BENTON – The basketball Marshals’ run to the second round of the Sweet Sixteen basketball tournament in March was the top story of 2011 in Marshall County sports news.
In related stories, coach Gus Gillespie was honored in February as First Region coach of the year; Stephen Atkinson surpassed the 1,000-point mark for his career with an 18-point performance in the first round of the regional tournament; and, of course, this year’s Marshals and Lady Marshals teams are off to great starts in the 2011-2012 season.
The Marshals fell to Bullitt East 71-61 in the second round of the Sweet Sixteen state basketball tournament March 19. Junior point guard Cole Nelson ended the season with a double-double, scoring 20 points and grabbing 10 rebounds, to lead the Marshals.
Marshall County, which finished 28-7, advanced to the big tourney in Lexington’s Rupp Arena for the first time since 1995 with a 62-56 victory over Paducah Tilghman in the First Region championship game and then defeated Bell County 55-33 in their first-round game at Rupp.
n 2. On June 9, Patrick Newcomb of Benton won the 100th Kentucky State Amateur golf championship at Kearney Hills Golf Links in Lexington.
It was the start of a banner year for Newcomb, who played on the 2007 state champion Marshall County golf team and now plays for Murray State University.
n 3. On May 17, Don Walker announced his retirement after 21 years as Marshall County boys’ soccer coach.
Walker was third on the list of Kentucky coaches with a 319-114-26 record since he took the helm of the Marshals program in 1990.
He was succeeded by one of his former players, MCHS social studies teacher Andy Pagel, who served for several years as an assistant on Walker’s staff.
n 4. Stephen Atkinson placed third in the high jump in the state track and field meet May 28 in Lexington. Atkinson was one of three athletes who cleared six feet, two inches and tied for third.
The MCHS senior was one of several members of the boys’ and girls’ track squads who qualified for the state meet. Eleven individuals and two girls’ relay teams advanced. Atkinson had the highest finish among the Marshall contingent.
n 5. Marshall County High School rising juniors Logan Thomas and Chase Greer finished 26th in a field of 106 contestants in the High School World Finals fishing tournament July 23 at Lake Dardanelle, Ark.
They helped form the MCHS Bass Club, which hosted its first tournament at Kentucky Lake Oct. 22. The Marshall County club and others in the area are working to make bass fishing a sanctioned high school sport in Kentucky.
n 6. The 1969 North Marshall High School baseball team and 1984 Lady Marshals basketball team were among the third class of inductees Aug. 26 into the Marshall County Athletic Foundation Hall of Fame.
Individuals added to the hall’s roster included long-time supporter Bill Morgan, basketball coach Ernest Fiser and players Ty Goheen and Scott Chambers (baseball), Jim Piercefield (football), Marshall Ray (soccer) and Dan Hall and Dan Langhi (basketball).
n 7. On Nov. 4, Marshall County hosted a state football playoff game for the first time since 2007. Seneca visited Carroll Traylor Stadium and disappointed the home fans by taking a 6-0 victory.
The Marshals ended the season 6-5. MCHS is 10-11 in coach Ron Barnard’s two seasons, a striking turnaround for a 1-9 season in 2009.
In related stories, coach Ron Barnard was named coach of the year for the second year in a row by the West Kentucky Football Coaches Association and was awarded Region 1 coach of the year by the state coaches association.
Also, eight Marshals were named to the All-West Kentucky Conference team.
Seniors Chase Buchanan, Nathan Anderson, Levi Sanders, Noah Willett, Logan Taylor and Brian Dueker and juniors Casey White and Noah Steele were selected.
n 8. Kyle Barry and T.J. Lampkin advanced to the state cross country meet for the fourth straight year. Barry, ranked 45th among 228 runners, finished 22nd in the event, held at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington Nov. 22
The MCHS boys’ team qualified for the state meet with a fourth-place finish in the region meet at Owensboro. Freshman Rachel Northcutt qualified as an individual.
n 9. Marshall County’s Lady Marshals qualified for the state golf tournament with a runner-up finish in the First Region tournament at Mayfield-Graves Country Club Sept. 27.
Travis Griffith qualified as an individual for the state event in boys’ regional play at Silos Golf Course in western McCracken County.
The MCHS contingent all closed out their seasons in the first day of state competition.
n 10. The Lady Marshals won the Fourth District softball championship May 23 in a 1-0 thriller against Calloway County. The game was decided on a squeeze bunt by Landon Lovett, driving in Alexis Moore with two outs in the fourth inning. Stephanie Helton got the win for the Lady Marshals.
MC was eliminated from the First Region tournament May 31 by Reidland, which lost to Calloway in the championship game June 1. The Lady Marshals closed the season with a 24-8 record.
There were many other stories of note making the honorable mention list. In chronological order:
n March 22: Seventh-grader Amber Shelley took the field with the Christian Fellowship School’s Eagles baseball team. She was the only girl competing in high school baseball in western Kentucky.
n May 3: Wazoo Sports, the regional sports network formed in 2009, was reported to be tardy in payments of up to $20,000 left over from their aborted relationship with the Marshall County Hoopfest high school basketball tournament.
n June 10: Jeffrey Bailey of Calvert City, recent graduate of Marshall County High School, won a 30-lap feature for four-cylinder Warrior stock cars on a makeshift dirt oval at H.H. Lovett Park during the Marshall County fair.
n July 14: For the second year in a row, Marshall County’s Mike Miller Park was the site for the Junior American Legion state baseball tournament. Owensboro’s Post 9 team won the tournament with a 14-6 victory over Morehead Post 126, which won the tournament in 2010.
n Sept. 6: Christian Fellowship School revived its cross country team, making a last-minute entry into high school competition with a seven-player contingent. Aaron Cypret was named coach of the team.
n Oct. 11: Neighbors Christian Fellowship and Marshall County battled for the Fourth District volleyball championship, with CFS taking a victory by 25-17, 25-20 scores. The tourney was played at the CFS gym in Briensburg.
n Oct. 12: The Lady Marshals, who saw a 15-year streak of domination of the First Region soccer tournament ended in 2010, failed to advance to the region tournament for the first time since 1994.