Sims, Parton take 3-AA’s top honors
The Lady Highlanders’ run through District 3-AA this season has netted top accolades for their senior leader and their head coach.
Gatlinburg-Pittman’s Karsen Sims, who’s been the team’s leading scorer since her sophomore season and helped the team to an unbeaten 12-0 conference record this year, was picked by the conference coaches as the 3-AA Player of the Year.
“I was very excited for Karsen,” G-P head coach Katie Parton said. “She’s worked so hard all four years, and that just set her up for our success this year. Her being chosen just shows that hard work and dedication will get you what you deserve.”
Sims, who’s signed to continue her career at Division 1 Coastal Carolina, was a logical choice for the award.
She’s averaged 13.6 points, 6.4 rebounds, 3.3 assists and nearly three steals per game this season while her team has piled up an impressive 21-6 record and No. 10 ranking in the state’s AP basketball poll.
And, beyond that, she’s been a great teammate.
“I definitely think she’s been a great leader,” Parton said. “A lot of her leadership comes from how hard she goes, her 110 percent effort how hard she plays — girls see that and want to be like her. And she’s grown into her role as a vocal leader. I definitely think that Karsen, as the one and only senior, has done a great job of leading this team.”
In addition, Parton herself — in her third year at the helm of the Lady Highlanders — was named the district’s Coach of the Year.
“I was very honored to get Coach of the Year,” Parton said. “But I think that award only comes with having hard-working girls and a great group of coaches behind me.
“You’re only as good as what your team is.”
This is the first season in the current district makeup that the Lady Highlanders have fininshed higher than third place. They’ll host the district tournament next week and have hopes of advancing to the region and beyond.
Two of Sims’ teammates, sophomores Haris Price and Dannie Luczak, were also honored with selections to the all-conference team, while junior Micki Werner earned an honorable mention.
“I think last year Haris coming in as a freshman and starting says a lot about her game,” Parton said. “She has great knowledge of the game, carries herself well, and it shows, as she’s gotten the respect of district coaches. She’s got great potential to go on and play collegiately, and she’s the mold that holds us together.”
As for Luczak, who joined the team after playing her freshman season at Jefferson County High, she’s fit right in.
“Dannie has stepped in and taken the role as our enforcer in the post,” Parton said.
“We’ve always been kind of guard-oriented and her showing up has helped (improve) some of our returning post players. Her presence makes everybody else want to step up and play a little sronger around the basket.
“And Micki — she is one of our most overlooked players. She’s one of those girls that we put on the other team’s best scorer. She’s our lockdown defender. She doesn’t get a lot of credit, but she does the dirty work that nobody else wants to do. And if it wasn’t for her, we wouldn’t have all of our wins.”
Meanwhile Pigeon Forge also had a pair of selections to the girls team.
Senior Mindy Brackins and junior Mikayla Trombley were both honored for their efforts for the Lady Tigers team that finished third in district play.
Both average double-figures scoring, and they’re also 1-2 in rebounding for the Lady Tigers.
“Mindy has played a lot of basketball for us,” PF coach Paul Reagan said. “She fully deserves being all-district. She’s a heck of a player and a heck of a person.
“She’s had a part in winning 81 games (through Wednesday), and we’re not done yet. She’s committed to play basketball next year at Maryville College.”
Trombley, who’s been a vital part of the team since her freshman season, is also very important to the team’s success.
“Mikayla is also a joy to coach,” Reagan said. “She is extremely versatile. It’s been her desire to also play college ball, and whover gets her, after this year, will be getting a gem.”
On the boys side, Pigeon Forge had one all-district selection — junior forward Trevor Jain, while the G-P team notched two selections, juniors Steffan Schroeder and Clay Leatherwood.
“It’s always an honor when somebody gets chosen for all-district,” PF coach Jonathan Shultz said of Jain’s selection. “There’s a lot of quality players in this district, so to be chosen is a honor. He’s got great athleticism.”
Jain, after missing the beginning of the season with an injured wrist, has really come on as a scorer and shot-blocker in his junior season for the Tigers, despite not being 100 percent.
Leatherwood and Schroeder are Gatlinburg-Pittman’s leading scorers, and both will have another year in the Highlanders’ program.
Leatherwood’s been a consistent outside threat for the Highlanders since his freshman season, while Shroeder’s really come on the past two seasons, which culminated in a career-high 30-point outing against rival Pigeon Forge last month.