By Lee Davis
More than a month has passed since Mountain Brook won its third boys state basketball championship in five years, but the Spartans are still raking in the awards.
Sophomore forward Trendon Watford was named to the MaxPreps boys basketball sophomore All-American team last week. Watford, a key player in Mountain Brook’s successful title run, previously had been named Birmingham Area Player of the Year and Over the Mountain Player of the Year. He was also the runner-up for Mr. Basketball in the state of Alabama. Watford averaged 23 points and 10 rebounds per game in 2016-17.
And incredibly, he still has two more years of varsity competition remaining.
It’s still hard to quantify the impact Bucky McMillan has had on basketball in Alabama since he moved from coaching the junior varsity to being head coach of the Spartans in the spring of 2008. Mountain Brook had a respectable program before McMillan’s promotion, but he elevated it to probably the finest in the state. With the constant influx of young talent, the Spartans have a chance to dominate basketball much the way that Hoover dominates in football.
Of all the sports Mountain Brook has excelled in over the past five decades, boys basketball might have been the one where – before the McMillan Era – the expectation level has been lowest. Now, if the Spartans don’t reach the Final Four, many of their fans will ask what went wrong. And that’s the sign of a strong program.
Sometimes in baseball, you get the classic matchup of a legendary batter and pitcher such as Sandy Koufax vs. Willie Mays in the 1960s or Greg Maddux vs. Mark McGwire in the 1990s. Area softball fans got a high school version of that magnitude in a game between Oak Mountain and Spain Park last week.
The Lady Eagles and Lady Jaguars were tied 0-0 in the 10th inning when Oak Mountain senior slugger O’Neil Roberson came to the plate to face Spain Park pitching phenomenon Annabelle Widra, an eighth-grader who has befuddled batters with more than 150 strikeouts. The tension in the air was real as the two all-stars battled. In the end, seniority prevailed.
Roberson smacked a two-run homer to give her team the walk-off victory.
Producing heroic finishes is nothing new for Roberson, who is batting .420 this season with 27 RBIs. She hit an eye-popping 21 homers as a junior in 2015-16. She plans to play college ball at Mississippi State next season.
Widra may have lost her most recent confrontation with a high-profile hitter, but she’ll be back for many more in the next four-plus years. As the Jaguar program continues to roll, Widra will win more than her share.
Almost overshadowed by Roberson’s home run was the play of Lady Eagles pitcher Clara Fuller. She pitched 10 scoreless innings and held the potent Spain Park batters to just three hits. Fuller also helped her cause with three hits.
In every way, it was a classic battle.
Area soccer teams continue to dominate the Alabama Sports Writers Association polls. In boys Class 7A, Oak Mountain holds the top spot followed by Mountain Brook and Vestavia Hills. Hoover and Spain Park hold the sixth and seventh positions, respectively.
In Class 6A, Homewood is number nine while Briarwood holds down the number six spot in Class 4A-5A. Indian Springs is number one in Class 1A-3A and Westminster-Oak Mountain is second.
In girls soccer, Vestavia continues as number one in Class 7A with Oak Mountain ranked third and Spain Park fourth. Mountain Brook is in the seventh position, followed by Hoover in ninth place.
John Carroll Catholic is number one in Class 6A, with Homewood in the second spot. Briarwood is ranked second in Class 4A-5A. Class 1A-3A shows Westminster-Oak Mountain in the top position with Indian Springs third and the Altamont School seventh.
Poll rankings are nice, but ultimately the champions will be determined in the playoffs. That’s what makes the month of May so much fun.
Get Your Motors Running…
The Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama returns to Barber Motorsports Park this weekend.
Pack a cooler or picnic and experience one of the best outside parks in Birmingham, along with the opportunity to watch some of the world’s greatest INDYCAR drivers.
For weekend schedule and ticket information, visit barbermortorsports.com.