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2022 Belmont Sports Hall of Fame: Speaker lauds former inductee on night 4 individuals are inducted

By Richard Walker

On a night in which four more individuals were added to the 2022 Belmont Sports Hall of Fame, the featured speaker applauded the efforts of a previous inductee who now coaches at his high school alma mater.

Lenoir-Rhyne quarterback Josh Justice during his 2010 to 2013 career.

East Carolina football coach Mike Houston, who currently has three South Point High products on his roster entering his fourth season as Pirates’ head coach, was reminiscing about former South Point High standout quarterback Josh Justice during his speech Tuesday night at Belmont’s Park Street United Methodist Church’s Family Life Center.

“He’s the reason I agreed to come tonight,” Houston said. “I tell his story to all of my teams because of his perseverance. I appreciate you Josh and I’ll never forget you. It’s because players like him are the reason I coach.”

Houston recruited Justice to play at Lenoir-Rhyne after Justice had quarterbacked South Point to the 2009 N.C. 3AA state championship.

And for much of Justice’s college career, he was reserve quarterback. But during the Bears’ 2013 run to the NCAA Division II national championship game, Justice moved from third team to starter after two L-R quarterbacks suffered injuries – and the Bears’ kept winning.

First inserted into a second-round playoff game against Carson-Newman, Justice drove his team 91 yards late in the fourth quarter – capped by his winning touchdown pass – of a 27-20 victory. Justice then directed L-R victories over North Alabama (42-39) and West Chester (42-14) before the Bears lost to six-time NCAA Division II champion Northwest Missouri State 43-28 in the title game played in Florence, Ala.

Justice and his 2009 South Point team were inducted into the Belmont Sports Hall of Fame in 2015. And Justice is now a South Point High School football assistant coach.

“He was a kid who could’ve quit so many times – and he didn’t,” Houston said of Justice. “He epitomized why I teach all of my teams that it’s not about the individual, it’s about the team.”

Houston, whose head coaching career started at Skyland Roberson High School, left Lenoir-Rhyne after the 2013 season and has been head coach at The Citadel, James Madison and East Carolina; His 2016 James Madison team won the FCS national title.

Currently at East Carolina, Houston’s three South Point products are wide receiver Ray Rose (South Point 2020 graduate), defensive back Devon King (South Point 2020) and kicker Carson Smith (South Point 2021).

Houston also said he’s been pleased to meet another local product – 2008 Forestview graduate and current PGA golfer Harold Varner III.

“Being the coach at East Carolina has its benefits – and one of them is getting to know Harold Varner,” Houston said of the 2012 ECU graduate. “And anybody who knows Harold knows he’s a proud Pirate.”

Belmont’s 2022 Sports Hall of Fame induction class (from left to right) Cynthia Leonard Hibberts, Migjen Bakalli, George Kitchen and Mark Young.

Four individuals were inducted on Tuesday – former South Point basketball star Migjen Bakalli, former Belmont multi-sport star Cynthia Leonard Hibberts, longtime South Point softball assistant coach George Kitchen and former South Point football star Mark Young.

Bakalli left behind single-season (658) and career (1,606) scoring records when he graduated from South Point in 1990. The last player recruited by N.C. State coach Jim Valvano, Bakalli went on to play for the Wolfpack and set more records. His eight straight 3-pointers against Maryland remain a school record and his six straight 3-pointers against Southern Mississippi in the NCAA tournament remain an East Regional record.

Bakalli, whose father hails from Albania and mother is from Charlotte, recalled a trip in the summer of 1987 to Yugoslavia to visit some of his father’s relatives.

“It helped open my eyes to what could be done in basketball,” Bakalli said. “And that area is known for some of the best basketball players in the world in Drazen Petrovic, Tony Kukoc and Luka Doncic.

Bakalli also thanked his South Point High coach Bill Hannon (a 2008 Belmont Sports Hall of Fame inductee) with helping “me develop my game.”

Hibberts was a four-year standout in girls basketball and girls track in addition to four years as a cheerleader at old Belmont High in the mid 1960s. Also a member of student government, she was a two-time All-Southwestern Conference basketball player, she was a three-time Western N.C. Activities Association state champion in the 100-meter low hurdles.

Later, she taught for 33 years at four high schools and was a title-winning tennis coach at North Gaston.

“The lessons I learned from playing sports were lessons that I’ve never forgot,” Hibberts said.

Of her coaching career, she was pleased to see how “many more opportunities girls have in sports now” and added “Every team I coached taught me as much as I taught them.”

Kitchen began coaching as a volunteer in Belmont in 1973. A Little League baseball coach for 13 years and a Pop Warner football coach for three, Kitchen then began a career that is now in his 39th year as a South Point High girls softball assistant coach.

“I have so many people to thank,” Kitchen said. “And I’ll always remember my first coach, Earl Lingafeldt, telling me in 1984 how we were going to coach the softball team.”

Kitchen has been there ever since as an assistant to Lingafeldt (a 1996 Belmont Sports Hall of Fame inductee), Chip Herring, Jerry Auten, Crystal Houser, Dawn Clubb, Chip Wilson and current coach Leah Brooks.

Young, who came from a family of five boys and two girls, emerged as a youth football star in the 1970s in Dallas, Gastonia and McAdenville. He played quarterback at Belmont Junior High School and South Point High School, capped by an unbeaten 1984 regular season that saw him earn All-State honors and an invitation to East-West All-Star game. Young also was senior class president at South Point in his senior year.

Young signed an athletic scholarship to Wake Forest with future NFL head coach Al Groh. After redshirting in 1985, Young finished as runner-up to future NFL standout Ray Agnew of N.C. State for ACC rookie of the year in 1986.

In 1987, with new coach Bill Dooley promoting the Deacons’ rushing attack, Young was the school’s leading rusher the next two seasons – earning All-ACC honors in 1987 – and finishing with 1,811 career yards. That total ranked Young fourth in school history at the time.

“I want to thank all of the coaches I had here who helped mold me,” said Young, who singled out Mickey Lineberger, Bill Hannon, Phil Tate, Jim Biggerstaff and Kent Hyde.

 

East Carolina football coach Mike Houston speaks at Tuesday’s 2022 Belmont Sports Hall of Fame banquet.

Belmont Sports Hall of Fame history:

Roster of inductees:
1987 — Jim Dixon, Joe Steele
1988 — Jimmie Hall, Puddin Broome
1989 — Jim Biggerstaff, Ebb Gantt, Gerald Cortner
1990 — Jim Stowe, Dwight Frady
1991 — Doug McDonald, Scott Crawford
1992 — Al McGuire, Howard “Humpy” Wheeler Sr., Howard “Humpy” Wheeler Jr.
1993 — Carrol Beale, Harold Stowe, Jack Lineberger
1994 — Musette “Punkie” Mills, Doug Mauldin, Art Shoemaker
1995 — Kermit Williams, Allen Wilson, Kelsey Guy Brown
1996 — H.S. Blue, Phil Tate, Earl Lingafeldt
1997 — Dot Satterfield, Vivian Laye Broome, Bobby Joye
1998 — Jeff Williams, Gerald White
1999 — Reg “Moon” Huffstetler, Jimmy Reeves
2000 — Carl “Satch” Forney, Butch Harris
2001 — John “Toppy” Hayes, Perry Fewell, 1979 South Point HS football team
2002 — Eliane Kebbe, Mike Reidy, 1981 South Point HS baseball team
2003 — Roscoe Helton, John “Red” Painter, 1954-55 Reid HS baseball teams
2004 — Hershey Hipps, Stanley Dudko, 2003 South Point HS football team
2005 — Wrather Johnson, David Wheeler, Denny Williams
2006 — Ed Horne, Jimmie Stowe, Mickey Lineberger
2007 — Wanda Grier, Joe Buckner, 1957-64 Al McGuire era Belmont Abbey basketball teams
2008 — Carey Anderson, Ronnie Robinson, Bill Hannon, 1963 Belmont Little League baseball team
2009 — Ron Boatwright, Glenn Sparrow, Teresa Bowlin, 1972-73 South Point HS girls basketball teams
2010 — Johnny Lawing, Bill Sanders, Harold “Smokey” Woods, 1973-74 South Point HS baseball teams
2011 — John Devine, Lewis Lineberger, Joe Shepherd
2013 — Dick Suggs, Mike McWhirter, 1971 South Point HS football team
2014 — James Hand, Todd Stafford, Melinda Wilson
2015 — Jerry Haney, Lynda McGinty, 2009 South Point HS football team
2016 — Raymond Garrison, Ted Gaston, Carrol Trull
2017 — Rick Cherry, Stephen Cowie, Devon Lowery, 2011 South Point HS football team
2018 — Steve Barkley, Wade Breeland, Mitch Harris, Koren Robinson
2020 — Don Davis, Shelley Frye Keen, Joe Messer, Pam Smith
2021 — no event/coronavirus
2022 — Migjen Bakalli, Cynthia Leonard Hibberts, George Kitchen, Mark Young

Guest speakers:
1987 — John Henry Moss
1988 — Dick Cooke
1989 — Bob Inman
1990 — George Shinn
1991 — Joe Gallagher
1992 — Al McGuire
1993 — Jim Beatty
1994 — Terry Holland
1995 — Jeff Mullins
1996 — Dave Cowens
1997 — Gil McGregor
1998 — Billy Packer
1999 — Howard “Humpy” Wheeler Jr.
2000 — Bobby Lutz
2001 — Mick Mixon
2002 — Sylvia Hatchell
2003 — Elliott Avent
2004 — Dr. William Thierfelder
2005 — Dell Curry
2006 — Donnie Shell
2007 — Richard “Dick” Dull
2008 — David Thompson
2009 — Susan Yow
2010 — Ray Tanner
2011 — Woody Durham
2013 — Brad Lambert
2014 — Dabo Swinney
2015 — Perry Fewell
2016 — Joe DeLamielleure
2017 — Chris Pollard
2018 — Mike Shildt
2019 — Jerry Moore
2021 — no event/coronavirus
2022 — Mike Houston