Winning a championship, in any sport at any level, is special. Winning two in a row is very special. Winning three in a row and going undefeated in the process is the stuff of dreams. And dreams are made of the accomplishments of our Junior Panther boys and girls basketball teams in their recently concluded 2014-15 seasons.
The Rapp girls J.P. team had a very special season, going undefeated in conference play and winning the regular season and tournament championship trophies for the second year in a row. The J.P. boys had a season for the record books, going undefeated on the season, in conference and non-conference games, and pulling off the threepeat with their third consecutive regular season and tournament championship trophies.
The J.P. boys team finished the season with a 21-0 record, averaging 50 points per game and defeating both private- and public-school opponents. In fact, over the past three seasons the team has lost only two games, with the most impressive parts of their record including going 17-2 against middle school teams that feed Bull Run District schools (the district that Rappahannock’s JV and varsity teams compete in for the regular season) and 22-2 against middle school teams that feed high schools that are 2A or larger. (Rapp is and likely always will be a small 1A school). In short, it is no stretch to say that the Rapp J.P. boys have earned the moniker of “Giant Killers.”
Coach Wayne Sumner and assistant coach Judd Hanberry stressed a true team concept in practices and games; all 15 of their players took the court in 75 percent of the games this season. And while team play is the hallmark of this championship team, it is worth noting that Ethan Sumner led the team in scoring with 15.7 points per game, followed by Zion Hanberry, who posted 13 points per game (and led the team, unofficially, in precise no-look passes!). The highest praise for the team and the coaches has come from their opponents, as numerous coaches have remarked on such a high level of play exhibited by a middle school team.
On the girls’ side, coach Jeff Atkins’ team also stressed the team concept and also posted some glittering numbers. The team finished with only three losses this season — two to the middle-school feeder school for Central Woodstock (a 3A program). The team split their two games with Luray (2A) and also defeated the middle-school feeders for William Monroe (3A), Madison (2A) and Strasburg (2A). That’s in addition to winning all their Virginia Middle School Conference (VMSC) games.
Leading the scoring for the girls was seventh-grader Olivia Atkins, posting 12 points a game. Carrington Wayland and Hannah East, both also seventh graders, contributed 5 points a game with Carly Pullen (an eighth grader) adding a 3-points-per-game average. The team averaged 32 points a game in offense and held their opponents to an average of 16 points — essentially doubling their opponents’ score on average. Both coach Atkins and assistant coach Connie Smith stressed tough defense throughout the season and the stats showed that their young team listened well.
While their J.P. seasons may be over, many of these young players are continuing to put in hours on the hardwood in the recreational Rappahannock Basketball League, to which much of the credit for our school teams’ current success should go. Introducing the county’s youngsters to the game at an early age gives our school teams an edge that has been reflected not only in the outstanding performances of our middle school teams over the past three years, but also in the improving fortunes of our varsity boys and girls basketball programs, programs that are just now starting to absorb some of the products of that rec program.
Having proven over the past few seasons that dreams can come true, these young champions will be moving up to the JV and Varsity levels over the next several years, making it quite possible that Rapp can dare to dream of similar successes at the next level. Congratulations to these teams and their coaches for the realization of their championship dreams and for the promise of the “Hoop Dreams” still to come in Rappahannock County athletics.