JCJC honors student-athletes at Spring Athletic Banquet
Written By: Shawn Wansley
Email Address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Date Submitted: 2011-05-03 15:25:06
By Shawn Wansley
JCJC Sports Information Director
ELLISVILLE – One word comes to mind when describing the 2011 Jones County Junior College spring sports season – successful.
“For the first time in school history, every team in the spring had a winning season,” said JCJC Director of Sports Broadcasting Lance Pittman, who served as Master of Ceremonies for the annual Spring Athletic Banquet here Monday night at the Ronald Whitehead Advanced Technology Center in the Howard Technology Park. “Every team made the state playoffs and that is something to be proud of tonight.”
Athletes in women and men’s basketball, golf, women and men’s tennis, softball and baseball were recognized, along with the Gold Rush dance team for basketball.
The top honorees of the evening were women’s soccer player Jamie Miller of George County, men’s tennis player Nathan Burkett of Columbia and cheerleader Katelyn Gottberg of Gulfport, who received the JCJC Presidential Scholar-Athlete Awards. Those awards go to the student-athletes who possess the highest grade point average for the school year.
The Bobcat baseball team and Lady Bobcat softball team are still competing in postseason play, while the JCJC men’s tennis team will be heading to nationals on May 15. Both Bobcat basketball teams advanced to the Region 23 Tournament, with the women’s team also reaching the finals of the MACJC State Tournament for the third straight year.
The Lady Bobcat tennis team finished one point away from tying for its third straight state championship, while the Bobcat golf team – playing its first year in Division II – finished fifth in the state tournament.
“The class of 2011 – you are definitely winners,” said JCJC President Dr. Jesse Smith. “You are also imminently prepared for leadership, for challenges and for teamwork. We are very proud of you.
“We are extremely excited for your accomplishments and your contributions. We want you to finish off this semester and we expect you to do well on the field, but more importantly in the classroom.”
JCJC Athletic Director Katie Herrington noted several people play a vital role in helping the athletic department.
“The Board of Trustees, administration, parents, faculty and staff are all so important to the success of our program,” she told the crowd of approximately 300. “Their support is greatly appreciated. And we are so blessed that our students have the educational opportunities they have here at Jones.”
Bobcat Awards were presented in each sport. These awards, which are voted on by the players and members of the respective teams, go to an athlete who best exemplifies everything a coach would want in a player, including leadership, sportsmanship, dedication and academic excellence.
Head coach Sandra Sumrall noted her Lady Bobcats were quite young this past season, but still managed a 19-8 record while competing in the state and Region 23 Tournaments.
“We only had two returning starters and a sophomore transfer and they led all of those freshmen back to the state championship game,” she said. “We came down to the last few seconds at Co-Lin and came up short or we very well could have won our third straight state championship. And we got beat at regionals by one point at the buzzer.
“But I am very proud of them.”
Jackson Murrah’s Tanecka Carey and Jackson Provine’s Kianna Harris were co-recipients of the Bobcat Award. Harris was also recognized for participating in the MACJC All-Star game.
Carey was noted for several accomplishments, including being named first-team NJCAA All-American, All-MACJC, All-Region 23 and All-Region 23 Tournament. The Southern Miss signee also participated in the MACJC All-Star game.
Sumrall also noted that Carey’s JCJC jersey will hang in the Ring of Honor for the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in Knoxville, Tenn., for one year and she was recognized for her school-record, 53-point performance vs. then 8th-ranked Co-Lin on Feb. 17, during JCJC’s 90-80 victory.
Letter J winners were Carey, Harris, Michel’Le Thomas (New Orleans) and manager/statistician Lyndie Lyon (West Jones).
The Bobcats finished 15-10 and advanced to both the state and regional tournaments.
“We were very competitive, but we did not end up where we wanted to be,” said head coach Don “Bubba” Skelton. “We came on strong at the end of the season and won nine of our last 12, but we lost on a heartbreaking shot at the end in the state tournament.
“Unless you win it all, you will end up disappointed. But I was not disappointed in the efforts our kids gave.”
Northwest Rankin’s Torrey Brown was the recipient of the Bobcat Award.
Ruffin, S.C., forward Brandon Givens was recognized for being All-Region 23, first-team All-MACJC South Division and the MVP of the MACJC All-Star game after scoring 19 points and grabbing eight rebounds to lead the South to a 98-89 win over the North.
Baltimore, Md., guard Derrious Gilmore was recognized for being named second-team All-MACJC South Division and for participating in the MACJC All-Star game.
Givens has signed with Alcorn State University, while Gilmore is headed to the University of Wyoming.
Pascagoula’s Andrew Marshall was recognized for being named to the All-Region 23 Tournament team.
Letter J Award winners were Brown, Givens, Gilmore, Marshall, Glen Collins (Jackson Provine), Rico Rankins (Wayne County), Albert Peterson (New Orleans) and manager Sid Gautrau (Pearl River Central.)
Simpson Academy’s Mitchell Smith was named second-team All-MACJC, while Pearl River Central’s Braxton Spiers finished eighth in the state tournament at Deerfield Golf Club in Madison. Smith finished 13th in the Region 23 Tournament at Riverbirch Golf Club in Amory, while Spiers was 16th.
Andrew McMahan of Long Beach was the Bobcat Award winner.
Letter J Award winners were McMahan, Smith and Bing Waldron (Oak Grove).
JCJC Vice President of Student Affairs Ed Smith, subbing for head coach Jeff Jennings, noted that West Jones freshman Ryan Blackwell was the first person to ever sign a golf scholarship at JCJC.
“This was our first year to compete in the scholarship division and the team had some good tournaments,” he said. “We finished fourth at the Co-Lin Tournament. And our guys represented JCJC very well with their sportsmanship, attitude and conduct off the course.”
The men’s tennis team will be heading to Plano, Texas, to compete in the NJCAA Division I Tournament May 15-20. It will be their first time to nationals in four years.
The Bobcats posted a 10-3 record during the regular season, finished second in the MACJC State Tournament and third in the Region 23 Tournament. They own a 23-6 record over the past two years.
Head coach Mark Easley expected the men’s team to have a solid season and they proved him correct.
“We had a lot of players returning and I thought we could have a good year,” he said. “We barely got beat out in the state tournament and we had some awesome performances throughout the year. These guys worked really hard all year and we still have some work to do.”
Nick Williams of Melbourne, Australia, won the state’s No. 2 singles’ title, while Cade Sherman of West Jones claimed the No. 3 MACJC singles’ crown. Williams teamed with Laurel’s Armand Deniakos to capture the state’s No. 2 doubles’ championship.
Sherman was named the winner of the Bobcat Award for men’s tennis.
Letter J Award winners were Sherman, Deniakos, Burkett and Mitchell Smith.
The women’s team posted a 9-5 record and finished tied for third in the state tournament, just one point out of first place. That happened despite the fact the Lady Bobcats only had one returning sophomore – Arlette Cochran of George County.
“This group surprised me,” Easley said. “They competed and worked hard this year. We had won back-to-back state championships and as it turned out, we were just one match away from winning it again. What an effort they gave us this year.”
Easley noted the Lady Bobcats are 26-6 over the past two years.
Cochran teamed with Gautier’s Brandy Freeman to win No. 2 doubles in the state tournament and Freeman claimed the No. 3 singles’ crown.
Cochran, who won the consolation round of No. 5 singles in the NJCAA Tournament last year, received the Bobcat Award for women’s tennis this year and being the only sophomore, also received a Letter J Award.
Easley summed up the evening for all of the participants.
“It’s great to be a Bobcat, especially tonight when you look at all of the success our sports have had,” said Easley. “Something like this – a banquet as nice as this – does not go on at all of the schools around the state and that’s a tribute to our leadership and Dr. Smith’s vision.
“We want to do everything first class at Jones and it all starts at the top.”
The Lady Bobcats have achieved several milestones – so far.
They are currently 33-13 – which is a school-record for victories – and were rated No. 17 in the nation at one point – which is the first time in school history they have ever been ranked.
They qualified for the MACJC State Tournament and Region 23 Tournament for the first time in the 10-year history of fastpitch and they will begin play in the regionals on Thursday in Clinton against Pearl River.
“A lot of good things have happened to us this year and I can’t thank our kids enough,” said head coach Chris Robinson. “We just had a bunch of kids that hated to lose and I could really tell that when the final out was made in the state semifinal game last week.”
The Lady Bobcats who made the All-MACJC and All-Region 23 teams will not be announced until after the season is completed.
The Bobcat Award was given to the entire team.
“When you have players who come to work every day, whether they are hurt or injured, and they play hard all the time, you are going to be successful,” said Robinson. “We have a bunch of players like that, so when they voted for the Bobcat Award, they voted for the entire team.”
Receiving Letter J Awards were Kayla McDaniel (East Central), Heidi Garcich (Reserve, La.), Shannon Mosley (Quitman) and Mallory Cowart (South Jones).
The Bobcat baseball team owns the same record as the softball team – 33-13.
They have won two consecutive MACJC South Division titles and will host an opening round best-of-three playoff series against East Mississippi Community College starting on Friday.
“Our season is not over,” said head coach Christian Ostrander. “The fun part is just now beginning. Our goal from day one was to win the South Division and our guys did it again. We have the best record in the state and I am proud of that.
“These guys are battlers and it just took us a little while to find the identity of this team. We are very fortunate, as coaches, to be able to go to work with these guys every day.”
Ostrander said the team looks forward to hosting the playoff series this weekend and, potentially, the state tournament next week at Community Bank Park.
“It is the best junior college facility in the nation,” said Ostrander. “There is no doubt about that.”
Just like softball, All-MACJC and All-Region 23 selections will not be released until after the season concludes.
Gulfport’s Ladd Rhodes was the recipient of the Bobcat Award. Rhodes, an outfielder, has signed with Southeastern Louisiana University, while pitcher Andrew Pierce of Stringer – a first-team NJCAA All-American in 2010 – has signed with the University of Southern Mississippi.
Letter J Award winners were Rhodes, Pierce, Jay Bell (Gulfport), Darion Hamilton (Taylorsville), Chase Headrick (West Jones), Blake McIlwain (Wayne County), Graham Odom (Pascagoula), Josh Palmer (Wayne County), Nick Ray (Gulfport), Ryan Roberts (Pelham High School in Birmingham, Ala.), Ryan Waters (Hahnville High School in Luling, La.), manager Jordan Burgess (Petal) and manager Trent Walters (Petal).
Ostrander said Burgess and Walters have received scholarships to be managers on the Southern Miss baseball team next year.
Ostrander also gave special recognition to JCJC groundskeeper Brian Johnson and statistician Elizabeth Sanders for their work with the program.
Letter J Award winners for the basketball dance team were Megan Ruffin, Leah Moore, Anna Raven Smith, Megan Skaggs, Tatum Gatwood, Chiquilla Walker, Faith Windham and Allison Dunn.