Area Sports...

December 26, 2001

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Jefferson hosts Keen Classic Friday, Saturday
Seven of eight teams boast state rankings
JEFFERSON High School will host the fifth annual Keen Classic wrestling tournament Friday and Saturday.
The event features a unique format, combining scores from the Friday team dual tournament with those from Saturday’s individual tournament.
Jefferson has dominated the Keen Classic, claiming first place in the last three since finishing third to Berkmar and Winder-Barrow in the tournament’s debut in 1997.
The competition at the Keen Classic should be tough, as seven of the eight teams expected to participate are currently ranked among the state’s top 10 in their respective classifications.
Landmark Christian (third), Adairsville (fourth), Brook-stone (sixth) and Social Circle (tenth) are all ranked among Class A teams, and all will take part in this week’s event. Joining them from Class A will be the tournament’s sole unranked team, the Tigers of Commerce.
Other teams expected to participate include Class AA schools Dawson County (third) and Oglethorpe County (ninth).
Both Friday’s dual meet tournament and Saturday’s individual tournament are set to begin at 10 a.m.

Area basketball teams in holiday tournaments this weekend
WHEN the Christmas season comes around, high school basketball tournaments can be found all over the state.
This weekend, all three high schools in Jackson County will have basketball teams in action, at three different locations.
Commerce will host the WJJC Holiday Classic Friday and Saturday. Both Tiger teams will meet Athens Christian, beginning at 7 p.m. Friday.
Also expected to participate are Banks County, Oglethorpe County’s girls and Athens Academy’s boys.
Jefferson will travel to Mt. Airy Thursday through Saturday, for the Raider Rumble at Habersham Central High School.
The Dragons will meet Winder-Barrow beginning at 9:30 a.m. Thursday.
Winder’s boys are currently ranked fifth in Class AAA.
Other teams expected to be in the Raider Rumble include White County, Stockbridge (boys 11th in Class AAAAA), Shiloh, Stephens County, South Aiken (S.C) and the host Raiders.
Jackson County is scheduled to meet the host Bulldogs at 7 p.m. Thursday in the first round of the Sweet South Classic at Morgan County High School.
Morgan’s girls are currently ranked eighth in Class AA, while the Lady Panthers are 10th in Class AAA.
If the Lady Panthers win Thursday, they’ll meet the second-ranked team in Class AAAAA, Baldwin’s Lady Braves.
Other state-ranked teams in the tournament include Loganville’s girls (15th, Class AAA), Douglas County’s boys (14th, Class AAAAA) and Putnam County’s boys (13th, Class AA).
Other expected participants in the event include Grayson, Parkview and Cedar Shoals’ girls.

Commerce Girls Split Games In Holiday Tournament, Set For Home Tourney This Weekend
The Lady Tigers might be on Christmas vacation, but they’re getting plenty of work in during their break.
Commerce is set to host the WJJC Holiday Classic this weekend in their final preparation before starting their region slate.
The Lady Tigers kick off 8-A play next wekend with defending state champion Jefferson.
Commerce has already concluded one holiday tournament, splitting contests this past weekend in the Spartan Invitational.
This weekend Commerce will match up with Athens Christian Friday night 7 p.m. and will then play the following night in either the championship contest or the consolation round.
Other squads in the tournament are Oglethorpe County and Banks County, which drubbed the Lady Tigers 69-24 last weekend.
The Commerce girls will try to build upon their win Friday night in the opening round of the Spartan tournament as they slid past Prince Avenue 52-49.
The team was denied the tournament trophy a night later however in a 64-25 loss to Madison County.
Commerce’s first showdown with Prince Avenue this season was settled in the fourth quarter.
The encore was no different.
With the contest tied at 45 with under three minutes left to play, Commerce—who downed the Lady Wolverines 44-36 on Dec. 11— posted six unanswered points in crunch time, lifting themselves to a 52-49 win over Prince Avenue.
A quortet of Lady Tigers in double figures paced the Tigers in the win with Stephanie Rainwater racking up up 18 points, Ashley Evans chipping in 13 and Crystal Rainwater and Heather Beck both adding10.
Commerce made their move late in the game when Beck broke the tie with a bucket at the 2:43 mark.
The Lady Tigers then padded their edge at the charity stripe with four free throws over the next minute to take a 51-45 edge.
But Prince Avenue made one last gasp effort in the closing moments of the contest, hitting a bucket with 29 seconds left and then knocking down a pair of free throws with under 20 seconds left to pull with in two.
There wasn’t much clock left for the Lady Wolverines though as Commerce managed to work the ball down the floor and picked up a free throw from Evans with three seconds remaining.
Commerce was in command for the majority of the first half of the matchup but things see-sawed back and fourth over the final two quarters.
Commerce, which held an 11-8 lead after a quarter and a 29-26 edge at intermission, went cold in the first two minutes of the third period, getting outscored 5-0 to fall behind 31-29. Prince Avenue then took a 38-34 with 49 seconds left in the quarter.
But Commerce owned the next two minutes of the contest.
The Lady Tigers regained the lead with a three pointer by Rainwater to start the fourth quarter and then built a 45-40 edge with 6:49 left in the game.
The Lady Wolverines snuffed out the Commerce spurt by knocking down five free throws voer the next four minutes to tie the game.
Other Lady Tigers adding points in the win were Mashenta Hester and Shay Klugh who both finished with a point.
Any momentum gained from the Prince Avenue win was short-lived as the Lady Tigers were dealt a 39-point loss a night later at the hands of the AAA Madison County Lady Raiders.
Commerce got into an early hole in the contest which got much deeper as the second half progressed as Madison County nearly doubled their first half scoring total.
The Lady Tigers trailed 14-5 after a period of play and 22-10 at halftime.
But with Commerce still relatively in striking distance at intermission, Madison County shut the door on the Lady Tigers in the third quarter, outscoring them 22-7 in the quarter.
The Lady Raiders then fattened their lead in the fourth quarter, outscoring Commerce 20-8.
Whitney Brown and S. Rainwater led the team in the loss with eight points followed by Hester, who had six; Mandy Riley, who had four; Beck, who tallied three; and C. Rainwater and Shay Klugh, who added two.

Counting on Kandy
Parks has been keeping the Leopards straight since the ‘80s
Anyone who has ever been to a Banks County basketball game has seen Kandy Parks.
He’s probably wearing one of his many Leopard T-shirts and his blue Banks County hat. He might have on his letterman’s jacket, especially during those colder winter games. But whatever he’s wearing, he is always there, cheering on the team, handing out towels or water, or enjoying a game of basketball.
“If we need something done, he’ll help,” head basketball coach Mike Ruth said. “I wouldn’t know what to do without him.”
During his seventh grade year at Banks County Middle School, Kandy Parks decided to try out for basketball. He made it past the first round but didn’t make the team. However, a new opportunity came up.
“Coach Bertrang asked Dave Rylee if he knew anybody that could be manager and he asked me to do it,” Parks said. “I’ve been doing it ever since.”
Bertrang is one of the few coaches still at Banks County who were around when Parks started. Bertrang continues to coach in the basketball program.
“He took the challenge of a different role, and he’s improved ever since,” Bertrang said.
It was with that fall of 1985 that Parks began, and he hasn’t stopped since.
“I just love it,” Parks said. “I like other sports too, but I love basketball the most because I get to help out. I get to go to all the games and it gives me something to do.”
If for some reason Parks couldn’t be manager, he said he would probably just stay at home and watch games on TV.
“I’d be sad,” he said. “It would be hard.”
As manager, Parks does the things any manager would do.
He keeps the Leopards’ water cooler filled and ready to use. He takes care of all the towels, including taking them home and washing them after each game. And he keeps track of the team’s warm-up shirts. But Parks’ role goes far beyond his physical duties.
“He’s a spark for us too,” Ruth said. “He’s great for moral support. If a kid does something good, he gives high fives and tells them they did a good job. If they mess up or have a bad game, he tells them it’s all right and not to worry about it.”
Former Banks County All-Sports Booster Club president Danny Maxwell agreed. Maxwell’s son, Bray, spent several years playing basketball for the Leopards.
“Kandy’s great for the kids,” Maxwell said. “All the kids admire him for what he does. All of them depend on Kandy being there. He’s an inspiration to them.”
In fact, Ruth says that Parks is a member of the family.
“It wouldn’t be our Banks County basketball family without him,” he said. “The kids love to have him around.”
Ruth added that Parks was a mental stat keeper.
“He’s sharp,” Ruth added. “I’ll talk to him after the ball game and he can tell me off the top of his head how many assists or rebounds someone has. If he sees a stat, he doesn’t forget it.”
Finding a manager for a team, especially one a coach can depend on to show up, isn’t always easy.
“It’s hard to find a manger,” Ruth said. “You might have a couple of middle school players that’ll do it, but you can’t always depend on them.”
But for more than 400 varsity boys’ games, Parks has been there. He’s usually even there for the girls’ and junior varsity games.
“I don’t think he’s missed ore than one or two ball games since I’ve been here,” said Ruth, who is working on his 10th year at the school. “In the summertime, he even goes to the camps with us. You can always depend on Kandy.”
Parks has been at some many games, he’s almost a staple of Leopards’ basketball.
“With I think of Banks County basketball, I think of Kandy,” Ruth said. “He’s always sitting over there with that blue and white on.”
And Ruth said Parks, who doesn’t drive, always finds a way to get to the game.
“He’ll get somebody to get him there,” he said. “If he can’t find anyone, he’ll call me and I’ll go get him. He has a true love for our basketball program.”
Giving up several hours nearly every Tuesday, Friday and Saturday night is a big commitment. But Parks, who doesn’t have another job, gives up all his time for free, sort of.
“He doesn’t get paid a dime,” Ruth said. “All he gets are Banks County T-shirts and caps. But that’s what he wants. That’s his reward.”
And it’s also the pride of being part of a team that keeps Parks there.
“During the pep rally before the GAC game, he showed up and I introduced him along with everyone else on the team,” Ruth said. “You could see the buttons pop off his shirt with pride. If we win, you can’t get him to be quiet on the way home. If we lose, he takes it hard.”
But perhaps one of Parks’ biggest rewards is his Banks County letterman’s jacket. For nearly 14 years, Parks wore the same jacket he is pictured wearing in his 1991 senior year photo. But last year, things changed.
Ruth said a coach, who is no longer at the school, suggested giving Kandy a jacket that a player had worn a few times but had returned because it was the wrong size.
“The booster club said ‘no way,’” Ruth said. “They wanted to give him a brand new one. I had it filled with 15 or 20 bars. It just tickled him to death.”
Maxwell, who was with the booster club at the time, said Parks had earned the jacket.
“Kandy is so dedicated to basketball and all and he works so hard that we thought he deserved a new jacket,” he said.
And more than earning a jacket, Parks has earned respect from a basketball community he has loved and dedicated himself to for the past 16 years.
“Coach Ruth always said he couldn’t do it without me,” Parks said. “I’m his right hand man he said.”

Raiders to rest, then hit the road
The red-hot Raider wrestlers will take a break after an 11-2 start, then hit the road.
Madison County isn’t scheduled to wrestle at home again until Jan. 22 versus Hart County and Washington-Wilkes. Following Christmas break, the Raiders will travel to Commerce, Jan. 4; Washington-Wilkes, Jan. 5; Johnson, Jan. 8; Oglethorpe, Jan. 12; Wesleyan, Jan. 15; Stephens County, Jan. 18; and Social Circle, Jan. 19.
Raider head coach Steve Mason said he feels his squad has a good chance to finish strong in area competition.
“I think if we keep improving and wrestling hard, we can get in the top three or four in the area and qualify some guys for state,” said Mason.
Madison County won three of four matches last week, downing Central Gwinnett and Johnson Friday, after losing to Jackson County and beating Butler Tuesday.
The Raiders overpowered both of their competitors Saturday night in Danielsville.
Madison County shut out Johnson 81-0 and trampled Central Gwinnett 61-15.
Against Central Gwinnett, James Smith, Steve Austin, John Poole, Garrett Rice, Keldrick Hunter, Kevin Cash and Matt Kittle won by pin. Others winning their matches included Walker Overstreet, J.J. Gunnells, J.J. Brueshaber and Josh Moyer. Ryan Cleghorne also won his junior varsity match.
Against Johnson, Overstreet, Smith, Tyler Johnson, Austin, Cash, Greg Hamilton, Moyer and Kittle won by pin. Others winning their matches included Gunnells, David Giles, Poole, Hunter and Mark Arnold. Johnson forfeited five matches.
“We looked pretty good (Friday night),” said Mason. “J.J. Brueshaber beat two tough opponents and wrestled probably the best he has all year.”
Madison County lost 45-25 to Jackson County, the second-ranked squad in Class AAA, but the Raiders downed Butler 60-21.
Those winning by pin against Jackson County included David Giles, J.J. Gunnells and Mark Arnold. James Smith and Richard Stowers won by decision.
Against Butler, Walker Overstreet, Giles, Gunnells, Smith, Steve Austin, Jonathan Poole, Kevin Cash and Arnold won by pin. J.J. Brueshaber and Matt Kittle won by forfeit.
“I felt we did really well against Butler,” said Mason. “We missed some good opportunities to beat Jackson County. We had them where we wanted them. We just didn’t finish what we started. I was disappointed.”
In middle school action, Jessie Compton, Michael Kitchens and Dustin Temple each beat their Jackson County opponent.
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