The McDowell Lady Titans didn’t win the Northwestern 3A/4A Conference championship, but they swept the top postseason awards in voting by the league’s coaches.
Lady Titans senior guard Dezi Williams was named the conference’s Player of the Year, while Jennifer Kinninger was named Coach of the Year.
In addition, Lady Titans Makenna Parkins and Makaylah Chandler were named to the girls’ all-conference team, while the Titans’ Dylan McRary was selected to the boys’ all-conference team.
Williams averaged 12.1 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game and led the team with 71 steals. She shot 80 percent from the line and 43 percent from the floor. An excellent defender, Williams often guarded the other team’s best perimeter player.
“I can't put into words how proud I am of Dezi and all she has accomplished and done for our program,” said Kinninger. “For four years we have relied on her athleticism, her defense, her ability to get to the basket and how she is willing to sacrifice her body for hustle plays to benefit our team. She has been a blessing to coach and it has been an honor to watch her come in as a freshman trying to figure things out to now a senior who has led our team and is walking away with such an impressive award.
“She has represented our program, our school and her family in such an amazing way. We will really miss Dezi and all she brought to our program, but so glad she and our other seniors are able to walk away with a great season and with her receiving the Player of the Year award that she so deserves.”
Williams wrapped up her four-year varsity career as a three-time all-conference selection who scored 1,070 career points. She was the first Lady Titan since Markia Stacey in 2013-14 to win conference Player of the Year.
Kinninger, in her eighth year, earned the NWC’s top coaching honor for the first time, although she was named Coach of the Year twice when McDowell was part of the Mountain Athletic Conference. She led the Lady Titans to a 17-10 overall mark and a 10-4 league record, which tied McDowell with Watauga and Hickory for second place behind conference champion Freedom.
Kinninger said she was humbled by the honor.
“I am so humbled that I would be selected for this award when I coach with so many amazing coaches in our league,” she said. “It is a blessing and privilege every day to get to coach these young ladies and see them grow as players and young women. It should never say ‘Coach of the Year’ but ‘Coaches’ because (assistants) Laura (Boles) and Turner (Kincaid) do so much for our program and really invest into our girls.
“This award has nothing to do with me but everything to do with our players. They come and work every day and represent our program in such an amazing way. God has given me the opportunity to be called their coach and I am so thankful for that.”
Parkins, a junior post, led McDowell in scoring at 12.6 per game and rebounding with 9.6 per contest. The versatile Parkins also averaged 1.6 assists and collected 39 steals. She shot a team-best 46 percent from the floor.
Chandler, a tenacious senior forward who played at North Buncombe prior to this year, averaged 7 points, 4.5 boards and a team-high 2.2 assists while making off with 21 steals.
McRary, a 5-foot-11 senior guard, led the Titans in several statistical categories and was the club’s most consistent scorer all season. McRary averaged team-highs of 18.2 points, 3.1 assists and 2.2 steals to go along with 4.3 rebounds per game. He shot a team-high 33 percent from 3-point range, going 49-of-151.
In addition to being named all-conference, McRary has been selected to play in the Annual Blue-White All-Star Game in Asheville.
“Dylan has had an outstanding career at McDowell High School,” said Titans head coach Brian Franklin. “He was an integral part of the team his junior year that won 21 games. And, he came back improved for his senior year and had an outstanding season.
“I'm thrilled to see Dylan chosen as all-conference and also as a member of the Blue-White game, both of which are very deserving. He is even a better person than he is a basketball player and we will miss him. I think he will continue to improve in college and look forward to watching his career unfold.”
Joining Williams, Chandler and Parkins on the girls’ All-NWC team were Freedom’s Blaikley Crooks, Adair Garrison and Madison Bailey; Watauga’s Cailey Haas and Rebekah Farthing; Hickory’s Iness Knox and Shelby Darden; South Caldwell’s Kaitlyn Propst; St. Stephens’ Alaysha McHenry; West Caldwell’s Jaleah Battle; and Alexander Central’s Lanie Hammer.
The boys’ team included McRary; Freedom’s Jakari Dula, Fletcher Abee, Michael Logan and James Freeman; Hickory’s Cody Young and Davis Amos; Alexander Central’s Jem Lowrance and Lyndon Strickland; St. Stephens’ Axavier Byrd; Watauga’s Blane St. Clair; West Caldwell’s Anthony Isbell; and South Caldwell’s Justin Eggers.
Abee, a senior guard who has committed to The Citadel, was named Player of the Year for the second consecutive season. Freedom coach Casey Rogers earned Coach of the Year honors after leading the Patriots to the conference regular-season championship and a 28-3 overall record.