Teams, individuals made a splash in 2007

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By Todd Martin

Before choosing a New Year's resolution it's good to reflect back to the past year and see how you can improve.

But even more fun than that is reflecting back on accomplishments.

Shelby County again had teams challenging for and winning state titles in 2007. It comes as no surprise that Rockets and Bulldogs are feared among the state's best.

Here are my picks as the top stories in Shelby County from 2007 -- in no particular order of course.

SCHS baseball

The Rocket baseball team made a huge splash in 2007, surprising many across the state with a playoff push to the state championship game. While the Rockets lost 10-1 to Dunbar, the playoff run was not diminished one bit.

Riding a nine-game losing streak into the postseason, the Rockets surprised a few when they captured the 8th Region title, the team's second in a row. But it was a win three-game Semistate series over Elizabethtown that really started the roll.

Lincoln Wagner was named the series MVP after pitching in game two and starring at the plate and in the field in games one and three. Wagner threw seven-and-a- third innings in game two, but got a no decision. He was 3-5 with two runs scored in the deciding game three.

"I was shocked," he said about getting the award. "I really didn't expect them to say my name, but it was a total team effort. We all came out focused and ready to play."

Wagner came up big again in the first round of the state tournament, pitching Shelby to a 5-0 win. Wagner finished with 10 strikeouts and just one walk. He struck out the side in the fourth and at one time struck out six of seven batters, and pitched a perfect final five innings.

The Rockets then shocked No. 3 Pleasure Ridge Park in the semifinals behind a five-run first inning and a stellar performance from Jordan Burk and Tyler Layton on the mound.

Former SCHS head coach Donnie Williams nearly went out on top. Williams ended his illustrious run at the Rockets' helm this season.

Cornerstone boys grab two state titles

The Bulldogs and JV Bulldogs both picked up KCAA basketball state titles in 2007.

First-year head coach Norris Beckley guided the Bulldogs to their second title in three years.

"It just came down to who executed the best during the (championship) game, and I think we did that," Beckley said. "These guys played extremely well and our seniors - Stephen Hobbs, Mark Hines and Will Stewart -- led us the whole way. This is just a major accomplishment for these guys."

Hobbs was named the tournament MVP after scoring 18 in the championship game and 37 in the semifinals (including a game-tying shot with two seconds to play to send the game to OT).

The championship "game was really just a total team effort," Hobbs said. "Mark (Hines) hit some big threes, Patrick (Maurer) had some big lay-ins late in the game, and Jeffrey (Chalfant) was big inside for us. It's been a lot of fun playing with these guys this year and this is just the perfect way to go out."

The JV team took a 57-56 win over Winchester in the KCAA JV championship game.

Reserve sophomore Michael Speer pulled down an offensive rebound and tried to go back up for a putback with just .03 remaining in the game, and Winchester leading 56-55.

Speer earned the foul, and calmly sank two free throws to give the Bulldogs the win.

Patrick Maurer finished the championship game with 28 points and 15 rebounds and was named the tourney MVP.

Lady Rocket basketball

The Shelby County girls' basketball team won its second straight 8th Region title and earned the right to make a return trip to Bowling Green for the Sweet 16.

The girls drilled Simon Kenton 59-38 in the semifinals and beat South Oldham 46-34 in the championship.

Amber Morrison was named the 8th Region MVP and Raechele Gray and Heather Axline both were named to the All-Region team.

"I was surprised a little," Morrison said of the award. "The way we played, there wasn't just one dominating player. It was actually everybody contributing. I thought we had a great tournament."

The girls then faced Notre Dame in the first round of the Sweet 16. Shelby lost 54-48 in overtime, but that couldn't spoil the team's 26-9 season. At one point during the year the Lady Rockets had won 15 of 17 games.

Three of the team's seniors -- Axline, Ashley Ford and Morrison -- signed to play in college, and Gray signed this year.

SCHS football

Most recently the Shelby County football team put together one of the school's most impressive seasons in a long time.

The Rockets finished the year 8-5 and in the state quarterfinals, and had one of the most explosive offenses in the state.

Quarterback Alex Matthews finished the year with 4,296 yards and 49 touchdowns and just 10 interceptions. He averaged 358 yards a game and completed about 60 percent of his passes. Two Rocket receivers went over 1,000 yards for the season. Jordan Burk had a whopping 90 catches for 1,844 yards and 18 touchdowns, and Coty Minnis had 70 catches for 1,070 yards and 18 TDs.

While the postseason run was fun, it was the manner in which the Rockets started the tournament that raised eyebrows both locally and statewide.

The Rockets rallied from a 29-7 deficit at Scott County in the opening round to win 60-56. Matthews tied a state record with nine touchdowns and Burk also tied a state record with six receiving scores.

"We told the kids after the game that this was a total team effort," SCHS head coach Todd Shipley said. "Everybody had to do their thing for us to win. It was one of those games where when you get done you just go 'Whew.' You're just flat worn out - everybody was. It was such an emotional and physical game. The guys really just played their hearts out."

Burk also had two 200-plus receiving games in the playoffs.

Rocket cross country

The Shelby County boys' cross country team placed second in the region and then followed that with a sixth-place finish at the state meet.

"I was really pleased with how it turned out," SCHS head coach Randall McDowell said. "I thought going in that, fifth or sixth place was within reach for us and the guys ran really well. We had six of our seven guys finish with personal best times, and that's a very positive sign about how hard the kids worked to get here."

Sophomore Stacey Eden led the Rockets with a sixth place finish out of the more than 200 individual runners. Eden's time of 16:04 was a personal best for him, but he was disappointed with his finish. Eden had battled strep the week before the race, but he refused to use that as an excuse. However, McDowell said Eden is his own toughest critic.

"He had really high expectations, as he should have, but he battled all week and didn't really get to run much in practice," the coach said. "After that, to still finish sixth, was impressive.

Mason wins regional coach of the year award

Former Shelby County standout and native son Greg Mason has quickly been making a name for himself at Centre College. Now Mason has a little hardware to go with that recognition.

After a stunning 24-5 season Mason was named the NCAA Division III South Region Co-Coach of the Year by the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC). In eight seasons Mason has compiled a 143-68 record, and owns the highest winning percentage, 67.8 percent, in school history.

Mason led the Colonels to one of the most successful seasons in school history by winning the school's first Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference (SCAC) title since 1993, the school's first SCAC Tournament title and the first NCAA D-III tournament win since 1989.

"It's really all about the players," Mason said about winning his coach of the year award. "We had group of very unselfish players that have a lot of talent. None of them cared who received the credit; it was just all about winning."

Honorable mention

There were just too many accomplishments to choose from, so these other notables had to be mentioned.

Cornerstone Lady Bulldogs finish as state runners-up

Cornerstone adding football in 2008, tabs former SCHS coach Tom Becherer as coach.

SCHS golfer Candice Wiley finishes second in Region 7 golf tourney.