Graduation 2016 marks end of era

My graduation speech to my seniors of 2016
Graduation is upon us again even though it seems like only yesterday that we were just getting the 2015-16 school year started. With this graduation comes the realization that some of my kids that I have followed since junior high will no longer roam the courts and fields of prep sports and that makes me a bit sad.
You see, I got back into the high school sports scene full-time back during the 2010-11 season with newly added responsibilities of covering area prep sports for the News Exchange and this senior class were essentially babes for lack of a better term. They’re my first team to graduate I guess you might say.
I have had the honor and joy of getting to know these athletes, their parents, siblings and even grandparents and I am truly blessed beyond measure on all accounts. However, that makes it harder to let go and watch these young men and women move on to the next step in life.
Some will continue on to play sports at the next level, but most will just say goodbye to coaches and teammates who will forever hold a special place in their hearts and minds.
They will remember all the fun times on the team bus trips, the camaraderie that only can be experienced with others who have the same goals and desires for success of team and love of school, the game and each other.
There will be games and plays that will be forever etched in their minds from their “glory days” that they will reflect upon in the days to come.
I too will remember these athletes, things they said, things they did. I will remember some pretty amazing feats they accomplished on the field of play, some of the games they won and how they won them.
Most of all though, I will just remember each and every person and what a great guy or girl they were on and off the field. I will remember a kind act or a word of encouragement that I experienced or saw someone else experience.
I trust that sports has taught all my “kids” about life because some days you win and some days you lose, but you must never give up, you just keep grinding. You must get up, knock the dust off and go again and again.
And yes, these are my kids because many years ago my family passed through these same situations and circumstances with high school sports and sadly, we one day had to bid all our sports farewell.
Maybe I’m reliving my past through someone else’s child or maybe your child, but one of my main objectives in covering sports is getting to know the players and their families just to let them know that I genuinely care about them, their team, their school and their family.
So it’s a little bittersweet as I watch my former babies walk the aisle to become the graduates of 2016 since I will never again have the opportunity to share the sideline or dugout with them, but I know that they are ready to face tomorrow because they have proven themselves time and again in the face of adversity and opportunity with a winning attitude.
To my Seniors of 2016 I ask you to remember the words of Chuck Swindoll “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.”
Thanks for your friendship, thanks for your allowing me to follow your exploits on the field of play, but most of all thanks for allowing me to be a small part of your busy life. May God richly bless you all.

Lady Bulldogs stay perfect in division

Sanders Goode works the ball in the box during an earlier Corinth match. file photo.

Sanders Goode works the ball in the box during an earlier Corinth match. file photo.


BY DENNIS CLAYTON
New Albany routed Tishomingo County on Friday, winning 11-1 and keeping their perfect record in Division 1-4A at 4-0. Sanders Goode had a hat trick, scoring three goals to lead the Lady Bulldogs.
“I was pleased with the way we started the game because we had a tough, physical game against Corinth on Tuesday,” New Albany girls coach Bert Anderson said. “With a fairly young team, we could have had a letdown, but they came ready to play. I thought we held possession and passed the ball very well which allowed us to finish very well.”
New Albany scored five goals in the first half and added six more in the second half to coast to the win.
“It was a good game to allow the younger players a chance to have some quality playing time once we got ahead,” Anderson said. “It also allowed some girls like Meghan (Van) and Rachel (Rainey), who have been working hard on defense to move to the forward position and score a couple of goals. That’s always fun for the defensive players and it’s a chance to reward them as well.”
Goode led the scoring with her three goals, Rainey scored two, Cynthia Betancourt also scored two goals. Van, Josi Hill, Katie Brooks and Sarah Kathryn Harris had one goal apiece.

Bulldogs drop doubleheader to Tigers

Artavious Nugent follows through on his two-run homer in the fourth inning. Photo by Dennis Clayton.

Artavious Nugent follows through on his two-run homer in the fourth inning. Photo by Dennis Clayton.


Bulldogs drop pair in baseball doubleheader
BY DENNIS CLAYTON
RIPLEY – New Albany’s Bulldogs were their own worst enemy in Tuesday’s opening game of doubleheader action of summer baseball. Ripley won 11-2 and the Tigers also took the nightcap 5-3.
Ripley took advantage of two big innings to score eight of their 11 runs, plating three in the second and five in the fourth. Walks and errors kept both innings alive for the Tigers as they sent nine batters up in the second and 10 in the fourth.
New Albany closed the score to 3-2 in the top of the fourth as Austin Gafford’s grounder went through under the shortstop’s glove to get the leadoff man on. Eli Jackson’s sacrifice bunt moved Gafford to second. Sam McMillin was called out on an extremely close play at first to give the Bulldogs two outs. Artavious Nugent hit a two-run homer over the left-center fence to get the Bulldogs within a run.
The Tigers put the game out of reach with their five runs in the fourth and added three insurance runs to go up 11-2.
The Bulldogs managed two runs on four hits while committing seven costly errors. New Albany’s pitchers only surrendered seven hits, but seven walks and three hit batters gave the Tigers a host of baserunners during the contest.
The Bulldog defense committed seven errors which also resulted in keeping the Tiger’s scoring opportunities alive.
Austin Gafford drives his single into left. Photo by Dennis Clayton.

Austin Gafford drives his single into left. Photo by Dennis Clayton.


Sam McMillin takes a pitch through the right side of the infield. Photo by Dennis Clayton.

Sam McMillin takes a pitch through the right side of the infield. Photo by Dennis Clayton.

Bulldogs fall in double overtime following fourth quarter fade

Jarel Lipsey of New Albany drives in and scores on the layup during Saturday's Hotbed Classic. Photo by Dennis Clayton.

Jarel Lipsey of New Albany drives in and scores on the layup during Saturday’s Hotbed Classic. Photo by Dennis Clayton.


Baldwyn 77, New Albany 68, 2OT
New Albany dominated Baldwyn through three quarters of play, but the combination of the Bearcat half court pressure, turnovers and Connor McKay in the fourth quarter brought Baldwyn back to tie in regulation 55-55 and eventually take the win in double overtime 77-68. Baldwyn went on a 30-10 run in the fourth quarter to force the overtime.
New Albany struggled with the 2-2-1 half-court pressure and also committed turnovers when they were able to beat the press. McKay was held in check by New Albany through three quarters, but he was clutch in the fourth period, hitting five 3-pointers to lead the Bearcat rally.
“They started to put half-court pressure on us in the fourth quarter and it hurt us,” New Albany coach Brad Gray said. “It was a 2-2-1 half-court trap, we saw it on film, we knew it was coming and we knew what we wanted t do against it, but we just didn’t do it. We didn’t get the ball to the middle of the floor, we were holding the ball and letting them trap us, getting ourselves in some bad situations. Give them (Baldwyn) credit, they had to make shots and they were making contested threes. They made plays when they had to and we didn’t.”
New Albany went up 62-57 in the first overtime, but failed to connect on free throw opportunities to put the contest out of reach. The Bulldogs missed five free throws during the period. Baldwyn’s McKay sank a three pointer as the overtime expired to again tie at 64-64.
The Bulldogs never recovered from McKay’s last second OT shot and Baldwyn outscored New Albany 13-4 in the final overtime to take the win.
Jarel Lipsey led the Bulldogs in scoring with 24 points. Rashad McWilliams hit for 15 and Miles Washington scored 10 points.
Conner McKay scored 36 for Baldwyn, Duke Upshaw added 13 and Felix Hughes totaled 11 points.
New Albany is now 14-6 on the season.
Miles Washington blocks the Baldwyn shot in the second half of the Hotbed Classic. Photo by Dennis Clayton.

Miles Washington blocks the Baldwyn shot in the second half of the Hotbed Classic. Photo by Dennis Clayton.

New Albany takes sweep at junior high tournament

New Albany Bulldogs are the 2015 Union County Junior High Tournament Champions. Photo by Dennis Clayton.

New Albany Bulldogs are the 2015 Union County Junior High Tournament Champions. Photo by Dennis Clayton.


BY DENNIS CLAYTON
ELLISTOWN – New Albany Middle School’s teams made a clean sweep in the Union County Junior High Tournament on Thursday with the Lady Bulldogs topping East Union 28-19 and the Bulldogs completing the sweep with a 56-31 win over West Union.
East Union took the early lead in the girls game, 7-5 after a quarter, but both teams struggled in the second period offensively and went to half tied 9-9.
East Union kept the game close until the final minute of the third quarter as New Albany broke open a slim 13-12 lead with eight points to take the momentum with a 21-12 lead after three. Sha Sha Williams hit two 3-pointers in that final minute of the quarter.
East Union trimmed the lead to six at 24-18 with 3:49 remaining, but New Albany closed with a 4-1 advantage to take the win.
E’Lexis Jones and Williams led New Albany with 8 points each. Raelee Bell had 10 points for East Union.
The boys championship featured a huge third quarter for the eventual winners as New Albany exploded for 18 points in the period while holding the Eagles to only six after the teams had gone to half with New Albany up 29-18.
West Union was holding their own with the Bulldogs as they maintained the 11 point difference at 33-22 with 3:24 left in the third quarter before the Bulldogs closed with a 14-2 run to lead 47-24 and assure the win.
New Albany was led by the trio of Loden Bolen, Reno Montgomery and Alex Mirfield with 12 points apiece.
Ryder Willard of West Union led all scorers with 16 points.
New Albany Girls are the 2015 Union County Junior High Tournament Champions. Photo by Dennis Clayton.

New Albany Girls are the 2015 Union County Junior High Tournament Champions. Photo by Dennis Clayton.