High school coaches have plenty to worry about, so it’s nice when they can cross at least one thing off that list.
For La Vega coach Clay Cody, it was William Stinnett that gave him that worry-free feeling day in and day out.
No matter what else was going on, Cody knew Stinnett was going to be doing exactly what he was supposed to, on or off the court.
“He’s a great kid — that’s the first thing,” Cody said. “I never have any problems with him as far as grades and discipline. He’s got a great family, and he’s just a real solid basketball player for us.”
So solid, in fact, that he didn’t always stand out.
After all, La Vega spent much of its season ranked No. 1 in Class 3A, and featured a group of silky smooth and exciting guards led by Austen Bradshaw and an absolute mammoth of a young man in Michael Starts under the basket.
But it was Stinnett’s sometimes quiet but constant production that made it work — all the way to the Pirates’ first state tournament in 12 years.
“There were so many times we’d check the score book at the end of the game, and we’re like, ‘Stinnett had 24?’” Cody said. “It never was these big flurries of scoring eight, 12, 14 points in a quarter. It was just two here, six there, four, and he was just consistent constantly through the games. He was just so consistent for us in what he did.”
For being the heartbeat of the area’s best team, Stinnett has been selected as the Super Centex Player of the Year.
“It’s a great feeling to stand out in a city full of great players,” Stinnett said. “I think everybody in the area has talent, and for me to be picked as the top one is a good feeling. It makes me feel like my hard work is being acknowledged, and it’s a testament to the hard work I put in through the season.”
The typical Stinnett play came late in the regional final against Silsbee. The game was tied with less than 10 seconds to go, and Bradshaw went up for a baseline jumper.
Stinnett read that the shot was going to be long, got in position, grabbed the rebound and put it back for what proved to be the game-winning basket in a 61-59 victory that sent La Vega to state.
He was in the right place at the right time, as usual.
It was also Stinnett’s 23rd point of the day and earned him regional MVP honors.
“You know he’s going to play and get you 18-20 points per game,” Cody said. “That gives you an opportunity to win big the way we did this year. When you lose that, you’re in trouble.”
The Pirates fell short in the state semifinals to Corpus Christi Miller, 59-54, despite 27 points and 12 rebounds from Stinnett. Still, he has no regrets about the season or how it finished.
“It was a big accomplishment because going to state was a big goal for us since we were 7-8 years old,” Stinnett said. “We wanted to win it, but it was a blessing just to be there.”
Stinnett grew up with a basketball in his hands. He’s the son of Baylor Hall of Famer and two-time state champion at Richfield High School Maggie Davis-Stinnett and Earl Stinnett, the president of the Waco chapter of basketball officials, and his brother Earl played for McLennan Community College.
He said basketball was never forced upon him in any way, but “You’re probably not a Stinnett if you don’t play basketball.”
Nobody in the area played better than Stinnett this year.
Coach of the Year:
Joe Woodward Mart
Even if nobody else did, Joe Woodard always knew Mart had the talent to break through to the regional tournament.
There were myriad obstacles to tackle. In essence, he had a junior varsity basketball team surrounding move-in Nathaniel Jack, and he couldn’t begin the teaching process until the Panthers’ football run ended in mid-December.
But boy did his Panthers listen. For making the regional tournament for just the third time in 33 years and falling just six points shy of the state tournament, Woodard is the Super Centex boys’ Coach of the Year.
“It’s a great honor, but it goes back to the kids,” Woodard said. “Any time a coach wins anything, it’s because of the kids. I had a real good athlete that moved in over the summer, but he brought everybody else up along with me.”
Woodard was forced to take things slow. Most of his players were converted basketball players, so he added schemes and plays in bits and pieces each week. He didn’t get everything added until district play was almost over, and that’s when Mart really took off.
The Panthers tied Wortham for the No. 2 seed out of district, and they pounded the Bulldogs in a tiebreaker to set off for the postseason on an emphatic note. Mart went on to win playoff games against Bosqueville, No. 11 Poolville, Dallas Gateway and Stamford before Kerens ended the Panthers’ dream season, 43-37, in the regional final.
Woodard hung his hat on defense all year, leading a Mart team that held opponents to less than 45 points per game. And once Mart crested the regional tournament plateau, Woodard stressed the tournament’s unpredictability.
It was an appropriate theme for a team that took just about everybody by surprise. Except maybe Woodard.
“It was very exciting,” Woodard said. “Of course I’ve been at state games. I’ve coached and played in them, and I just kept harping on getting to the regional tournament, because you never know what happens at the regional and state tournament. The favorites don’t always win.”
Coach of the Year:
Nathaniel Jack Mart
Nathaniel Jack can pinpoint the exact moment he finally felt fully at home in Mart — his first basketball practice.
Jack, a rangy 6-foot-3 junior, brought an uncommonly high basketball IQ to a football town when he moved in from Franklin around the start of the school year.
It was a tough move on Jack, but once he stepped on the floor for basketball practice for the first time, the worry melted away.
It showed throughout the year. In leading Panthers to the Class 1A Division I Region II final, Jack put up historic numbers in Mart, averaging 20.4 points and 15.2 rebounds.
“It was hard,” Jack said, “but we all stuck together.”
Jack was raised playing hoops, and he had the pedigree to show it. His sophomore year he was named the District 16-2A co-district newcomer of the year, but his mother’s job move necessitated Jack’s transfer to Mart.
He immediately took hold of the Mart basketball program once he arrived.
“It was easier than I thought it was going to be,” Jack said. “I thought it was going to be much harder, but (Mart) had talent.”
Perhaps his greatest performance came in the area round against No. 11 Poolville, a heavily favored juggernaut that doesn’t play football. Jack poured in 26 points and lifted the Panthers to a 48-47 win that set them on the road to the regional tournament for the first time since 1996.
“State next year,” Jack said. “That’s exactly where we feel like we’re going.”
Staff writer Will Parchman contributed to this story.
|G||Patrick Bean||Jr||6-3||Waco High|
|G||Austen Bradshaw||Jr||6-0||La Vega|
|G||Chance Gibson||Sr||6-4||Methodist Home|
|F||William Stinnett||Sr||6-3||La Vega|
Player of the Year: William Stinnett, La Vega
Newcomer of the Year: Nathaniel Jack, Mart
Coach of the Year: Joe Woodard, Mart
|F||Courtlin Dutschmann||Sr||6-3||Valley Mills|
|P||Michael Starts||Sr||6-5||La Vega|
Guards: Taylor Goode, Aquilla; Dontay Raglin, Connally; Josh Brown, Fairfield; Michael Graves and Justin Langham, Groesbeck; Payden Nolen, Hamilton; Opie Mayberry, Itasca; Deaudric Corry and Trey Ridge, La Vega; Drew Keeney, Lorena; Marcus Irons, McGregor; Seth Rogers, Midway; Patrick Listach, Rapoport; Andrew Kaluza and Sam Deaver, Reicher; Alex Rogers, Robinson; Caleb Seibert, Texas Christian Academy; Adonis Haven and Calvin Richardson, University; Brett Bartlett, Valley Mills; Jake Schwartz, Vanguard
Forwards: Justin Ince, Aquilla; John Holt, Connally; Tyrell McCullen, Groesbeck; David Moffatt and Jacob Rohrer, Live Oak; Travis Allison, McGregor; Olan Massingill, Riesel; Avery Polchinski, Temple; Kennrich Williams, University
Posts: Michael Adams, Groesbeck; Keith Reineke, McGregor; Stephen Walker, Methodist Home; Chrishard Buhl, Midway; Daryl Brooks, Teague; Denzyl Benton, Texas Christian Academy
Jr, Waco High
Carried Lions to playoffs with hugely productive season of 21.7 points, 13.8 rebounds per game
Jr, La Vega
19-3A’s top defender also chipped in 16 points per game while providing steady hand at point
Nabbed 20-3A MVP award after slicing through defenses for 18 points per contest, added 7 rebounds
Sr, Methodist Home
Explosive scorer hit for as many as 50 in a game, topped area with 29.7 points on average
16-2A MVP displayed well-rounded game to help lift Bulldogs to regional tournament appearance
Top-flight athlete went for 17.6 points a night to lead Panthers to playoffs, earn 8-4A offensive MVP nod
8-4A MVP created havoc by breaking down defenses with dribble penetration, matured into quality leader
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