By Joshua Price/Sports Editor
The All-Messenger Little 7 boys basketball team is composed of the cream of the crop of the smaller high school in Etowah County – Coosa Christian, Gaston, Glencoe, Hokes Bluff, Sardis, Westbrook Christian and West End.
Westbrook Christian sophomore guard Colin Edwards was selected the 2011-12 All-Messenger Player of the Year and Glencoe head coach Ryan Barkley was tapped Coach of the Year of the All-Messenger Little 7 boys basketball team.
Edwards was virtually unstoppable with the basketball. The sophomore netted 595 points for the Warriors, for an average of 19.2 points per game while leading Westbrook to a 19-12 overall record and second place in Class 2A, Area 13.
Edwards did not affect the game just as a scorer. he used his 6’3 frame to grab 215 rebounds, nearly seven per match.
Barkley coached Glencoe to a 20-6 season in 2011-12. The Yellow Jackets won their second consecutive Class 3A, Area 10 championship and made an appearance in the Northeast Regional Tournament at Jacksonville State University.
Barkley has an overall record of 47-10 and a 15-1 record in area play.
Glencoe guards Chance Cassidy and Austin Hancock, Hokes Bluff post players Luke Jenkins and Isacc King and West End guard Caleb Mayo made up the Little 7 First Team.
Cassidy and Hancock led Glencoe to the Class 3A, Area 10 championship and a berth in the Northeast Regional Tournament.
Cassidy led the Yellow Jackets to the 2011-12 Etowah County championship and was named MVP of the tournament. The point guard averaged eight points per game and four assists per game.
Cassidy’s leadership skills on the court earned him First Team honors.
“Chance was whatever we needed him to be this year,” Barkley said. “Some games we needed him as a facilitator, others we needed him to score. His leadership and heart was invaluable. He never took a play off or played any differently regardless of the opponent. I believe Chance is the best point guard in the county and the area. There is not a player that we played against this year that I would pick ahead of Chance. In short, he is a winner.”
Cassidy sealed a win over Hokes Bluff in the Etowah County championship match with a pair of free throws in the waning seconds of the game. He finished the season with 100% accuracy at the free-throw line, netting 22-of-22 shots.
Glencoe owes much of its success to the scoring ability of Hancock.
Hancock averaged 12 points per game, and was a threat to score from any spot on the floor. The senior guard’s shooting skills forced many opposing coached to reconsider their strategy of defending the Yellow Jackets with a zone defense.
“Austin has the ability to create open shots,” Barkley said. “When the game is on the line and we need points, he is the guy I want to have the ball. Nobody works harder in practice on offense than Austin and nobody takes more shots in practice than him. He is definitely our top scorer and our go-to guy.”
Hancock was deadly from the foul line, shooting 75 percent accuracy.
Hokes Bluff low-men Luke Jenkins and Isaac King earned First Team laurels for their dominance of the low post this season. The two paced the Eagles to a 21-8 record, which tied school’s record for most wins and only the second Eagle squad to notch more than 20 wins in a season.
Jenkins led Hokes Bluff with 365 points, an average of 14 per game. Jenkins was arguably the most dominant post player in the Little 7. The 6’4 senior forward led the Eagles with 183 rebounds.
Jenkins played four years of varsity basketball and was the catalyst of the team this season.
“Luke has been such a dedicated player his 4 years of varsity ball,” Hokes Bluff head coach Greg Watkins said. “He never missed a practice, was never late, and always had a winning attitude. He was our only senior this season and provided us with great leadership.”
Jenkins will be sorely missed next season, but will be replaced with a giant, literally.
King is the biggest player in Etowah County. The sophomore center stands 7’0 tall and wears a size 22 shoe.
King led the Little 7 in blocked shots, swatting 91 attempts for the Eagles. He also grabbed 167 rebounds and netted 306 points.
Most followers of Hokes Bluff basketball would agree that King matured quickly and as the season progressed, so did his basketball skills. The youthful center developed “big-man” shots to increase his effectiveness.
“Isaac got better as the season progressed,” Watkins said. “He takes up a lot of space out there, and by the end of the season he was developing skills as a basketball player and not just a big presence in the lane. I expect him to continue to get better in the off-season and be a major factor for us next year.”
Mayo led West End in scoring, assists and steals. The junior guard netted 528 points, an average of 17.6 per game – second only behind Edwards in Little 7 scoring. Mayo was not stingy with the ball, dishing out 154 assists – an average of 5.1 per game.
Mayo is best known for his defensive skills and is one of the top defenders in the county, swiping 108 steals at an average of 3.6 per game.
Westbrook Christian placed two players on the All-Messenger Little 7 boys basketball second team.
Alex Perkins and Carson Sharp were major factors for Westbrook. Perkins averaged 14.5 points per game, while Sharp added 12.1 with 7.5 rebounds per match.
Jackson Bogle averaged a double-double for Gaston. The forward averaged. 10 points and 10 rebounds per game.
Scott Bradley averaged eight points and six rebounds per game for Glencoe.
Brad Robertson averaged 9.8 points per game for Hokes Bluff.
Honorable mention are Glencoe forward Devonte Toles, Gaston forward Braxton Collins, Westbrook forward Jon Ford, West End center Raymond Chapman and Sarids guard Toby Pee.