By Lee Davis
Maybe there was a method in Homewood girls’ basketball coach JoVanka Ward’s apparent madness in starting four freshmen and a sophomore against some of the toughest competition in Alabama.
Maybe Ward’s team was so young it didn’t know teams that start five girls not old enough to have driver’s licenses couldn’t possibly win a state championship.
If that was the plan, it worked. The Lady Patriots rolled to a 30-4 record, finished No. 1 in the final Class 6A poll and defeated Blount 69-60 to win the Class 6A state title.
With a season such as that, it’s no surprise that Homewood led the way on the 2014-15 All-Over the Mountain Girls’ Basketball Team, chosen by an exclusive Over the Mountain Journal poll of girls’ head basketball coaches.
The coaches also chose freshman Patriot point guard Hannah Barber as the 2014-15 Over the Mountain Girls’ Basketball Player of the Year. She is the first ninth-grader to be named Over the Mountain Player of the Year in any sport.
Barber averaged 12 points and four assists per contest in leading Homewood to the crown. In the crucial month of February, she averaged 15 points and six assists in helping the Patriots to an 8-0 record – including two victories in the Final Four. She was named MVP of the Class 6A Central Region.
Barber and teammate Ajah Wayne, also a freshman, shared Most Valuable Player honors in the state finals last month.
“It’s truly an honor to be the first freshman to be named Player of the Year,” Barber said. “But basketball is a team sport, so no individual can ever take full credit. Everything we did this year was accomplished as a team – I’m just grateful to have been a part of it.”
Barber added that being named to the All-Over the Mountain team had special significance to her.
“Being selected to this team means a lot, because these are the girls I’ve been playing either with or against almost my whole life,” she said. “It’s also important because the team is picked by the coaches.”
Ward, in her third year as head coach of the Patriots, was named Over the Mountain Coach of the Year.
“This group was special,” she said about her team. “They were all young so there was a learning curve, but I learned a lot from them, too. I’m proud to be named Coach of the Year, although we would not have been successful without the hard work of our other coaches and the great support from the school and the Homewood community.”
Freshman Tori Webb and sophomore Shelby Hardy join their Homewood teammates Barber and Wayne as members of the All-Over the Mountain team.
Other members of the team are Shelly Proctor, Briarwood; Paige Pruet and Roni Richardson, John Carroll Catholic; Jailyn Maddox and Jada Smith, Hoover; Sara Carr and Neely Francis, Mountain Brook; Christian McGowan and Madison Pierce, Oak Mountain; Victoria Baldwin and Skyla Knight, Spain Park; and Jessica Compton and Kaitlin Hogan, Vestavia Hills.