March 9, 2013

Two from area earn basketball league’s highest honor

For local high school basketball players O’Shea Hill and Maddie Howell, the strength of their skills this season was that they didn’t have just one or two specific strengths.

And that’s why their coaches used the word valuable often when talking about them — because their talent went a long way when compared to other players.

Northwest Whitfield’s Hill and Dalton’s Howell, both seniors, have been selected by Region 7-4A coaches as the boys and girls players of the year, respectively, after leading their teams to more than 20 wins and the state tournament this season.

Each is joined by two other local players on the five-player All-Region 7-4A first teams, and one additional local star made each second team. Dalton’s Alex Bautista and Northwest’s Tanner Quarles — plus Gilmer’s Joe Bob Charles and River Ridge’s Stephen Spears — joined Hill on the boys first team. On the second team, Dalton’s Demond Rucker was the lone local player, joining Connor Webb (Gilmer), Jalen Smith (Ridgeland), Cody Sanders (Heritage-Catoosa) and Ty Suwalski (River Ridge).

For the girls, Northwest’s Autumn Blackwell and Southeast Whitfield’s Megan Collins — plus Pickens’ Sarah Smith and River Ridge’s Jordan Livesay — joined Howell on the first team. Dalton’s Brooke Thomas made the second team, along with Danielle Goss (Pickens), Bailey Charles (Gilmer), Jada Hubbard (Heritage) and Jessica Baker (River Ridge).

Hill averaged 14 points, 10 rebounds, four steals and three blocks per game. He led the Bruins to a 23-3 overall record — 10-0 in Sub-region 7B-4A — and helped them earn the program’s first region championship as well as their first state tournament game at home.

Despite being a post player, Northwest coach Ryan Richards said Hill could do anything from score inside to run fast breaks and nullify an opponent’s press. Hill — who stood out on the football field this season, too — also was the best player on the region’s best team, which Richards believes figured largely into why he earned the top player award.

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