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December 27, 2012

YEAR IN REVIEW (NO. 6): Good Hope girls go off for greatest year to date

CULLMAN — Between record-breaking regular seasons in basketball and softball, trips to the state tournament in both sports and a seemingly never-ending number of scholarship signings, 2012 is likely to go down as the greatest year in the history of Good Hope girls’ athletics.

With sharp-shooter Kayla Tillman and All-State point guard Nina Mills leading a cast that included talented role players like Kayla Elrod, Cierra Jenkins and Darcie Wilson, the top-ranked Lady Raiders rode a 28-game win streak into their second straight February appearance at the Final 48. Once at the Birmingham Jefferson Convention Complex, coach Michael Oldacre’s Red and White squad came up just short of fulfilling its state title aspirations, losing 62-54 in a gritty semifinal versus No. 6 Andalusia.

Good Hope was then rewarded by the Alabama Sports Writers Association for its best-ever 33-2 record with a Second Team All-State selection for Tillman. The then-junior finished the season with 616 points, 318 of which came from behind the 3-point line, for a superb average of 16.7 per game to go along with her contributions of 3.4 rebounds, 2.3 steals and 1.4 assists per contest.

Mills, now suiting up at Martin Methodist College in Tennessee, rounded out her illustrious prep basketball career with the Raiders by being picked as an All-State honorable mention at point guard.

After an uncharacteristic 4-9 start to the 2012-13 campaign, Good Hope’s girls have since returned to their winning ways, clawing back to .500 and clinching the regular season Class 3A, Area 15 title with five straight victories, its last a 38-36 thriller over Danville on a last-second, game-winning layup by Savannah Fendley.

The Raiders’ success on the basketball court carried over to the softball diamond in the spring, and many of the same girls — Cara Goodwin, Tillman, Wilson, Alannah Henke and Kacy Thomas all play both sports — were to thank for that.

Good Hope notched a school-record 43-7-2 mark, courageously battled through the consolation bracket for a North Regional title and earned its first state tournament berth since 2007.

Goodwin was the clear superstar on a roster packed with exceptional athletes, piling on 43 wins and 525 strikeouts in 318 2/3 innings — all school records and in the top 15 of the state’s record books — en route to All-State First Team and Class 4A Pitcher of the Year honors from the ASWA. The ace, who added four no-hitters, 19 shutouts and a razor-thin 0.86 ERA to her resume, later became the Raiders’ very first All-American when the National Fastpitch Coaches Association dished out its annual awards in late June.

Goodwin wasn’t Good Hope’s only softball standout to receive any accolades, as Henke joined her teammate on the All-State First Team as a first baseman, while Tillman was tabbed an honorable mention designated hitter.

One year after Mills inked her next-level basketball scholarship with Martin Methodist, two more Lady Raiders had signing ceremonies of their own in 2012.

Tillman made her commitment official to attend and play women’s basketball at Faulkner University, while Goodwin signed a national letter of intent to join UAB’s rising softball program in 2013-14. Henke and Wilson are expected to make their college plans for softball known early in the coming year.

The Raiders’ boys also had a few moments to write home about in 2012, with lineman Josh Grigsby signing with Campbellsville University in December and the school’s golf team advancing to its 16th straight state tournament in May.



% Rob Ketcham can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 257 or at robk@cullmantimes.com.

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