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.

High flying Eagles down Blue Mountain

Andrew Childers scored 16 points in the second half for the Eagles on Tuesday. Photo by Dennis Clayton.

Andrew Childers scored 16 points in the second half for the Eagles on Tuesday. Photo by Dennis Clayton.


HICKORY FLAT – West Union staged a major second half comeback and won their opening round game in the Division 2-1A Tournament against Blue Mountain 60-52. The Eagles got 16 points from Andrew Childers to help rally the Eagles from a five point deficit at the half.
The fourth quarter saw seven lead changes and West Union took the lead for good at 53-52 with about three minutes remaining.
Childers, Dillon Clayton and Adam Grubbs scored critical points, most of them coming from the free throw line for the Eagles in the closing minute to seal the win.
Hayden Basil and Bobby High provided the offense during the first half as they combined for 15 of the Eagles 23 points.
Basil led the Eagles with his 20 points. Childers had 18 and High finished with 11 points.
West Union advances to face the number one seed, Ashland on Thursday night at 7:45.
Hayden Basil had a big night for the Eagles with his 20 points.

Hayden Basil had a big night for the Eagles with his 20 points.

Union County cross country results

East Union boys took first place in the 2015 Union County XC Meet on Thursday at East Union. Photo by Dennis Clayton.

East Union boys took first place in the 2015 Union County XC Meet on Thursday at East Union. Photo by Dennis Clayton.


East Union girls won the 2015 Union County XC title on Thursday. Photo by Dennis Clayton. East Union girls won the 2015 Union County XC title on Thursday. Photo by Dennis Clayton.
BY DENNIS CLAYTON
ELLISTOWN – East Union won first in the Union County Cross Country Meet in boys and girls varsity at East Union on Thursday, edging Myrtle girls and Ingomar boys to take the county title.
Savannah Shirley of West Union won the individual girls varsity race in 22:13 and Jordon Salmon of East Union won the boys individual with his time of 17:51.
Jessica Pickens of Myrtle won the junior high girls race with a time of 25:57 and Micah Fulgham of East Union won the junior high boys in 20:49.
Savannah Shirley of West Union is the 2015 Union County XC Individual Champion. Photo by Dennis Clayton.

Savannah Shirley of West Union is the 2015 Union County XC Individual Champion. Photo by Dennis Clayton.


Jordon Salmon of East Union is the 2015 Union County Boys Individual Champion. Photo by Dennis Clayton.

Jordon Salmon of East Union is the 2015 Union County Boys Individual Champion. Photo by Dennis Clayton.


Jessica Pickens of Myrtle is the 2015 Union County Junior High Girls Champion.

Jessica Pickens of Myrtle is the 2015 Union County Junior High Girls Champion.


Micah Fulgham of East Union is the 2015 Union County Junior High Boys Champion.

Micah Fulgham of East Union is the 2015 Union County Junior High Boys Champion.


Top finishers in the 2015 Union County Cross Country Meet.

Top finishers in the 2015 Union County Cross Country Meet.

Lady Eagles down Broad Street 



Gracen Conlee connects on the shot from the lane. Photo by Dennis Clayton.

West Union traveled to Broad Street and won a convincing 70-48 opening round win in the 1A state playoffs on Friday. 

The Lady Eagles took a 21-6 lead after a quarter and went into the half up 39-23.

Gracen Conlee lead the offensive attack with 30 points and Marley Long had 23. Savannah Shirley was also in double figures with 10 points.

West Union advanced to the second round and will travel to Coffeeville for a 6:00 game on Saturday. (today)

Savannah Shirley sets the Lady Eagle offense. Photo by Dennis Clayton.

Savannah Shirley sets the Lady Eagle offense. Photo by Dennis Clayton.


Marley Long drives along the baseline for the Lady Eagles. Photo by Dennis Clayton.

Marley Long drives along the baseline for the Lady Eagles. 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.

Urchins and Lady Eagles post wins in county hoops

Ty McDonald goes up for two over Owen Waddell of West Union. Photo by Dennis Clayton.

Ty McDonald goes up for two over Owen Waddell of West Union. Photo by Dennis Clayton.


BY DENNIS CLAYTON
ELLISTOWN – East Union and West Union met for a county rivalry matchup on Friday and the teams divided wins with West Union winning the girls game 58-45 and East Union boys won the nightcap 64-59.
“The two points in the first quarter were the key to the game,” East Union coach Josh Blythe said. “That’s twice in the last two games that it has happened and about the third time this year. We cannot get off to an anemic start like that. The combined points for the second through the fourth quarter are 43-all. It’s hard to overcome that against a pretty good team.”
West Union sprinted out to a 15-2 advantage in the first quarter as Gracen Conlee paced the Lady Eagles with seven points to gain the early advantage.
East Union shook off their offensive woes and outscored the Lady Eagles 21-17 in the second quarter. The teams went to the half with West Union holding a 32-23 advantage.
The Lady Eagles outscored the Lady Urchins 26-22 in the second half to regain the 13-point advantage they had built in the first quarter and post the win.
Leading scorers for West Union were Gracen Conlee with 22 points to lead all scorers, Kylie Massengill scored 16 and Marley Long had 12.
Denira Shawver led East Union with 14 points and Tianna Castillo scored 13.
West Union also took the early lead in the boys contest as they were up 20-12 after a quarter. However East Union went on a 20-10 run in the second quarter to lead at the half 32-30.
“I thought our second half defense stiffened up quite a bit and we took it a little bit personal,” East Union boys coach Tim McDonald said. “At times you have to take the game a little personal, you’ve got opponents coming in here wanting to beat you on your floor. Dadgum it, it’s not their floor, it’s our floor. I thought Chase Hall did a good job in the second half and sparked out defense for the win. I thought that was the difference.”
East Union held a narrow edge on offense in the second half, outscoring the Eagles 32-29 to gain the narrow victory.
Ty McDonald and Lane Plunk led the Urchin offensively with 21 points apiece.
Hayden Basil led West Union with 17 points, Michael Steele had 14, Adam Grubbs and Andrew Childers both scored 11 points.
Katie Rowan on the dribble into the lane with Savannah Shirley on defense. Photo by Dennis Clayton.

Katie Rowan on the dribble into the lane with Savannah Shirley on defense. Photo by Dennis Clayton.


Hayden Basil scored 17 points for West Union on the night. Chase Hall guarding in the lane. Photo by Dennis Clayton.

Hayden Basil scored 17 points for West Union on the night. Chase Hall guarding in the lane. Photo by Dennis Clayton.


Gracen Conlee shoots the jumper for the Lady Eagles as Rebecca Sheffield defends for East Union. Photo by Dennis Clayton.

Gracen Conlee shoots the jumper for the Lady Eagles as Rebecca Sheffield defends for East Union. Photo by Dennis Clayton.


Hunter Nobles fires up a three from the corner over Eli Basil. Photo by Dennis Clayton.

Hunter Nobles fires up a three from the corner over Eli Basil. Photo by Dennis Clayton.