Best Sports Stories of 2018: 6-10

Published 3:04 pm Friday, December 28, 2018

6. GCA Cougars win cross-country state championship

On Saturday, Oct. 27, the Grace Christian Academy varsity boy’s cross-country team raced to the finish line in Macon where they finished as State Champions.

The team, coached by Dorinda and Richard Cox, is no stranger to state competition, finishing second and third in past years, but this year they were determined to win the coveted championship.

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To compare the times of this season, Dorinda took the average of the top five runners from last year and paralleled them against this year. Last year the time was 19:51 verses a time of 19:13 this year. Everyone had a significantly better time.

Gabe Parker and Daniel Jones set an all- time record, while Wyatt Carpenter, Parker and Jones received all state honors.

7. Bainbridge native Smart makes Rose Bowl history

Georgia coach Kirby Smart ran onto the field and pumped his fist into the air on Monday, Jan. 1, letting out a cry of victory.

Georgia running back Sony Michel had just scored the winning touchdown in double overtime against Oklahoma in the College Football Playoff semifinal.

This wasn’t just any game for the former Bearcat. It wasn’t just any win.

It was the historic Rose Bowl, the granddaddy of them all.

The boy who grew up playing Bainbridge rec. ball, who helped lead the Bearcats to the state semifinals in 1993 and was an All-SEC defensive back for the Bulldogs, coached his alma mater to one of the biggest wins in the program’s history.

A three-sport athlete at Bainbridge, Smart played guard on coach Larry Slaughter’s Bearcats basketball team and shortstop on coach Stan Killough’s Bearcats baseball team.

After high school, Smart went on to earn All-Southeastern Conference and All-Southeastern Conference academic honors as a defensive back with the Bulldogs.

8. Lady Cats basketball has memorable 23-win season

The Bainbridge Lady Cats basketball team had a big season that came to an end in the second round of the state playoffs. Bainbridge went 23-6, lifted by a talented nucleus of senior players that included star forward Nadia Marshall, Tytianna Roseborough and Kiarra King.

Marshall, who signed to Gulf Coast State in February, averaged 19.5 points per game and racked up a colossal 487 points throughout the season. Her biggest game was in a high-scoring shootout with Brunswick, where Nadia scored 32 points, 17 rebounds and 8 steals to lift the Lady Cats to a 73-71 win.

After rocking through Statesboro in the first round of the playoffs 60-50, the Lady Cats headed to Fayette County for the second round. They lost in a 42-39 heartbreaker.

Despite the disappointing ending, this Lady Cats team set a high standard for future teams wearing the purple and gold.

9. Killough retires, new Bainbridge ADs take position

After 39 years at Bainbridge, coach, administrator and athletic director Stan Killough hung his purple hat up and retired from the system in June.

Seeing two generations of Bearcat athletes come through BHS and watching them grow and develop into strong young men and women is something Killough will always treasure, he said. The relationships he and other student athletes built with each other is a bond that remains intact to this day. It shows when former players flock to shake their ball coach’s hand, many years after playing for him.

“That’s what I’ll miss, now that I’m retiring for good,” said Killough. “I had relationships with the athletes. I enjoyed every minute of that.”

But as one door closed for a Bearcat, two more opened.

Over the summer, Bainbridge hired Scott Miller and Jimmy Harris, both former coaches and administrators, to pick up the torch as co-athletic directors for Bearcat sports.Both men expressed a passion for guiding young minds.

I have a lot of strong feelings about the importance of it, as far as developing our students into student-athletes,” said Harris. “There is so much that they take from participating in sports. Everything from developing work ethic to learning how to interact with teammates and be dependable. They are all life skills.”

Miller recalled being a coach himself as inspiration for giving coaches the resources they need to succeed.

“That part of it excites me,” said Miller. “Just to be able to encourage them, support them in their efforts. A coach is one of the most influential people in a kid’s life. I just want to come alongside our staff and encourage them and support them and help them be successful in any way I can.”

10. Jeff Page returns to Bainbridge basketball program

Jeff Page, who coached the Bainbridge Bearcats basketball team from 1998-2006, was hired again by the Decatur County School System for the same job in June.

Page and his family moved to Rabun County after leaving Bainbridge. There, Page helped turn the Wildcats basketball program around, coaching the team to multiple 20-plus win seasons.

“I am excited,” said Page. “There is some potential (at Bainbridge). I’m just ready to get down there. There’s a lot of stuff we still got to do.”

In his eight seasons coaching the Bearcats, Page went 135-79, making him the fourth winningest coach in Bainbridge history behind Ricky McCullough (215), Larry Slaughter (206) and Charles Bess (200). He had a 66 percent winning rate in region game.

He coached the Bearcats to two region championships (2005, 2006) and was region runner-up in 2000, 2001 and 2003. He had five state playoff appearances, including Elite Eight appearances in 2003 and 2006 and three Sweet Sixteens.

After spending 12 years at Rabun County, Page said it was time for a change.

“It was just time for a change for me,” said Page. “My wife had been ready for a change. Sometimes you need a different challenge.”