The Top 10 Sports Stories of 2014

Published 5:37 pm Tuesday, December 30, 2014

10. Coach McCullough gets 800 wins

On Jan. 14, in Colquitt, Bainbridge High School Bearcats head basketball coach Rickey McCullough recorded his 800th career victory when his Bearcats defeated the Miller County High School Pirates 72-58.

Before coming to Bainbridge eight years prior to the career record win, McCullough coached 31 years in Florida, one year at Cottondale High School, three years at Liberty County High School in Bristol and 27 years at Chipley High School. He led the Chipley boys to four Final Fours and the Chipley girls to one Final Four. Between 30 and 40 of his former players received college basketball scholarships.

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On May 15, 2010, in Orlando, Fla., coach McCullough was inducted into the Florida Association of Basketball Coaches Circle of Champions Hall of Fame.

9. Decatur Co. Sports Hall of Fame inducts 4 new members

On Saturday, March 1, the Decatur County Sports Hall of Fame inducted four new members, Raleigh Choice, Leann Harrell Inlow, the late Cary Cox and William Widener, at the Bainbridge State College Kirbo Center.

Choice was introduced by his Bainbridge High School Bearcats and Florida State University Seminoles basketball teammate LaRae Davis. Choice and Davis were both outstanding basketball players under late Bearcats coach Charles Bess and former Seminoles coach Pat Kennedy.

Harrell Inlow was a high school basketball, softball and tennis player and outstanding college basketball player with the University of Georgia Lady Bulldogs and outstanding college softball player with the Florida State University Lady Seminoles. She was also a high school basketball softball and tennis coach with the Bainbridge High School Lady Cats.

Cary Cox’s daughter and son, Elizabeth (Buffie) Cox Marks and W. Cary Cox Junior talked about how much their father, who was a Southwest Georgia All-Conference with the Bainbridge High School Bearcats football team and an All-American center and linebacker with the University of Alabama Crimson Tide football team, always talked about how proud he was to be from Bainbridge. He was also a World War 11 military hero.

Widener, former outstanding Bainbridge swim coach and Bainbridge High School band director, was introduced by former Bainbridge swimmer Roger Searcy, who talked about how he and so many other swimmers and band members Widener coached and taught through the years have meant to him.

8. Maxwell’s 8th grade crowned champions third consecutive year

Bainbridge eighth grade football coach Heith Maxwell celebrated his third straight season coaching the champion team of the Southwest Georgia Middle School Eighth Grade League championship.

The eighth grade Bearcats, led by quarterback Tristan Love, entered the championship game against Thomas County Central with a perfect 6-0 record.

Playing at Centennial Field on Oct. 23, the Bearcats pulled off a convincing 22-14 win against the Yellow Jackets.

7. McRae hits 1,500- point milestone at GCA

Grace Christian Academy junior basketball player Jack McRae reached a milestone against Robert F. Munroe Nov. 24 when he scored his 1500th career point, making him the all-time point leader in the school’s history. During the game, McRae poured in 26 points, had nine rebounds, three assists and two blocks.

6. Tyree Crump breaks BHS record, commits to college ball at Georgia

Bainbridge High School Bearcats junior point guard Tyree Crump committed in September to play college basketball with coach Mark Fox’s Georgia Bulldogs.

While leading coach Rickey McCullough’s 2013-14 Bearcats to the Region 1-AAAAA regular season championship, a second place finish in the Region 1-AAAAA Tournament and a berth in the Elite 8 round of the State Class AAAAA Tournament, Crump, who also made first team All Region 1-AAAAA as a freshman, averaged 22.4 points a game.

“Coach Fox is a lot like coach McCullough, and I am really looking forward to playing for him when I get to Georgia, where I plan on majoring sports medicine,” Crump said in an interview after his commit.

As if to add a cherry on top of the point guard’s UGA commitment, Crump broke the Bainbridge scoring record Dec. 8 against the Worth County Rams with a staggering 55 points, passing previous record-holder LaRae Davis. During the gam, Crump hit eight 3-pointers and helped the Bearcats win 96-93 in overtime.

5. Bainbridge sports enters new region, faces new competition

After Thomas County Central won an appeal to move down to Class AAAA sports at the final meeting of the Georgia High School Association’s executive committee in Macon in January, Bainbridge High School joined them.

Thomas County argued that because of isolation and financial reasons, they would need to play down to a class more geographically suitable. Denied twice before by the GHSA, Thomas County’s third appeal was granted by a 32-13 vote.

Because Bainbridge is the only Class AAAAA school geographically close to Thomas County Central in Southwest Georgia, they were also chosen to descend to a Class AAAA region.

Both formerly Class AAAAA schools, the region drop affected all sports at Bainbridge. Shortly following, the new region was split into two divisions. In Division A are Cairo, Monroe, Thomas County Central, Crisp County and Albany. In Division B are Bainbridge, Americus-Sumter, Worth County, Dougherty and Westover.

“We are excited to be in this new region, with lots of area teams, from a competitive, financial, and scheduling standpoint,” Littleton said in January.

4. Bearcats beat Yellow Jackets for play-in win

It was a win-or-go-home scenario for the Bainbridge Bearcat football team as they played Thomas County Central in the Region 1-AAAA play-in game on Nov. 7.

After losing to the Yellow Jackets 20-10 in the regular season, the Bearcats were playing for redemption and a seed in the Class AAAA state playoffs, and they achieved both with a stellar 14-9 win at Centennial Field.

Freshman running back Dameon Pierce rushed for 149 yards on 26 carries and Bainbridge held the Yellow Jackets to 198 yards of total offense, completely shutting down TCC on their last two series to hold on for the lead.

“It just shows you the determination and the fight that we have,” coach Jeff Littleton said after the game about the defensive stand. “We talked about playing together at all times and never giving up. The kids believe in that. That’s what happened. Somebody stepped up and made a play here, somebody stepped up and made a play there. It doesn’t just have to be one person.”

At the time, Bainbridge’s last win against TCC was 27-24 in overtime at Centennial Field in 2011.

3. Lady Cats softball pulls off historic season

After losing 10 seniors at the end of the 2013 season, nobody expected the Bainbridge Lady Cats softball program to be very strong this year. The naysayers were quickly proven wrong.

With a team built mostly on freshman and sophomores and led by senior pitcher Brooke Bates, the Lady Cats put together the best season in school history, posting a 15-9 record and an appearance in the State Class AAAA tournament. As coach Amy Thomas will tell you, their opponents turned their back for just a second and regretted it.

“It’s kind of symbolic of our whole season, really,” Thomas said in October. “Everybody turned their back on us because we lost so many seniors last year. Even at region meetings last year, you could tell nobody thought Bainbridge would be at the show. And when they weren’t looking…”

2. Bainbridge soccer program scores a playoff win

The Bainbridge Bearcat varsity soccer team made history on May 3 when they defeated the Richmond Hill Wildcats 2-1 in the first round of the Class AAAAA state playoffs.

The win marked the first state playoff win in Bainbridge High School’s 20-year soccer program.

With five minutes left in regulation and Bainbridge down 1-0, freshman forward Leroy Rivera took a pass from Luis Mejia, dribbled past the Richmond Hill goalkeeper and put the ball in the left corner of the net to tie the Bearcats 1-1 with the Wildcats.

Bainbridge (13-2-1) and Richmond Hill  (13-6) continued into overtime, both taking shots but none making it through for a score. After two overtime periods, the game was forced into a shootout.

Alex Ward and Luis Mejia were both able to punch in penalty kicks, but the Wildcats were able to match both their efforts.

With shootout scores tied 2-2, junior forward Emilio Hernandez took a penalty kick that sent the ball to the bottom right corner of the net, just past a diving Wildcat goalkeeper and pushing the Bearcats through to a 2-1 victory.

Everybody played,” coach Mike Lewis said in May. “It was one of those games where everybody came in and provided quality minutes, whether they’re starters or bench players. Our team did the job. Everybody was prepared.”

1. Bassmaster Elite Series comes to Bainbridge

Fifty of the world’s best bass fishermen flocked to Bainbridge during the weekend of March 13-16 to compete in the biggest bass tournament the First Port City has ever seen.

In conjunction with the annual River Town Days event, the Bassmaster Elite Series welcomed anglers to the waters of the Flint River and Lake Seminole for the four-day pro tourney.

Brett Hite walked away with the grand prize, weighing in a four-day total of 97 pounds, 10 ounces. His margin of victory was 13 pounds heavier than the second place Todd Faircloth with 84 pounds, 10 ounces.

Hite’s prize was $100,000 and an automatic berth in the 2015 Bassmaster Classic on Lake Hartwell, South Carolina.

With 26,000 attendees over a three-day period, River Town Days co-manager Adrienne Harrison said she was amazed by the great turnout and working relationship she developed with B.A.S.S.

“I am just ecstatic about the exposure we got not just from B.A.S.S. and local news and newspapers, but you think about all the anglers using social media talking about how great the lake and community is,” Harrison said in March. “I’m surprised and happy about it.”