Lots of top prospects
Published 8:19 pm Tuesday, April 7, 2015
Winter Athlete of the Year was a tough choice
One of the things that testifies to the strength of the male and female Duke Automotive-Suffolk News-Herald Winter Athletes of the Year is that they were picked from such a talented group of athletes in the city.
Some of the other chief standouts in that group merit another mention before the 2014-15 winter sports season fades into memory.
While the female award ultimately went to Nansemond River High School junior track and field standout Brandeé Johnson, a particularly strong candidate for the honor was Nansemond-Suffolk Academy junior basketball star Harper Birdsong.
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Birdsong led her team to its first state championship game appearance in school history. She did it while regularly receiving special attention from opposing defenses, which had fewer experienced scorers to worry about, since Lady Saints stars Jessica Pieroni, Macy Mears and Kaylor Nash had graduated in 2014.
Birdsong responded to the increased pressure by averaging 18.3 points, more than three points better than last season, and getting 4.5 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.5 steals per game, leading her team to a 21-6 overall record.
She was named the Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association Division II state Player of the Year for the second consecutive year, and this year, she also earned the Tidewater Conference of Independent Schools Player of the Year honor.
Nansemond River junior swimming star Logan Eubanks took home the male award, but King’s Fork High School junior basketball star Keith Stagg received significant consideration because of what he helped his team do this year and how he performed individually.
He helped lead the Bulldogs (19-10) to their second state and regional championship game appearances in school history.
He also became the first boys’ basketball player in King’s Fork history to receive an all-state honor before his senior year. He was named to the all-state first team.
Stagg showed remarkable poise in his first state tournament. Despite producing a total of just five points in the first halves of the semifinal and the final, he recovered to score a combined 27 points in the second halves.
During the postseason, he averaged 18.1 points per game and led his team to its first Ironclad Conference tournament championship.
During the regular season, he averaged 18.5 points, eight rebounds, four assists and three steals per game.
Stagg also was named to the all-region and all-conference first teams.
Additional female winter standouts included Nansemond River senior track and field athlete Kara Lyles, who led her team by single-handedly producing 33 of its 122 points to help it win the indoor state title for the first time. She won titles in two open events and one relay event and set four personal records.
King’s Fork’s Amesha Miller also excelled on the basketball court, earning the conference Player of the Year award as a sophomore. During the regular season, she averaged 18.9 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks per game.
Another top male winter standout was Nansemond River senior track and field athlete Kadeem Middleton. He won the state title in the 500-meter dash and finished second among all Group 4A boys’ scorers at the meet with 26 points. He also won three conference titles.