Wrapping up the 2021 high school basketball season: Historical notes, complete area all-conference teams and final standings
By Richard Walker
Last Saturday capped a shortened, strange and historic local high school basketball season for Cleveland, Gaston and Lincoln counties.
Not only was it the first year since 1973 and only the second year in history where each county sent a school to the state finals, but it produced a first-ever state champion, saw four major Gaston County milestones set in addition to possibly one of the brightest futures in recent memory.
The highlight is Shelby’s first-ever girls basketball state title and unbeaten season. The Golden Lions, who finished 19-0 after defeating Farmville Central 77-62 in the N.C. 2A title game, also became the first Cleveland County girls basketball state champion.
Shelby was led by Southwestern 2A Conference coach of the year Scooter Lawrence, league player of the year Maraja Pass and all-conference selections Ally Hollifield and Kate Hollifield. Pass also was named state championship most valuable player with Ally Hollifield being named Shelby’s most outstanding player.
Lincoln Charter overcome preseason adversity in the form of the COVID-caused death of longtime assistant coach Carter Seitz to win a seventh straight Southern Piedmont 1A Conference title and advance to the N.C. 1A finals. Coach Bradley Gabriel’s team was led by Southern Piedmont player of the year Sam Cogan and all-conference selections Troy Fulton and Carter Seitz.
In remembrance of Jamie Seitz and his contributions, SPC 1A coaches named him as posthumous league coach of the year.
Gaston Christian also made the state finals after navigating the challenging Metrolina Conference; Coach Aaron Waters’ Eagles advanced to the NCISAA 3A title game behind all-league players Greg Brockington and Will Kelly; Kelly would finish the season as the area’s top scorer with 477 points.
The last time the three counties produced title game participants was 1973 when East Lincoln won the inaugural N.C. High School Athletic Association open classification girls state title and South Point’s girls and Crest’s boys won the old Western N.C. Activities Association titles by beating Burns’ girls and Shelby’s boys in the championship games.
Other title teams in the area were Crest’s boys and Ashbrook’s girls in the Big South 3A Conference, Shelby’s boys in the Southwestern 2A, North Lincoln’s boys in the South Fork 2A and the Bessemer City, Lincoln Charter and Piedmont Community Charter girls in the Southern Piedmont 1A.
Crest and North Lincoln each advanced to the Western N.C. finals in their respective classifications, with Crest falling to eventual state champion Weddington and North Lincoln to eventual runner-up Hendersonville.
Crest, under the direction of league coach of the year Brad Levine, won its first title since 2015 with the fourth unbeaten record in league games in school history. Conference player of the year Mari Adams and teammate Jadin Merritt surpassed 1,000 career points during the season to become the first to ever do so in school history.
Ashbrook, under first-year head coach Tremayne Booker, won its fifth league title in six seasons and made its 14th straight playoff appearance.
Shelby’s boys shared the Southwestern 2A league title with R-S Central by splitting regular season meetings, then the Golden Lions won 75-48 at R-S Central in the playoffs during their county-record 24th straight postseason appearance.
North Lincoln, under league coach of the year Dennis Frye, won its first league title in school history behind league player of the year Cole Seagle and 1,000-point career scorer Jack Carter.
And Bessemer City, Lincoln Charter and Piedmont Community Charter were part of an unprecedented five-way tie for the SPC 1A girls title.
For Bessemer City with league coach of the year Billy James and player of the year Janiya Adams, it was the school’s first league title since 2001 and third all-time.
For Lincoln Charter, coached by Kim Allen, it was the sixth league title in eight years.
And for Piedmont Community Charter, coached by Holly Gibby, it was the Patriots’ first league title in the SPC 1A.
In Gaston County, four huge milestones went set in February.
On back-to-back Fridays to start the month, Bessemer City sophomores Janiya Adams and Randall Pettus set single-game scoring records with 50- and 60-point efforts.
Adams’ 50-point game came in a 60-27 home win over Cherryville on Feb. 5 and surpassed the previous county mark of 47 points set first in 1983 by eventual women’s professional player Deanna Tate of Ashbrook and tied in 2019 by Stuart Cramer’s Carley Womack. It was the county’s first 50-point game since N.C. high schools adopted five-on-five rules in the 1969-70 season; The state and county had previously played girls basketball under the old six-on-six rules.
One week after Adams broke the girls single-game scoring record, Pettus broke a much older record when he became the county’s first 60-point scorer in a 91-62 win over Piedmont Community Charter. The previous record of 59 had been set by eventual Vincennes, Ind., junior college national champion and Wake Forest standout Tony Byers of Bessemer City on Jan. 24, 1969.
Shortly after Adams’ record-setting performance, Cherryville’s boys basketball team made Ironmen head coach Scott Harrill the county’s all-time winningest basketball coach. Harrill had been tied with Fanny Kiser of old Stanley High with 375 victories when the season started, then surpassed former Bessemer City and Ashbrook coach Marty Hatchell’s 379 wins before finishing the year with 384 overall victories.
Gaston Day’s Zaria Clark, who was later a NCISAA all-state selection, finished her career as only the 12th county product to surpass 2,000 career points – and sixth girl player.
During the season, eight other boys players surpassed 1,000 career points and three girls surpassed 1,000 career points.
Among the milestone breakers are boys juniors like Adams, Cogan, Kelly, Gaston Day’s Chris Britt and Kings Mountain’s Isaiah Tate and girls junior Saniya Wilson of Kings Mountain; Girls junior Kate Hollifield of Shelby has surpassed the figure as a sophomore.
Adding in talented sophomores like Bessemer City’s Pettus and Adams and Shelby’s Maraja Pass and Ally Hollifield, the future local prep basketball does indeed look bright.
Here’s the full list of area all-conference teams and honorees:
Big South 3A
Boys: Mari Adams (Crest), Isaiah Tate (Kings Mountain), J.J. Moore (Huss), Caleb Borders (Crest), Jadin Merritt (Crest), Zeke Cannedy (Kings Mountain), Jordan Robertson (Ashbrook), Marcus Odums (Kings Mountain), Noah Caulder (Huss), Sincere Love (Huss), Ray Hall (Crest), Matt Toms (Kings Mountain), Camury Reid (Forestview), Ray Mackey (Huss), Nash Heavner (Ashbrook), Justin Rocquemore (Cramer)
Player of the year: Mari Adams (Crest)
Coach of the year: Brad LeVine (Crest)
Girls: First team – Saniya Wilson (Kings Mountain), Alexis Marshall (Crest), Jamya Daniels (Huss), Kennette Bess (Ashbrook), Aaliyah El (Ashbrook), Second team – Myla Hoover (Forestview), Jimena Vazquez (Forestview), Khalia King (Kings Mountain), Madison Cole (Ashbrook), Vaniyah Petty (Crest), Third team – Shay Portee (Ashbrook), Ranija Hamilton (Cramer), Savanni Harris (Huss), Sara Warlick (Crest), Bailey Perry (North Gaston)
Player of the year: Saniya Wilson (Kings Mountain)
Coach of the year: Jessica Brunson (Crest)
Boys: R-S Central (Tyrese Miller, Braxton Crocker, Keion Littlejohn), Shelby (Tyler Arrington, Elijah Borders, Drew Hollifield), South Point (Ayden Baker, Cooper Ray), Burns (Ryan Thompson, Dorien Starnes), East Gaston (Trenton Sherrill), East Rutherford (Jabar Mayse), Chase (Fernando Valdez)
Player of the year: Ayden Baker (South Point)
Co-coaches of the year: Greg Wright (R-S Central), Aubrey Hollifield (Shelby)
Girls: Shelby (Maraja Pass, Kate Hollifield, Ally Hollifield), R-S Central (Maddie Gillie, Jada Wilkins), East Gaston (A.J. Price, Makayla Boyd), East Rutherford (Jasmine Twitty, Jaelyn Twitty), Burns (Tishiona Strong), South Point (Asheton Queen), Chase (Kinsley King)
Player of the year: Maraja Pass (Shelby)
Coach of the year: Scooter Lawrence (Shelby)
South Fork 2A
Boys: East Lincoln (Jeremiah Jones, Drew Bean), Lake Norman Charter (Cal Reed, Oliver O’Brian), Lincolnton (Connor Williams, Amontre Finger), Maiden (Dru McClough, Chris Culliver), Newton-Conover (Zane Redmond, Jackson Mullins), North Lincoln (Cole Seagle, Jack Carter)
Player of the year: Cole Seagle (North Lincoln)
Coach of the year: Dennis Frye (North Lincoln)
Girls: Bandys (Macy Rummage, Logan Dutka), East Lincoln (Taliyah Thomas, Ginny Overbay), Lake Norman Charter (Jillian Villanti), Maiden (Maggie Andrews, Lainee Hentshel), North Lincoln (Ashlynn White), Newton-Conover (Emma Fox, Cassidy Geddes, Grace Loftin), West Lincoln (Chloe Norman)
Player of the year: Cassidy Geddes (Newton-Conover)
Coach of the year: Sylvia White (Newton-Conover)
Southern Piedmont 1A
Girls: Bessemer City (Janiya Adams, Daejah Hardin, Imani Rhodes), Christ the King (Elle Gorman, Riley Milligan, Kathleen Mundy), Lincoln Charter (Lauren Horton, Maddie Wootton, Tyler Beller), Piedmont Community Charter (Jayden East, Kaylee Nolen, Taylor Prioleau), Thomas Jefferson (Kathleen Brown, Kaitlyn Rowe, Margaret Schweppe), Cherryville (Terayha Bess), Highland Tech (Addie McCraw)
Player of the year: Janiya Adams (Bessemer City)
Coach of the year: Billy James (Bessemer City)
Boys: Lincoln Charter (Sam Cogan, Troy Fulton, Carter Seitz), Christ the King (Andrew Hendershott, Steven Lebeau), Cherryville (Lavonte Hughes, Austin Thompson), Thomas Jefferson (Adonis King, Isaiah Hicks), Bessemer City (Randall Pettus), Piedmont Community Charter (Stephon Simmons), Highland Tech (Kevin Foster)
Player of the year: Sam Cogan (Lincoln Charter)
Coach of the year: Jamie Seitz (Lincoln Charter)
Mountain Island Charter
All-PAC 7 1A boys: Marquis Williams (player of the year), Najee Steward, Gabe Stephens, Honorable mention- Nyzir Steward
All-PAC 7 1A girls: Chloe Hatzopoulos, Chaunai Deloach, Kay Decker, Honorable mention- Melissa Richie
All-Metrolina boys: Greg Brockington, Will Kelly
All-State boys: Will Kelly
All-Metrolina boys: Chris Britt, Callum Richard
All-Metrolina girls: Zaria Clark, Janiah Shuler
All-State girls: Zaria Clark, Janiah Shuler
Here are the final standings with conference record listed first followed by overall record:
BIG SOUTH 3A
Crest 12-0, 16-2
Kings Mountain 9-3, 10-5
Huss 8-4, 9-5
Ashbrook 5-7, 5-9
Forestview 4-8, 4-9
North Gaston 3-9, 3-11
Cramer 1-11, 1-13
Ashbrook 11-1, 13-2
Crest 9-3, 10-5
Kings Mountain 9-3, 10-5
Forestview 6-6, 6-7
Huss 5-7, 5-8
North Gaston 2-10, 2-12
Cramer 0-12, 1-13
Shelby 11-1, 15-2
R-S Central 11-1, 13-2
South Point 8-4, 10-4
Burns 6-6, 6-8
East Rutherford 3-9, 3-10
East Gaston 3-9, 5-9
Chase 0-12, 0-14
Shelby 12-0, 19-0
R-S Central 10-2, 11-4
East Gaston 7-5, 9-5
East Rutherford 7-5, 7-5
Burns 4-8, 4-10
South Point 2-10, 3-11
Chase 0-12, 1-13
SOUTH FORK 2A
North Lincoln 12-2, 15-3
East Lincoln 11-3, 11-4
Lake Norman Charter 10-4, 10-4
Lincolnton 8-6, 8-6
Maiden 7-7, 7-7
Newton-Conover 6-8, 6-8
Bandys 2-12, 2-12
West Lincoln 0-14, 0-14
Newton-Conover 14-0, 15-1
East Lincoln 10-4, 10-5
Lake Norman Charter 9-5, 9-5
Bandys 8-6, 8-6
Maiden 6-8, 6-8
West Lincoln 5-9, 5-9
North Lincoln 3-11, 3-11
Lincolnton 1-13, 1-13
SOUTHERN PIEDMONT 1A
Lincoln Charter 11-1, 16-3
Christ the King 9-3, 10-4
Thomas Jefferson 7-5, 9-5
Cherryville 6-5, 9-5
Bessemer City 6-6, 6-6
Piedmont Community 2-10, 3-11
Highland Tech 0-11, 0-11
Piedmont Community 8-4, 9-4
Thomas Jefferson 8-4, 8-4
Bessemer City 8-4, 8-5
Christ the King 8-4, 8-6
Lincoln Charter 8-4, 8-5
Cherryville 1-10, 2-11
Highland Tech 0-11, 0-11
PAC 7 1A
Pine Lake Prep 14-1, 15-2
Mtn Island Charter 12-2, 14-3
Comm Sch Davidson 7-5, 7-5
Queen’s Grant 7-5, 7-5
Union Academy 4-8, 4-8
Langtree Charter 4-9, 4-9
Caro International 2-8, 2-8
Bradford Prep 0-12, 0-12
Comm Sch Davidson 12-0, 14-1
Mtn Island Charter 9-2, 9-3
Bradford Prep 6-6, 7-6
Pine Lake Prep 6-6, 7-6
Union Academy 6-6, 6-6
Queen’s Grant 1-9, 1-9
Caro International 0-11, 0-11
Langtree Charter no team
Westminster Catawba 5-1, 16-3
Northside Christian 9-3, 19-8
Concord Academy 5-2, 21-8
Metrolina Christian 8-4, 16-10
SouthLake Christian 5-7, 13-10
Gaston Day 3-5, 10-10
Gaston Christian 4-9, 9-19
Hickory Grove Christian 1-9, 5-14
Concord Academy 7-0, 18-2
Metrolina Christian 6-4, 10-10
Gaston Day 3-3, 11-8
Hickory Grove Christian 4-4, 9-9
Westminster Catawba 1-3, 4-5
SouthLake Christian 0-7, 0-9