2015 Year in Review Top Sports Stories No. 1-5

Published 1:28 pm Thursday, December 31, 2015

1. Bainbridge football team makes history

There was electricity in the air before the first game had even kicked off. The excitement for football season was stronger than ever, and the Bainbridge team delivered in flying colors–but mainly purple and gold.

For 15 straight weeks, the Bearcats gave everyone in Bainbridge and Decatur County something to come together over on Friday nights.

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For the first time in program history, the Bainbridge football team went 10-0 with a Region Championship win—over rival Cairo, no less.

They topped it off with three straight home playoff wins and advanced to the Class AAAA Semifinals, where Bainbridge stood as one of the four best teams in the state.

Despite a 38-7 loss to Cartersville in the semifinal game, Bainbridge’s historic season had more of an impact on the program and the community than any other Bearcat team in decades.

To top off the week after week victories, multiple Bearcats set program records. Running back Dameon Pierce rushed for 2,060 yards and 33 touchdowns, more than any other running back in school history. Senior wide receiver Tyler Storey broke the record for both receptions in a game (9) and receiving yards in a season (1,243) and catches in a season (72). Quarterback Brett McLaughlin broke Bainbridge’s record for completions in a game (22) and passing yards in a season (2,055).

“I’m extremely proud of our kids, extremely proud of our coaches, the community, the way everybody came together and supported the cause,” coach Jeff Littleton said after the Cartersville game. “I’m just proud of our kids for the way they worked, starting way back in January. We worked so hard to get to where we were. They were hungry after that playoff loss last year, and we went to work. We got stronger, we got faster, and they had a never-quit attitude the whole year.”

The Bearcats’ 2015 season set a bar for the program that Littleton plans to build off, and it made a statement to the rest of the state: watch out for those Bearcats.

“Banbridge football is back, and it’s here to stay,” Littleton said. “I promise you.”

2. Bearcats Tennis advances to Final Four of State Tournament

The 2015 Bearcats boys tennis team advanced to the final four of the state tournament before losing to Marist School. The Bearcats won the region 1-AAAA championship after defeating Cairo High and Americus-Sumter in the region tournament.

The Bearcats defeated Veterans High in the first round of the state tournament 3-0. Hema Hasona won 6-0, 6-0 at number 1 singles, his brother Nour Hasona won 6-0, 6-1 at number 2 singles and Jack Reynolds and Mark Loeffler won 6-1, 6-0 at number 1 doubles.

Their run in the tournament continue with a 5-0 victory over Griffin High School in the second round and West Laurens High 3-1 in the elite eight. This was the first time since 2006 that the Bearcats advanced past the second round of the state tournament.

Following the team’s extended run in the state playoffs, varsity coach Amy Thomas was named the Georgia High School Coach of the year by the USTA

3. Bainbridge native Kirby Smart named UGA head football coach

Bainbridge native Kirby Smart was introduced as the new head football coach at the University of Georgia in early December. Smart previously worked as the defensive coordinator under Nick Saban at the University of Alabama.

Smart, the son of former Bainbridge High head coach Sonny Smart, played at cornerback at BHS. He was first team All-Region in 1992 and 1993, his junior and senior seasons respectively.

Smart led the region with eight interceptions in both his junior and senior seasons. In 1993, Smart was named Region 1-AAAA Defensive Player of the Year and first team All-State Atlanta Journal Constitution.

“I’ve thought about this day all of my life,” Smart said during his press conference. “As the son of a high school coach and the best English teacher in the world, I’ve always aspired to be a head coach. Thanks, mom, thanks, dad, for the example you set for me and for so many others.”

After graduating from BHS, Smart attended the University of Georgia where he was a four-year starter at defensive back.

4. Tyree Crump signs UGA basketball scholarship

It’s was a dream come true for guard Tyree Crump. In November the Bainbridge High senior signed a full-ride scholarship to play basketball at the University of Georgia. Crump, a 4-star prospect and the number 75 player in the country according to ESPN, averaged 19.8 points per game as junior and was named first-team All-State for Class AAAA.

Crump is a prolific shooter from his shooting guard position and he was attracted to UGA because of the team’s up-tempo style of play.

“Tyree is a very good athlete and has demonstrated a great ability to shoot and score,” UGA head coach Mark Fox told WCTV Tallahassee.

Crump committed to Georgia in September 2014 after receiving offers from Auburn, Florida State, Memphis, Tennessee, Texas A&M and Wake Forest.

5. Bainbridge cross-country teams place at state meet

Led by junior Poncherella Leonard the 2015 Bearcats raced their way to a 16th place finish at the state cross-country meet. Leonard finished in 17:43.51 and placed ninth overall. Leonard, who also received All-State status, was the first Bainbridge High School cross-country runner to place in the top 10 at the state meet.

Bearcats scoring behind Leonard were Caleb Harris, Bennett Enfinger, Brenden Greene and Grayson Graham. Coach Yvette Greene praised her Bearcats’ senior leadership pointing out that seniors Bennett Enfinger, Grayson Graham, Brenden Greene and Perry Waddell have won three region championships and a region runner-up in qualifying for the state championship meet all four years.

Leonard rewrote the school record books throughout the season as he ran the fastest 5K in school history with a time of 15:56 at the Westover High School Invitational. He also helped lead his team to the region 1-AAAA championship with a first place finish in the region meet.

Harris finished second in the region meet. He was also the second fastest Bearcat at the state meet finishing in a time of 19:20.58 to place 59th.

The Lady Bearcats placed 25th out of 31 teams at the state meet. Their top five runners were Uriyah Davis, Camry Fillingame, Aileen Mejia, Aida Diaz and Alaiya Schuyler.

Coach Greene said that she and her fellow cross-country coaches Daniel Graham and Greg Waddell are very proud of all of their Bearcats and Lady Cats cross-country runners.

“Our cross-country runners have persevered through tough workouts since June to reach their potential and have represented their school well,” she said.