December 26, 2013 10:11:34 AM
Scott Walters - [email protected]
1. NEW HOPE BASEBALL: The Trojans went 10-2 in the postseason en route to the Mississippi High School Activities Association's Class 5A state championship. New Hope (27-9) defeated Pascagoula in the best-of-three title series at Trustmark Park in Pearl.
2. STARKVILLE ACADEMY GIRLS BASKETBALL: The 2012-13 season was perfect in every way for the Lady Volunteers. Starkville Academy went 43-0 and captured the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools Class AAA, Division II state title, the Class AAA state title, and the overall state title. It was the second-straight season the Lady Volunteers won all three titles.
3. HAMILTON SLOW-PITCH SOFTBALL: The Lady Lions won their seventh slow-pitch softball championship at Freedom Park in Ridgeland. Hamilton swept Stringer in two games to win the MHSAA Class 1A state championship. The Lady Lions also won the Class 2A state championship in 2012.
4. PICKENS COUNTY FOOTBALL: The Tornadoes were the best team in Alabama High School Activities Association Class 1A action this season. Pickens County capped its first 15-0 season with a 38-18 victory against Maplesville in the championship game at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Ala. It was the Tornadoes' first appearance in the Super Six championship series.
5. NEW HOPE VOLLEYBALL: While the Lady Trojans didn't win a state championship, they celebrated a couple of firsts. In the program's second year, New Hope won its first region championship and its first playoff match. The season ended in the North State Class II finals with a loss to eventual state champion Lake Cormorant.
6. DOMINANT BACK: The area's most interesting recruiting story involved West Point senior running back Aeris Williams. As many expected, Williams verbally committed to Mississippi State University before the season. While West Point had an atypical 7-5 season, Williams didn't disappoint, rushing for 2,209 yards and 30 touchdowns.
7. COLUMBUS GIRLS BASKETBALL: Perhaps the best era in Lady Falcons' basketball came to an end with another bitter disappointment in February. Columbus (18-7) lost to third-ranked Southaven in the MHSAA Class 6A North State semifinals. With senior Kiki Patterson leading the way, Columbus lost in the North State semifinals for the third-straight year.
8. STARKVILLE HIGH SOCCER: A season of promise featured nice runs but sad endings for the Yellow Jackets and Lady Jackets. The Starkville boys came up short in defense of the MHSAA Class 5A state championship in a 3-1 loss at Oxford in the North State finals. The Starkville girls team's best season ended with a 2-0 loss to Ridgeland in the North State Class 5A championship match.
9. NEW LEADER: In the only major football coaching change in the Golden Triangle, Columbus High School is looking for a new leader after the resignation of Tony Stanford. In four seasons, Stanford went 22-23 and led the Falcons to the MHSAA Class 6A playoffs in 2012 for the first time since 2005.
10. HISTORIC WINS: The Starkville Academy boys soccer team beat Pillow Academy 4-0 in the opening round of the MAIS Class AAA playoffs at the Starkville Sportsplex. The victory was the program's first in the playoffs in seven seasons. In the opening round of the MHSAA Class 1A football playoffs, Hamilton won 27-26 at Kennedy. It was the Lions' first postseason win since 1986.
-- Scott Walters
Scott is sports copy editor and reporter