside junior Tracey Hueston, who has more than 10 Division I college offers, scored 45 points, Patrick County senior Izzy Beasley scored 26 points, it was the unlikeliest of heroes who pushed the Cougars into the semifinals.
Sophomore center Abby Dillon, whose main role all season was to rebound and play defense, was the one with the game in her hands. But even before she got that chance, Patrick County was put on the brink. Northside led 68-64 with two minutes left and then 69-66 with 49.8 second left. Senior Lindsey Marshall, who scored 10 of her 15 points in the fourth quarter, tied the game with a three-point play after getting fouled while sinking a running layup in the paint with 37 seconds left.
At this point I can barely hear myself think. The capacity crowd had that gym shaking. The Cougars used that to get a stop on the other end, but then turned it over with two seconds left. Just when everyone in the building thought we were in store for overtime, Patrick County got new life. The Cougars forced a turnover on the inbounds pass and got one more chance under the basket. The pass went high for Dillon, who caught it and was fouled on her shot attempt. The clock showed 0.1 seconds.
Dillon, who had scored just five points to that point, missed the first free throw. The crowd didn’t know whether to be quiet or call out encouragement to the sophomore center at the free throw line. Some couldn’t make noise because they were too busy biting their nails. Some probably didn’t even see the second shot with their hands covering their eyes. Dillon stepped to the line and confidently knocked down the game-winning free throw and sent Cougar Gym into mayhem.
It was an unbelievable scene. All the jumping up and down, the yelling, the cheering, the hugging, the crying – it was one of those moments that shows why sports is the best form of reality television.
Cara Cooper — In the time I’ve been working for the Martinsville Bulletin, I’ve had the chance to cover some incredible sporting events, but I’ve never had the chance to be the person covering an actual state championship in person. It’s been my white whale. I’ve covered state title games solo, but it was either while tagging along with someone else or unfortunately they ended in tears of despair instead of joy.
So when I looked at the schedule and saw I could work out a way to cover the track state championship this year, I jumped at the chance without a second thought. I knew, just knew, Martinsville would have at least one individual title, and I wanted to be there to see it.
The Bulldogs didn’t let me down either. In the six or so hours I spent at East Rockingham High School earlier this month I saw four state championships. It was awesome. The performance De’Niya Gravely put on that day was one for the ages. To win three championships the way she did, in dominant fashion even while pushing through injury, was one of the best sports performances I’ve ever seen.
Plus, Nwachukwu Ugbomah-Otunuya assured me earlier in the week that he wasn’t going to leave states disappointed like he did last year, and he proved it.
Even in the races they didn’t win, every race the Bulldogs were in that day was down to the wire. It was great to watch and I’m so glad they allowed me to be a part of their joy that day. I’m proud to have been there.
CD — High school sports provide us with so many great moments, and this past year was no different. For me, I have to go all the way back to football season. Since I’ve been down in Martinsville, Magna Vista has dominated the local football landscape, while rival Bassett has struggled to win a game or two each season.
By record, Magna Vista still had the best record of any team in the area teams compared to Bassett, Martinsville and Patrick County last season. That didn’t matter the night of October 5, 2018. Bassett traveled to Ridgeway to take on Magna Vista in “The Hole.” The Bengals hadn’t beat their bitter rivals since 2012, but that streak ended that night. The Bengals upset Magna Vista, 13-6, and it was pandemonium after that.
Thank goodness we at the Bulletin don’t have to produce a paper on Friday nights, because there was no way I would have been able to. I couldn’t find the people I needed to find. There were so many Bassett players, coaches, cheerleaders, parents and students on their side of the field. You could just see how much it meant to everyone in the blue and orange. Just go to our website and look at the gallery of pictures from that night. It was pure elation.
Bassett hired one of their own, Brandon Johnson, to take over as head coach the year prior after he had spent time as an assistant coach at Magna Vista. Since taking over he kept preaching “All In.” The Bengals had been putting in a lot of work, but weren’t seeing results for all of that work. They saw results that night.
It was more than just a win.
It was the beginning of a new era in Bassett.
CC – It was just a random game I decided to go to at the last minute to get some pictures. I showed up at the gym at Bassett for their boys basketball senior night, and was sitting in the visitor side stands waiting for the game to start. The Bengals did their usual senior night festivities, and then took the court. That’s when I realized they had six players on the court, and one of them was wearing the wrong colored jersey.
Bassett started six players so senior Angel Rivera could get his first, and only, start of the season. Rivera was a huge impact player for the Bengals as an underclassman, but was injured at the end of his junior season, and setbacks prevented him from getting a chance to play in his final year.
Right after the opening tip-off, the refs blew their whistles, and allowed Rivera to have his moment to come off the court while hugging his teammates and opponents. I don’t know if you could have a dry eye watching that.
Also, huge props to Franklin County, Bassett’s opponent that night, for letting the Bengals bend the rules some and give Rivera his moment. That bit of good sportsmanship proved that sometimes sports are bigger than sports.
MOST IMPACTFUL PLAYER
CD — Speaking of that Bassett/Magna Vista football game, it was one of the most dominant performances by a single player I saw all season. Kevon Smith injured his leg during track season in the previous spring and missed the first part of the football season for Bassett. He wasn’t back to full strength when the Bengals played Magna Vista, but that didn’t matter. Smith toted the rock 22 times, ran for 125 yards and scored both Bassett touchdowns. On both of those touchdowns, Magna Vista knew Smith was going to run, but couldn’t do anything to stop him.
In the Bengals’ second win of the season, a 21-15 win over Martinsville, Smith scored the game-winning touchdown with 1:37 left in the game to cap a 105-yard, two-touchdown performance for the junior. Then Smith completed his junior season with a 196-yard game in a 29-8 win over Patrick County. Smith also scored a touchdown in that game.
It was no coincidence that the three games Bassett won were the games that Smith played a major role in the team’s offense. Opposing teams knew they had to shut down No. 9, but that’s just not that simple when it came to Kevon Smith.
And in that same game against Martinsville, it was a two-man show. Smith was a force for the Bengals, but Nigal Davis was just as big of one, if not bigger, for the Bulldogs. The senior Davis rushed for 132 yards on 23 carries and scored a touchdown, and also completed 9-of-14 passes for 79 yards and a touchdown as well.
Teams knew going against Bassett that they had to stop Smith, but that didn’t mean the Bengals didn’t have other guys to hurt them. For the Bulldogs, Davis was the offense as the season went on. The Bulldogs only won one game, but that didn’t diminish the efforts Davis produced on a weekly basis. That work rewarded him with a spot on the All-Piedmont District Team. If it weren’t for Davis, offense would’ve been very, very scarce for Martinsville.
Then Davis, who was named the 2018 Bulletin Athlete of the Year, returned to the basketball court, where he received second team All-State honors in VHSL Class 2, First Team All-Region 2C and First Team All-Piedmont District.
Davis had more help on the basketball court, but there were still games where Davis showed how important he was to Martinsville. He may not have been the most naturally-gifted player on the court for the Bulldogs, but his leadership and ability to make things happen made as much of an impact as any player the Bulldogs had.
CC – When I spoke with Martinsville girls basketball coach Charlie Holland to do a preview story for their season last year, he told me point blank he had a girl who had just transferred to Martinsville who was, “The fastest girl I’ve ever coach in my life.”
At first I thought that might be a bit of hyperbole, but De’Niya Gravely proved her coach right. Gravely was not only the fastest girl on the basketball court during any given game, she proved to be the fastest girl in the state of Virginia, winning two running events at the VHSL Class 2 outdoor track state championship. She also won the triple jump, and broke a state record in the 100 meter dash.
But not only was Gravely the biggest star on the track this spring, she was also a huge impact player for the Bulldogs basketball team. On a team that came into the season with four four-year seniors, led the team in points, rebounds, and assists per game. She may have had one school year at Martinsville, but she definitely made an impact in a short amount of time.
The other most impactful player I saw this year was a classmate of Gravely’s. Khalil Travis dazzled Bulldog fans on the soccer field for two years, but this year he added basketball to his repertoire, and Martinsville players and fans I’m sure are all glad he did.
Travis spent his summers playing basketball at the Martinsville YMCA for hours at a time, but no one could have expected his well he would do at the varsity level. By the end of the season, Travis was averaging 10 points a game, and knocking down 33 percent of his 3-pointers. Not only that, but he was huge on defense, the aspect of the game that head coach Jeff Adkins cares about most. With Martinsville graduating so many in 2018, they came into this past season with low expectations. Travis changed all of that. He was a true impact player that helped the team make the state quarterfinals.
Oh, and he was also an all-state player on the soccer team, and helped Martinsville to an undefeated regular season and a spot in the state semifinals. He led the team in goals scored, and it wasn’t even close. Bulldogs head coach Pete Scouras said it best when he said Travis “isn’t leaving shoes to fill, he’s leaving gaps to fill.” It’s going to be very, very tough for either team to replicate what he did for Martinsville for this season.