It didn’t take a great deal of time for Spring Mountain coach Ed Cheltenham to realize he was going to have a special group of players this season.
After the team’s first week of practice, Cheltenham knew he had two of the Division IV Southern League’s top boys basketball players in 6-foot guard Steve Jones and 6-1 forward Maurice Stitt.
The rest is history.
“(Jones) came out the first day and popped off five or six 3-pointers in a row in a short scrimmage,” Cheltenham said. “For Stitt, it took about a week or two. I don’t think his mind was totally into playing basketball at first, but when he finally buckled down, we realized this kid could play some defense. I knew then we would have a shot to go to state.”
Jones and Stitt proved their coach right, as they led the Golden Eagles to their first state championship this season. For their efforts, they were named co-Most Valuable Players by league coaches.
“When you’ve got the best scorer and the best defensive player, it doesn’t get any better than that,” Cheltenham said.
Jones, a senior, provided the offensive spark for Spring Mountain, averaging about 25 points a game.
“He could drive to the basket, dish and set up his teammates,” Cheltenham said. “And he knew if his shot wasn’t falling, he could just take it to the hole. Just a really smart kid in basketball. There was no other kid that could compare to Steve Jones.”
Stitt was the Golden Eagles’ best defender.
“Every time we played a team that had a tough kid, that was his assignment,” Cheltenham said. “Just a kid that plays lock-down defense.”
Spring Mountain’s Shakori Clark was named to the all-league first team along with Adelson’s Rom Izkovich and Jake Buchman, Pahranagat Valley’s Wade Leavitt and Tabor Maxwell, Beaver Dam’s Eddy Castro, Word of Life’s Elijah Hoye and Round Mountain’s Bryce Hunter.
Cheltenham was selected Coach of the Year in his 11th and final season after leading the Golden Eagles to a 24-4 record and the state championship. Spring Mountain also was undefeated in league play.
“It was definitely a great honor to be chosen,” he said. “I’ve been lucky enough in my 11 years to win the award three times. Any time your peers think that much of you, its an honor.”
In girls, Pahranagat Valley’s Jamie Hansen and Round Mountain’s Alyssa Hanks were selected co-MVPs.
Hansen, a 5-5 senior, averaged 13.5 points in the playoffs to key the Panthers’ state-title run. She scored 19 points, including 17 in the first half, in a 57-49 win over Smith Valley in the state championship.
Hanks, a 5-11 freshman, averaged 15.7 points and 12.8 rebounds a game this season for the Knights.
Round Mountain’s Mariah Mayfield and Hannah Swafford led the all-league first team. They were joined by Pahranagat Valley’s Kalli Hosier and Madison Harris, Sandy Valley’s Lauren Cripe and Esmerelda Solano-Sanchez, Tonopah’s Ally Otero and Lund’s Alondra Dowl.
Round Mountain’s Jake Topholm won Coach of the Year honors after helping the Knights reach the state semifinals.
Contact reporter Ashton Ferguson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0430. Follow him on Twitter: @af_ferguson.