The McDowell Titans played in a new conference this season, but some things remained the same.
Titans head coach Brian Franklin was named the Northwestern 3A/4A Conference boys Coach of the Year in voting by the league’s coaches released this week. Franklin received the same honor last season during the Titans’ final year as part of the Mountain Athletic Conference.
It’s the third COY award in boys’ hoops for McDowell’s seventh-year head coach. Prior to taking over the Titans’ program, Franklin was named Coach of the Year twice with the Lady Titans.
He is almost certainly the first person in the history of the Northwestern Conference to win Coach of the Year in both boys’ and girls’ basketball as well as being named the league’s Player of the Year, an honor he earned twice.
In addition, McDowell standouts Skyler McKinney and Kevin Silver were named to the all-conference team, while Lady Titans Dezi Williams and Makayla Brewer also earned all-NWC honors.
Franklin deflected the praise to McDowell’s players and assistant coaches.
“It is an honor to be recognized as the Coach of the Year in this league,” he said. “It is just another reflection of what a great group of players we had this year and of the tremendous season that they had. So much of the credit should go to the entire coaching staff. Joe Cash, Allen Tate and Turner Kincaid are all McDowell Titans. They take a great deal of pride in our school and our basketball program. They work extremely hard, and care a great deal about every player in our program.
“I'm thankful to each coach and player for the privilege of working with them daily.”
Franklin led the Titans to a 21-7 overall record and an 11-3 mark in the NWC. McDowell finished third in the conference standings behind Hickory (27-3) and Freedom (23-4), and was one of only three teams to defeat conference champs Hickory this year. The Titans advanced to the State 4A playoffs for the 31st time in the last 33 seasons.
This year’s McDowell team also became just the third group to win 20 or more games in two consecutive seasons in school history. The Titans went 25-3 in 2016-17. McDowell graduated three starters – and virtually all of its size – off that club, but still managed to compete with the league’s elite despite being one of the conference’s smallest teams.
McKinney and Silver were both vital to the Titans’ success.
A two-time all-conference selection, McKinney was sensational all season. He averaged 14.5 points, 10.6 rebounds, 5.1 assists and 1.3 steals per contest while shooting 45 percent from the field. The 6-foot-5 wing led the club in rebounds and assists for the second consecutive season.
McKinney racked up 19 double-doubles, including 12 in a row during a remarkable stretch in December and January. He also rang up two triple-doubles, both in wins over Watauga. Sixteen times, McKinney had double-doubles in points and rebounds to go with five or more assists.
He finishes his three-year varsity career with 1,004 points, 660 rebounds, 308 assists and 129 steals.
Silver, a 6-foot senior point guard, made the team after earning honorable-mention status as a junior in the MAC. Silver, who possessed an uncanny knack for making game-winning and game-sealing shots down the stretch, led the Titans in scoring, averaging 17 per game.
Silver also averaged 3.3 rebounds and 2.6 assists per contest. He led the team with 1.7 steals per game. Silver shot a team-best 39.5 percent from 3-point range, going 87-of-220 for the year.
Among Silver’s more memorable clutch baskets were a 3-pointer with 12 seconds left that gave the Titans a 61-60 win at St. Stephens; a bomb from the corner that put McDowell up 81-77 on Freedom with a minute to go in an 84-78 win in the semifinals of the conference tournament in Morganton; and a four-point play with a minute remaining that secured the Titans’ win over Hickory.
Silver finishes his three-year varsity career with 860 points and 167 3-pointers.
Williams, a junior guard, was named all-conference for the second time in her three-year varsity career. She led the team in scoring at 11.1 points per game, and was also tops in assists (2.5 apg) and steals (3.1 spg). Williams was third on the team in rebounding at 3.9 per contest. She led the Lady Titans in scoring 12 times.
Brewer, a sophomore post, made her first appearance on the all-league team. Brewer led the club in rebounding at 7.9 per game. She also shot a team-best 57.3 percent from the floor. Brewer was third in scoring at 8.3 per game. She also averaged 1.6 assists and shot 75 percent from the free throw line. Brewer led the team in rebounds 12 times despite missing two conference games with an injured knee.
Joining McKinney and Silver on the all-conference team were Hickory’s Torrey James and Jaquan Thurman; Freedom’s Jakari Dula, Fletcher Abee and Michael Logan; West Caldwell’s Kaleb Dula and Tre Hall; St. Stephens’ Teavius Henry; Watauga’s Bryant Greene; Alexander Central’s Jem Lowrance; and South Caldwell’s Kaden Anderson.
Abee, a junior guard, was named Player of the Year after averaging 19.4 points, 5.3 assists and 3.4 rebounds per game for the Patriots.
The girls’ all-conference team included Williams and Brewer; Watauga’s Madie Darner, Rebekah Farthing and Brooke Byrd; Freedom’s Blaikley Crooks, Adair Garrison and C.C. Davenport; South Caldwell’s MacKenzie Starnes and Payton Kale; St. Stephens’ Tori Tomlinson; Hickory’s Shelby Darden; West Caldwell’s Annie Bean; and Alexander Central’s KeyKey Miller.
South Caldwell’s Starnes, a senior guard, was named Player of the Year after averaging 16 points per game. Watauga’s Laura Barry, who led the Pioneers to a 22-5 record and a share of the conference regular-season championship with Freedom, was named Coach of the Year.