High School Sports

Hickory’s Barbara Helms, Garner’s Eddie Gray win N.C. coach of year awards

Garner’s Eddie Gray has been selected the 2014-15 Associated Press men’s high school basketball coach of the year for North Carolina.

In voting results announced Friday, Barbara Helms of Hickory was voted the women’s high school coach of the year for the state.

Gray led Garner (28-1) to the 4A boys’ state title while Helms helped Hickory (27-0) earn its first 3A girls’ championship since 1999.

Gray earned eight of a possible 22 votes from sports writers across the state in men’s voting. Helms received 10 votes in women’s balloting.

Garner has produced several recognizable names through the years – from Donald Williams, the most outstanding player at the 1993 Final Four for North Carolina, to David West of the Indiana Pacers.

This year’s team captured a state title despite not having any Division I prospects.

“What made this team different, we really didn’t have a superstar,” Gray said. “They just played very well together, and the complemented each other in the way they played the game. ... They weren’t really individuals. They played as a unit.”

Garner avenged its only loss of the season by beating Raleigh Millbrook in the regional semifinals, then – in its first state title game appearance since 1936 – topped Ardrey Kell, 70-64.

Gray outdistanced East Carteret’s Billy Anderson, who finished second for the second straight year. He had four votes after leading his team to the 1A title and a 28-2 record.

Fayetteville Sanford’s Bill Boyette and Kinston’s Perry Tyndall, each of whom led their teams to state titles, were tied for third with three votes.

On the women’s side, Helms received one more vote than Myers Park’s Barbara Nelson, who led her school to consecutive 4A titles and a 29-1 record.

Helms helped Hickory cap a dominant season with her first state title as the Tornadoes’ head coach and the school’s first since 1999.

Hickory had an average margin of victory of 42.5 points, including 34.3 in the state playoffs, while beating every opponent but two by double figures. Three of the Tornadoes’ opponents failed to score 10 points.

Hickory beat Chapel Hill 71-53 in the state final, forcing 23 turnovers and turning them into 33 points.

“I stress defense. I stress that everything kind of feeds off of that,” Helms said. “We are very determined, very tough, not big, probably undersized ever year. ... I really preach that there’s no way you can get to the level you want to unless everybody’s willing to do the work that maybe some teams don’t want to do.”