In this season of top stories, year in review pieces and best of the best lists, I think it important to bring attention to the moments and stories that won’t be anyone’s No. 1 of 2007, in anyone’s year in review piece or on a best of the best list.
These stories, moments and people didn’t, and don’t dominate the headlines but it doesn’t make them any less important or, in one particular case, inspirational.
5. Johnson’s Jim Orr getting his first dunk in a game. Orr, a 6-foot-8 junior, brought the fans in the Knights’ student section to their feet (or actually lifted them off their feet as they were already standing) and did it at a most apropos time: during Lanierland.
4. The play of Jordan Gustavel and Shekeria Cooper on Dec. 21, the night of the Johnson girls’ first win. Gustavel was lights out from beyond the arc the entire night and led her team in scoring. She seemed to hit big shot after big shot, almost single-handedly keeping the Lady Knights in the game.
Cooper, on the other hand, could do no right the entire night and didn’t hit a shot from the field in 32 minutes of regulation play. The senior point guard didn’t allow her lack of productive play in the game to stifle her desire to win, however, and epitomized the phrase, "senior leadership," in the overtime period hitting for four points and putting the final nail in Chestatee’s coffin with a jumper from the free throw line to give her team its biggest lead of the night, a lead the Lady Knights would not relinquish.
3. The play on the court of football players. Coaches like kids that just play hard, and football players are those kids.
Jo Jo Sweet, Connor Shaw, Keith Wells, Andrew Peck, Robert Humphrey, Shunquez and Marquise Stephens, Chris Young, Tracy Sykes, and Tyler Norman, just to name a few.
These guys score, but rarely lead their respective teams in scoring. They rebound, but rarely lead their respective teams in rebounding. What these guys do that coaches and fans alike love is take a charge or dive on the floor for a loose ball. They play the game of basketball with no fear, a sense of urgency and a tenacity that goes unmatched, and it’s fun to watch.
2. Team defense. Scoring sells tickets. We all know this. Offensive prowess is pretty and gets your picture in the paper. But what about defense?
Defense is the unheralded, ugly step sister. Defense is the hard part of the game.
Defense is, however, the winning ingredient and that factoid was proven Dec. 18 in the Gainesville-Lumpkin County girls game.
Lady Red Elephants’ coach Manson Hill is a fool for defense, playing time hinges on one’s ability to contain one’s man (or woman). His team wasn’t playing defense, at all, the night of Dec. 18 and it showed with them being down 15-7 after the first quarter.
For those defensive enthusiasts this is where the story gets good. I have, in the past ... well since basketball season started, witnessed the Gainesville girls run myriad defenses. The Lady Red Elephants bread and butter is man-to-man, but I have seen them slip into a 2-3 zone for a possession, a 1-3-1 half-court trap for two possessions, a 1-2-2 half-court trap and we haven’t even ventured into the realm of full-court defenses.
With its defensive prowess, Gainesville won the game Dec. 18 and will piggy back that scheme to a number of other wins.
1. Flowery Branch’s Josh Barrett scoring 29 points in Phillips Arena the day after his family’s house burned to the ground.
I am not 100-percent certain I need to say that this is the inspirational one nor do I think I need to say much more.
The young man and his family lost everything; pictures, furniture, the food in their pantry yet he was able to stow the heartache away long enough to show the type resolve we never give these kids enough credit for.
Have a Happy New Year and look out for those under-the-radar moments.