Year in Review Part 1: Keith wins 1A title

Published 7:45 pm Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Keith Bears celebrate winning the 1A girls state championship in Birmingham in February.  --File Photo

The Keith Bears celebrate winning the 1A girls state championship in Birmingham in February. –File Photo

Editor’s Note: Through Jan. 2, the Times-Journal will look back on the top sports stories of 2015. Here’s the year in review for January-March:

Moore named South Sectional Coach of Year

Dallas County head boys’ basketball coach Willie Moore was named the South Sectional Coach of the Year in January by the National Federation of State High Schools Association. Moore led the Hornets to the 2014 class 4A state championship and won the award over coaches from Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee.

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Thirteen seniors sign to play college football

On National Signing Day, 13 players signed to play football with colleges all across the country. Six of those players were from Selma High School. Selma’s Ernest Gunn (Southern Mississippi), La’Chavious Simmons (Tennessee State), Malcolm Conn (Mississippi Gulf Coast), Kendarious Merchant (Stillman), Jesse Boggs (South Alabama) and Cyron Ellis (Huntingdon) all signed letters of intent to play college football. Dallas County’s Lowell Furlow and Xavier Knight both went to Tennessee Tech. Five players from Southside High — Mike Walker, Scott Cole, Jhalandius Sullivan, William Bonner and Quindarius Young — signed with Concordia College Alabama.

Selma High hosts first wrestling meet

On Jan. 21, Selma High School hosted its first wrestling meet against Jefferson Davis High School. The Saints lost the overall team event.

WCCS retires Simmons’ jersey

On Feb. 7, Wallace Community College Selma retired the jersey of former pitcher Kevin Simmons, who was drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks during the 2014 Major League Baseball draft. Simmons is believed to be the first player ever drafted straight from WCCS to MLB.

Coaching legend EugeneMason passes away

Legendary R.C. Hatch head basketball coach Eugene Mason collapsed and passed away Feb. 26, 2015. Mason owns the record for the most wins in state history with 919 and he won seven state championships, which is the second most all-time.  Mason was at Keith High School helping the Bears girls’ basketball team prepare for the 1A state championship game when he collapsed.

Dallas County loses in Birmingham

The Dallas County boys’ basketball team made it to Birmingham for the second consecutive year, but couldn’t repeat as state champions. Without coach Willie Moore, who missed the game while battling the flu and the effects of diabetes, the Hornets fell to Ramsay 58-44.

Keith girls win 1A state championship

The Keith girls defeated Spring Garden 38-25 to win the class 1A state championship on Feb. 28. Harriet Winchester was named tournament MVP after scoring 18 points. Keith dedicated the win to coach Eugene Mason, who died only days earlier while at Keith High. Mason volunteered many of his afternoons to helping coach the Bears.

Johnson re-signs with Bengals

Selma native Michael Johnson agreed to a four-year contract with the Cincinnati Bengals on March 17. Johnson had spent the first five years of his NFL career with Cincinnati before playing one year in Tampa Bay.

Williams wins 1A coach of year

Keith head coach Cecil Williams was named the 1A girls basketball coach of the year after leading the Bears to a state championship. Harriet Winchester was named a finalist for 1A player of the year, as was Dallas County’s Jerrod Moorer. Both Winchester and Moorer were named to 1A all-state first team. Keith’s John Pettway was second-team all-state. Dallas County’s Raheem Phillips was third-team all-state and Areyana Williams from Selma was named an honorable mention.

Lee hits game deciding shot, Blazers stun Iowa State

UAB pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the NCAA Tournament when the No. 14 seed Blazers stunned No. 3 seed Iowa State on March 19. Dallas County native William Lee, who went to Dallas County High, nailed the game deciding shot in UAB’s 60-59 win. He hit the game winner from the free throw line while scoring 14 points and pulling down 12 rebounds.