Sure, football, basketball, and perhaps baseball have traditionally been labeled marquee sports throughout prep athletic programs for years. But what about wrestling? What about soccer? And what about the TSSAA’s newest varsity additions in swimming and bowling? Which schools are actually assembling prolific programs in these fledging sports? From wrestling to bowling to football to soccer, Memphis Sport magazine has followed every Memphis-area high school within the past year to determine which ones are excelling across the board athletically.
1. ST. GEORGE’S INDEPENDENT SCHOOL
#1 overall, #1 in independent schools, #2 in girls sports, #4 in boys sports
No Bobby Parks, Jr. No problem. Unlike last year when the St. George’s boys basketball team dramatic postseason run ended in a loss in the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association championship game with former St. George’s and current Melrose player Parks — the son of former Memphis State standout Bobby Parks, Sr. — the Gryphons did not encounter any disappointment during its recent trip to Nashville for the state tournament.
In just its fifth year of existence, St. George’s captured its first gold ball after upending University School f Nashville, 56-41, at Lipcomb University’s Allen Arena. In was, in fact, a monumental accomplish for a Gryphon squad, who had taken on the businesslike approach throughout a majority of the postseason, particularly after its win against Donelson Academy in the TSSAA Division 2-A sub-state contest.
After the final horn had sounded to end the game, the entire Gryphon team shook hands with the opposing team and immediately retreated to the locker room, where their attention quickly shifted toward their opponent in the state tournament. After all, the sensed that if they keep their attention on the primary task that awaited, they would eventually have their chance to partake in a postgame celebration.
That moment ultimately came to fruition after the Gryphons’ impressive win in the Division 2-A final, a feat that, in many ways, resulted in St. George’s being dubbed the No. 1 overall school, according to year-long numerical rankings by Memphis Sport Magazine.
More impressive is that the Gryphons, who lost the D2-A title game last year en route to a 24-7 mark and wound up second overall in the high school rankings, managed to erase the memory of last year’s setback with just one returning starter, senior shooting guard Asa Toney, who earned Most Valuable Player honors.
2. MEMPHIS UNIVERSITY SCHOOL
#2 overall, #2 in independent schools, #1 in boys sports
The streak continues.
One year after finishing No. 6 overall in the high school rankings, MUS moved four spots up to second, in large part because the nationally ranked Owls football team earned its second consecutive TSSAA Division 2-AA championship with a 27-17 victory over Nashville Montgomery Bell Academy in the Bluecross Bowl in Cookville, Tennessee.
Led by West Virginia signee Barry Brunetti, the Owls became the first area team since 1969 to registered consecutive undefeated seasons. Brunetti was his usual reliable self under center, having completed 21-of-27 attempts for 247 yards and two touchdowns before being named the offensive Most Valuable Player. For Brunetti, the accolades did not end there as he was named to the PARADE All-American Team, the first Memphis-area player in a decade to achieve such an honor.
3. CHRISTIAN BROTHERS HS
#3 overall, #3 in independent schools, #2 in boys sports
If it wasn’t for Chris Deane’s desperation 70-foot heave as time expired, perhaps the Brothers would not even be in this position. But because Deane’s dramatic shoot at the buzzer earned CBHS a spot in the recent Division 2-AA championship game against eventual state champion Montgomery Bell Academy, the Purple Wave moved two spots up to No. 3 overall in this year’s rankings.
Despite dropping a close decision to heavily-favorite MBA in the D2-AA final, the Brothers enjoyed one of his best campaigns in recent years with a 26-5 mark. Additionally, senior standout Frankie Bougher was named a finalist for D2-AA Mr. Basketball.
4. ST. BENEDICT AT AUBURNDALE
#4 overall. #4 in independent schools, #4 in girls sports, #9 in boys sports
Different year, same result.
After finishing No. 4 overall in Memphis Sport Magazine’s high school rankings last year, St. Benedict wound up in the same position this year. Only this time, the Eagles’ athletic department made tremendous strides within the past year, especially SBA’s volleyball team, which was amongst the most-feared squads in Shelby-Metro this past season.
The Lady Eagles earned their first-ever TSSAA Division 2-AA championship by sweeping Nashville Father Ryan in a relatively intense match, 25-22, 25-20, 26-24. The ending, in fact, was even more memorable for SBA’s Megan Pulio, a senior setter who was named the D2-AA MVP after tallying a game-best 32 assists in helping propel the Lady Eagles to the state crown.
5. HARDING ACADEMY
#5 overall. #5 in independent schools, #5 in girls sports, #3 in boys sports
First the husband. And now the wife.
One year after guiding Kevin Starks guided Harding Academy’s boys basketball team to its second consecutive TSSAA Division 2-A championships, his wife, Becky, a former Ole Miss standout, added a third state crown to the family when she coached the Lady Lions to the a championship earlier this month in just her first season.
Harding overcame Franklin Road Academy’s remarkable first-half shooting display and got a team-high 19 points from leading scorer Alex Black, a senior was named to the D2-A all-tournament team after leading the Lions to a 52-43 triumph.
“We work hard and together,” said Kevin Starks, who is also Harding’s athletics director. “We try to hire great coaches who love kids and the mission of Harding Academy. We believe if we do things the right way then we will be blessed.”
6. EVANGELICAL CHRISTIAN SCHOOL
#6 overall. #6 in independent schools, #7 in girls sports, #5 in boys sports
ECS finished in the Top 10 in the high school rankings for the first time.
Credit the Lady Eagles volleyball squad, which upended Knoxville Webb in arguably one of its most classic matches in recent memory, 17-25, 25-10, 25-21, 25-23 to capture the 2009 Division 2-A championship at Middle Tennessee State University, their first in school history.
What was even more astounding is that the Lady Eagles got it done, in large part because setter Kristen Spinks, despite being hampered by an aggravated ankle, registered a game-high 26 assists and was named the D2-A MVP.
7. WHITE STATION HS
#7 overall. #1 in public schools, #8 in girls sports, #7 in boys sports
He averages a little more than 30 points per game, which tops any other current Shelby-Metro basketball player. His 3,300-plus points are third best in the history of boys basketball in Shelby County and sixth in Tennessee. He has already been selected to represent Memphis in the upcoming McDonald’s All-American game. And this fall, he is headed to the University of Memphis.
More impressive for White Station is that its football team seized the Class 6A championship with a 37-27 victory over Maryville in December to become only the second area team (Ridgeway) to capture basketball and football state titles in the same calendar year.
8. ST. AGNES ACADEMY
#8 overall. #7 in independent schools, #1 in girls sports
Not this year.
One year after finishing as runner-up cross-town rival St. Benedict in the Division 2 state bowling championship, the Stars returned the favor by downing the Eagles in an intense battle, 21-10, to cap its first undefeated season in school history.
“It’s a thrill. This was just our year,” St. Agnes coach Carolyn Adcock said of her Stars, who completed a 14-0 season after knocking off five-time defending state champion St. Benedict.
9. HOUSTON HS
#9 overall. #2 in public schools, #9 in girls sports, #11 in boys sports
The Houston and Collierville baseball teams took part in a number of classic battles during the 2009 campaign, but it was the Mustangs who emerged victorious in the TSSAA District 15-AAA championship last May. The Mustangs got a superb display from senior pitcher Daniel Palo. The 6-foot-4, 220-pound Middle Tennessee State signee allowed four runs on six hits and struck out seven, but it was his heroics at the plate that propelled Houston to the 7-4 win for its third district crown in as many seasons.
Houston finished third Memphis Sport Magazine’s high school rankings last year.
9. HUTCHISON SCHOOL
#9 overall. #8 in independent schools, #4 in girls sports
A tennis state championship, a lacrosse state runner-up finish, and a second-place region finish in track and field are among the reasons the Hutchison School salvaged its first Top 10 finish in the high school rankings.
But Hutchison Community Relations Coordinator Steve O’Dell was more enthralled with regards to the overall success the school’s athletic department has enjoyed in recent years.
In the past two years, for example, Hutchison has produced 10 lacrosse Academic All-Americans, one soccer academic All-American, two lacrosse All-Americans, and one volleyball All-American, among others. Additionally, Hutchison has also received the National Soccer Coaches Association of America Team Academic Award for the past two years.
“Hutchison has had tremendous success in recent years in the classroom and on the field,” O’Dell said. One reason is that we have hired the best and most qualified coaches and teachers.”
THE COMPLETE LIST
1. St. George’s Independent School (90 pts.)
2. Memphis University School (80 pts.)
3. Christian Brothers HS (78 pts.)
4. St. Benedict at Auburndale (77 pts.)
5. Harding Academy (73 pts.)
6. Evangelilcal Christian School (66 pts.)
7. White Station HS (60 pts.)
8. St. Agnes Academy (55 pts.)
9. Houston HS (45 pts.)
9. Hutchison School (45 pts.)
11. Bartlett HS (42 pts.)
11. Lausanne School (42 pts.)
13. Briarcrest Christian School (37 pts.)
13. Cordova HS (37 pts.)
15. Central HS (36 pts.)
16. Collierville HS (28 pts.)
16. Southern Baptist Educational Center (28 pts.)
16. St. Mary’s Episcopal School (28 pts.)
19. Mitchell HS (18 pts.)
20. First Assembly Christian School (16 pts.)
20. Manassas HS (16 pts.)
22. Booker T. Washington HS (15 pts.)
22. Sheffield HS (15 pts.)
24. Arlington HS (14 pts.)
25. Ridgeway HS (12 pts.)
26. Bishop Byrne HS (10 pts.)
26. Overton HS (10 pts.)
26. Riverdale HS (10 pts.)
29. Fairley HS (9 pts.)
29. Frayser HS (9 pts.)
29. Germantown HS (9 pts.)
29. Kingsbury HS (9 pts.)
29. North Side HS (9 pts.)
29. Trezevant HS (9 pts.)
29. Whitehaven HS (9 pts.)
36. Carver HS (6 pts.)
36. Melrose HS (6 pts.)
36. Millington HS (6 pts.)
36. Raliegh Egypt HS (6 pts.)
40. Bolton HS (4 pts.)
41. Craigmont HS (3 pts.)
41. Hillcrest HS (3 pts.)
41. Kirby HS (3 pts.)
41. Oakhaven HS (3 pts.)
41. Wooddale HS (3 pts.)
Compiled by MEMPHISPORT, Written by Andre Johnson.