By Joshua Price/Sports Editor
Gaston High Schoolguard Morgan Beaird and Hokes Bluff head coach Jason Shields were the best in the business in their respective roles this season.
Beaird led all Etowah County girls basketball players, netting 20.4 points per game. Beaird did most of her damage behind the 3-point line, where she average 52 percent accuracy.
“In 28 years of coaching, she is the best shooter I have ever coached,” Gaston head coach Tonya Bogle said. “If you give her a look from the outside, she can knock it down. She has a quick release and she
is accurate from up to seven feet outside the line.”
Beaird put the final touches on her magnificent, and perhaps hall of fame, prep career on February 9. A 3-point shot in the first quarter against Coosa Christian put the senior guard over 2,000 career points, a feat reached by only three other female high school basketball players in Etowah County history.
Bogle said Beaird’s basketball skills were not limited to scoring.
“Morgan is an all-around player. If we have to put her on their best defender we will, but we try not to do that because it can take away from her offense or get her in foul trouble. She knows the game. She played so much basketball at such a young age that she matured quickly. She understands the game and how to manage it. She has her moments when she doesn’t play well, but everybody is like that; however, night-in and night-out she is consistent in what she does.”
Shields coached the Lady Eagles to an Etowah County championship, the Class 3A, Area 10 championship and an appearance in the Northeast Regional tournament at Jacksonville State University.
Most importantly, the Lady Eagles finished the 2011-12 basketball season with a 28-5 overall record and only one loss at home.
“We had a great season this year,” Shields said. “This is a great group of girls and I couldn’t be more proud of them. I am honored receive this award, but I am blessed to have a lot of good people surrounding me. First, this was a hard working group of girls and one of the best groups I have had the privilege of coaching.
“Also, I have two of the best assistant coaches anyone could ask for and they have done as much or more this team than I have. They both provide views of the game that I sometimes lose because I am so emotional out there. I am also blessed with wonderful administrators and any coach will tell you these people are key factors in your success.”
Shields’ group of seniors were very special, and one of them was given first team honors.
Savannah Ward was Hokes Bluff’s catalyst this season. The senior point guard was second in team scoring, averaging 10.4 points per game. Ward led the Lady Eagles in assists with 4.8 per game; she also led the team in steals (65). Ward was named Most Valuable Player of the Etowah County tournament and was one of the top defenders in the county.
Hannah Evans led Hokes Bluff in scoring to earn first team honors. The freshman guard slashed the lane for 447 points, an average of 13.5 per game. Evans trailed only Ward in team steals, swiping 55 during the season.
Mary Katherine Catanzaro led Westbrook Christian in scoring and rebounding. The senior guard averaged 13.5 points per game and 6.7 rebounds per game en route to a 14-13 overall record and a Class 2A, Area 13 championship to receive first team honors.
West End’s Morgan Cleveland was one of the biggest surprises in the county this season. The 5’11 sophomore center was second in the county in scoring, netting 16 points per game. Cleveland was tops in rebounding, pulling 12.5 boards per game to earn first team honors.
“Morgan creates problems for teams because she possesses both post and guard skills,” West End head coach Amy Springer said. “Not only is she a scoring threat, she is also a good defender. She is a very talented athlete and I look forward to having her leadership on the court for two more years.”
Glencoe’s Laura Poovey led the Yellow Jackets with 12.6 points per game to earn first team honors. The junior guard shot 77 percent from the free throw line and 40 percent from the 3-point arc. She also led the Lady Jackets in steals with 42.
Second team honors included Hokes Bluff guard Carlie Shields and forward Summer Wilson, Glencoe center Jordan Sims, West End forward Courtney Oliver and Westbrook Christian point guard Peighton Streip.
Streip’s statistics were the most impressive on the second team. The senior point guard scored 11.6 points per game for the Lady Warriors and led the team with 6.7 assists per game.
Wilson led Hokes Bluff in rebounds (6.2 per game) and scored 7.1 points per game. Shields scored 8.4 points per game for the Lady Eagles.
Jordan Sims paced the Lady Jackets with 6.4 points per game and 6.2 rebounds per game.
Oliver was second in team scoring for the Patriots, netting 9.4 points per game and grabbing 8.5 rebounds per game.
Honorable mention were Hokes Bluff center Mallory Moland, Gaston guard Tana Lawson, Gaston forward Felicia Porter, Coosa Christian point guard Hannah Meadows and Glencoe forward Sarah Wallace.