Butler Basketball Senior Class: Six Butler seniors celebrated their final regular season home game in style with a 76-51 win over Porter Ridge, Feb. 3.
The Butler (23-0 this season) senior class is a perfect 18-0 in Southwestern 4A (SW4A) league play on their home court in the last three years.
While Jah’Lil Carter, Chase Morrisette-Barnett, Zane Rankin, Justin Rivera, Omega Stitt and Tarique Stowe enjoyed every minute of their senior night, what happened before the game was even more special.
After recognizing its six seniors, Butler honored the former Bulldog (and Clemson) standout, the late Demontez Stitt, raising his No. 2, Clemson (where starred in college) jersey to the rafters.
Demontez Stitt, Omega’s older brother who was in the midst of a professional basketball career, died of a heart attack at his home in July.
Demontez Stitt’s No. 2, Butler jersey and a celebration game ball were also presented to the Stitt family, represented by more than 50 (family) members who sat in the VIP section behind the Bulldog bench.
The Butler team also honored the late Stitt in warmups, wearing throwback, shooting shirts that Demontez wore as a Butler senior.
Julia Menkhaus, Charlotte Catholic Swimming: A couple weeks ago, Julia Menkhaus was working with some of the country’s best swimmers at National Select camp at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs.
On Feb. 4, the Charlotte Catholic junior was back in the pool for the Cougars, swimming to both the 100 backstroke and 100 butterfly titles at the 4A West Regional championship.
Menkhaus is the reigning 4A state champion in both events, and holds the 4A state record in the 100 backstroke. She will look to defend both titles in Cary on Feb. 10.
Ellie Marquardt, South Mecklenburg Swimming: The South Mecklenburg sophomore continues to impress, winning two 4A Western Regionals titles, Feb. 4, in both the 200 and 500 freestyle.
Marquardt also won the 500 freestyle and finished as runner-up in the 200 freestyle at the SoMeck8 conference championships, Jan. 21.
She will now race for a state title at the 4A state championship meet Feb. 10 in Cary.
Charlotte Hylinski/Patrick Frith, Myers Park Swimming: The Myers Park senior duo had another big weekend in the pool at the 4A West Regional championship on Feb. 4.
Hylinski won the 50 freestyle, regional title, while helping the Mustangs’ 200 freestyle relay team to a title with teammates Janie Smith, Emma Walker and Liza Whitmire.
Meanwhile, Frith led the Myers Park boys’ swimming team, racing to 4A West Regional titles in both the 100 butterfly and 500 freestyle.
Hylinski and Frith, who will both swim at Yale University beginning this summer, look to add 4A state championships to their resumes in the final high school meet on Feb. 10 in Cary.
A’Lea Gilbert, South Mecklenburg Basketball: South Mecklenburg junior forward, A’Lea Gilbert had back-to-back double doubles as the Sabres earned two critical, SoMeck8 conference wins over Charlotte Catholic and Olympic to move to second place in the league standings.
Gilbert had 20 points and 17 rebounds in South Meck’s (15-7, 9-3) 59-46 win over Charlotte Catholic on Jan. 31.
She finished off the week with 13 points and 13 rebounds in the 76-68 victory over Olympic on Feb 3.
Gilbert, also a Division I basketball recruit, is the daughter of former Carolina Panthers’ defensive tackle, Sean Gilbert.
Eric Reed/Jordan Campbell, Mallard Creek Basketball: The Mallard Creek backcourt duo is playing a major role for one of the hottest teams in the state, as the Mavericks have won 15 straight game.
Reed, a 5-foot-11 senior, had his best game last week with a career-high 33 points in 76-69 win over Vance in front of a capacity crowd at Mallard Creek, Jan. 31.
Meanwhile, Campbell, a 5-foot-10 junior, had 28 points in the Mavericks 76-43 victory over A.L. Brown, Feb. 3.
Colby Funderburk, Piedmont Wrestling: The Piedmont sophomore had the weight of the entire team on his shoulders when he took the mat with his team down three points in the final match of the 3A state championship battle with Orange High on Feb. 4.
Funderburk needed to win his own match by eight points (113-pound weight class) to help Piedmont win the 3A state title.
Funderburk did even better, winning by technical fall, to give Piedmont a 29-27 victory and the 3A state title. He was named 3A state championship MVP for his efforts.
Piedmont also got wins from Mason Fisher, Michael Flitz, A.J. Gilvary, Nathan Huntley, Luis Oropesa and Matt Price in the finals.
Nukwan Fair, East Mecklenburg Wrestling: The East Mecklenburg sophomore won the Southwestern 4A conference title in 132-pound weight class on Jan. 28.
Fair, who is 19-4 this season, enters the 4A West Regional meet Feb. 10-11 at Hough, as the No. 3 seed.
Fair has been a big key in turning around an East Mecklenburg wrestling team that had only five wrestlers to start last season and finished last in the conference with no placers.
This year, the Coach Eric Sciutto has 25 wrestlers, including a conference champion in Fair.
Jae’Lyn Withers, North Mecklenburg Basketball: The 6-foot-8, North Mecklenburg sophomore led the Vikings to two wins in two nights over Vance and Crest last week.
Withers had 23 points and eight rebounds in an 87-77 win against MECKA 4A rival Vance on Feb. 3.
Less than 24 hours later, Withers posted 20 points and 12 rebounds in a 76-41 victory at Crest.
Withers, who is already a Division I basketball recruit, is the son of former Charlotte 49er and West Charlotte standout Curtis Withers.
Will Chan/Kenneth Lowe, Hough Swimming: Hough junior Will Chan, and teammate, freshman Kenneth Lowe led Huskies to the 4A West Regional championship, Feb. 4, at the Mecklenburg County Aquatic Club.
Chan, the reigning 4A state championship meet’s most outstanding swimmer, won regional titles the 200 individual medley and 100 breaststroke.
Meanwhile, Lowe won the meet’s two fastest events taking the 50 and 100 freestyle at 4A West Regional titles.
Both Chan and Lowe helped the 200 medley relay team to a regional championship with teammates, Coleman Manchester and Alexander McMurry.
The Husky duo will look to make even more championship splashes — individually and as a team — at the 4A state championships in Cary, Feb. 10.
Jackson Gabriel, Lincoln Charter Basketball: Jackson Gabriel has had a passion for shooting the basketball ever since he can remember.
At age 4, Gabriel scored 62 points in a Sherrills Ford Optimist club game on eight-foot goals in January 2003, according to his father and Lincoln Charter basketball coach Bradley Gabriel
“I don’t think he missed a shot in that game,” said coach Gabriel, who starred on the basketball court at Bandys High, Western Carolina and played a little semi-professional basketball in the Charlotte area. “From that point on, people tagged him as a shooter.”
Jackson Gabriel says he remembers the game for a different reason.
“I remember that game a little bit and fact that I scored a lot of points, but the play I remember most is I got the ball and ran the wrong way to the opposite side of the court,” Jackson Gabriel recalls. “I didn’t know I was going to the wrong basket, but the rest of the gym and the coaches and fans were screaming and yelling, going crazy. But, I went down and scored on my own team anyway.”
Now a 6-foot-2 Lincoln Charter sophomore, Jackson Gabriel has continued to develop his talent for shooting and scoring as a high school player.
Gabriel, 16, averages 17 points, five rebounds, four assists and two steals for a Lincoln Charter team (21-2, 15-0 in the South Piedmont 1A conference) that has established itself a 1A state contender, going 74-11 in the since the 2014 season through Feb. 5.
Gabriel, who starts at shooting guard for the Eagles, is one of the top shooters in the state, regardless of classification as he has made 92 three-pointers (second in state, according to maxpreps.com), making a staggering 50 beyond the arc.
Lincoln Charter junior point guard, Kody Shubert (22 ppg), classmate, London England (10 ppg) and sophomore, Levontae Knox (11 ppg) also play major roles for the Eagles and can often be found in the gym with Gabriel. The Lincoln Charter guards are also close friends.
“Even from an early age, Jackson has always wanted to be in gym shooting as much as possible,” coach Gabriel said. “A lot of people take the weekends off, but Jackson, Kody, Levontae, London, are always in the gym.”
“I want to make 500 shots a day,” said Jackson Gabriel, who has made 94 of 100 three-pointers in practice sessions. “Shooting is something that is never perfect, you are always working on getting better.”
Gabriel had one of his shooting nights of his life on Jan. 27, when he scored a career-best, 31 points, including nine three-pointers, in a win over Thomas Jefferson Academy.
Making shots is nothing new for Gabriel as 10 games with five three-pointers or more, four with six treys and two more with seven makes from the beyond arc.
But while Gabriel is known for his shooting, he has become a well-rounded player, garnering college attention from schools suxh as Appalachian State, Campbell, College of Charleston, Georgia Southern, Lipscomb, Longwood and more.
The list is growing each month.
Gabriel is also a good student with a 3.6 grade-point average. The entire Lincoln Charter team has over a 3.0 GPA.
Gabriel hopes to take his both academic and athletic games to the next level.
“I’ve learned most of what I know about basketball from my dad,” Gabriel said. “I want to be able to follow in his footsteps and play college basketball. …
“I want to live that (college basketball) dream, too.”
East Lincoln Track Team/Valentines’ 5K run: Coach Melvin Morrison and his East Lincoln boys’ and girls’ track teams are teaming up with former U.S. Olympian Anthony Famiglietti to host the Valentine’s 5K at Cowan’s Ford Country Club in Denver, Feb. 18, starting at 9:30 a.m.
Morrison and Mustangs will host the 8th Annual “Valentines’ 5K Couples Division Run and Fun Run,” which benefits two local families in need and will help send the East Lincoln team to summer camp.
The event will include $1000 worth of door prizes, including free gym memberships.
Famiglietti, who competed 2004 (Athens) and 2008 Olympic (Beijing) games (distance running events), will also be signing autographs.
To learn more or sign up for the race, go to www.denvernc.com/valentine5k.htm.
The race is $25 per person, $40 per couple.
Jay Edwards is a freelance writer: email@example.com.
HELP US FIND THE ATHLETES
This season’s finest highlights high school athletes with outstanding performances. Information published today includes statistics through Fev. 5. In most cases, the athletes featured will come from sports that don’t get a lot of recognition. However, the goal is to recognize excellence. If you want to suggest someone to be included in This Season’s Finest column, send email to Jay Edwards at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include the athletes’ name, school, class and applicable game performance statistics. Coaches must be willing to verify information.