By Jake Winfrey
The Cullman Times
With the rampant success of the Holly Pond girls basketball team this past season, it could have been easy to overlook the accomplishments of the Broncos’ boys squad.
The Green and White amassed 26 wins, won an area championship and garnered a Northeast Regional Tournament title en route to their first state tournament appearance since 1988.
Despite coming up just short of their bid for a state championship, coach Mitch Morris and his crew had a terrific season. Led by juniors Colby Adams and Gunter Morris, as well as sophomore Austin Smith, the Broncos’ high-flying offensive attack wore down opponents time and time again during the year. Their body of work will be recognized one more time as the quartet spearheads The Times’ 2013 All-Area Boys Basketball Team.
Mitch Morris was the runaway choice for Coach of the Year — his second in a row — while Adams claimed the Overall MVP selection. Gunter Morris earned a nod on the First Team, while Smith was an easy Second-Team pick.
It would be hard to find a more talented team top-to-bottom during Morris’ coaching tenure at Holly Pond.
He commanded an explosive squad all season long, as his team consistently lit up the scoreboard to progress through its schedule.
The Broncos scored 64 points in their area title victory over New Hope before notching 72 in a sub-regional win over Geraldine to earn a trip to the regional tournament at Jacksonville State University.
The scoring didn’t stop there, however, as Holly Pond defeated Weaver 72-64 in overtime in the semifinals and Pisgah 107-95 in the title tilt to earn its first state tourney nod in 25 years.
Morris wouldn’t take all the credit for his team’s success, though, as the coach knows he had plenty of talented leaders around him to make his job all the more easier.
One of those players was Adams, who was perhaps the most consistent, important piece of the Broncos’ puzzle.
The junior averaged 16.2 points and 3.5 assists per game and was the straw that stirred Holly Pond’s offensive flow.
“Colby was one of our best players,” Morris said. “He’s a hardworking, dedicated player who’s really passionate about the game. He comes from a long line of basketball players. He’s very smart and understands what it takes to be successful at this level of basketball.”
Adams was brilliant down the stretch for the Green and White, scoring 102 combined points in his last six games, while garnering All-County, All-Area and All-Northeast Regional Tournament Team honors.
When the Broncos needed someone to step up and make a play, they could depend on Adams. Whether it was hitting a clutch shot, coming up with a big steal or making a defensive stop, Morris confided he was comfortable putting his guard in any of those positions.
“He was always in the right spot on both sides of the ball,” he said. “He really improved his ball handling and finishing at the basket. He was great on D, too. We looked to him to come up with plays and hit huge shots in a lot of our games.”
Gunter Morris heads a First Team that includes Hanceville’s Brontae Harris, Cold Springs’ Chayse Elliott, Cullman’s Lawson Schaffer and Fairview’s Blake Parker.
Morris really saw his game take off in the latter part of the season, as both his scoring and defense improved dramatically.
He tallied quite the list of accolades during his junior campaign as well. He eclipsed the 1,000-point career mark in December and put out his most consistent year since donning a Green and White jersey for the varsity squad.
His game shone during the Broncos’ postseason ride, as Morris scored 31 points against Pisgah before pouring in a double-double of 14 points and 10 rebounds in their state semifinal loss to Southside-Selma. He finished the year with a game average of 14.8 points and 5.1 rebounds, while leading his team in steals with 67.
Like Adams, Morris earned All-County, All-Area and All-Regional Tournament Team nods. He was also the lone Bronco to represent his team on the All-State Tourney Team.
When you talk about scoring, you can’t possibly forget Harris. After earning First Team honors in his freshman season, the Bulldogs’ shooting stud made sure he’d land right back on the same list with a 627-point output in his sophomore campaign. Harris had no problems creating his own shot, often stepping way back from the 3-point arc to drop in NBA-range jumpers.
What’s even more impressive is the fact Harris has already surpassed the 2,000-point career mark as a sophomore.
He averaged nearly 21 points per game and was essential to his team’s advancement to the Northwest Regional Tournament, where Harris scored 16 points in his team’s loss to eventual Class 3A state champion Madison Academy. That performance earned him a spot on the All-Regional Tournament squad.
Despite missing nine games due to a broken wrist, Elliott capped his season senior admirably, finishing with an average of 18.5 points and 8.5 rebounds per game.
His ability to score both off the dribble and from the perimeter made Elliott a defensive nightmare for most teams who had to scheme against the Eagles’ attack.
He eclipsed the 2,000-point career milestone during Cold Springs’ loss to Hatton in the Class 2A Northwest Regional Tournament. On the same floor a month earlier, he went off for 26 second-half points in a county tourney loss to West Point.
Elliott, last year’s All-Area Overall MVP, earned a spot on the All-Regional Tourney Team and is set to continue his basketball career at UAH next fall.
It’s pretty accurate to say that Cullman goes as Schaffer goes as the guard showed what his ability could bring to the table during his sophomore season.
Schaffer is one of the quickest guards in the county, who’s ability to gash defenses led to many finishes around the basket and opened perimeter shots for his teammates.
His most memorable game of the season came against Arab, when he bombed seven trifectas en route to a career-high 36-point performance against the Knights. He eclipsed the 20-point mark six times throughout the year and led his team with a massive 140 steals. He also won the boys 3-point shootout during the state tournament and led his team with 15.6 points and 5.6 assists per contest.
Last but not least is Parker, Fairview’s ever-reliable senior.
The center spearheaded an extremely balanced and seasoned lineup for the Aggies, averaging 11.6 points and 8.5 rebounds per game. He tossed in 59 blocks and 42 steals.
A late-season illness forced Parker in and out of the lineup for for four games, and as expected, Fairview struggled without its best defender fortifying the paint against opposing offenses.
Despite missing playing time, Parker led his team to a county championship and into the sub-regional round. He eclipsed the 1,000-point career mark in the final game of his prep career, a two-point defeat to Butler.
The Second Team is comprised of Holly Pond’s Smith, Cold Springs’ Triston Chambers, West Point’s Kris Keller, Fairview’s Luke Bailey and St. Bernard’s Sean Moriarty.
See the complete All-Area Team below:
Overall MVP: Colby Adams, Holly Pond
Coach of the Year: Mitch Morris, Holly Pond
Brontae Harris, Hanceville
Chayse Elliott, Cold Springs
Gunter Morris, Holly Pond
Lawson Schaffer, Cullman
Blake Parker, Fairview
Austin Smith, Holly Pond
Triston Chambers, Cold Springs
Kris Keller, West Point
Luke Bailey, Fairview
Sean Moriarty, St. Bernard
% Jake Winfrey can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 258 or at email@example.com.