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Belk, Priester reap boys' laurels

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By Robert Howey

First-year Andrew Jackson High School basketball coach Dale Reeves didn't have a great deal of returning experience this season, but his top returnee did all he could to boost the Volunteers.

AJ Vols' center Jonathan Belk, the team's lone returning starter, produced a solid senior campaign in helping the Vols to a tie for second-place in the regular-season Region VIII-AA race and a Class AA Lower State playoff berth.

Belk, for his steady play this season, was named The Lancaster News' Player of the Year for boys basketball.

Belk shared top hoops honors with Lancaster High School boys' basketball coach Richardo Priester, who was named boys' basketball county coach of the year.

Priester followed up a disappointing two-win season with eight victories this winter. LHS made some headway in rugged Region III-AAAA play, winning three games after going winless last season.

Belk, an all-region pick, led Lancaster County boys' basketball teams in scoring, hitting 14.5 points per game. Belk also averaged 5.9 rebounds per game.

"Jonathan had a solid year for us," Reeves said. "He made a lot of improvement offensively and defensively. He really improved each week and it was reflected in our team."

Indian Land coach Nate Smith also saluted Belk's season.

"Jonathan took his game to a different level," Smith said. "He carried himself well and was a good leader on a young team. He had a lot to do with what they accomplished."

Smith said Priester and the LHS staff, which included Jerron Cauthen and Bo Silvia, had its share of hardwood progress.

"They made improvement over last season in a tough region," Smith said. "Wins were still tough to come by, but they made some strides. They were more competitive in their region and an improved basketball team. Lancaster took steps in rebuilding its program."

Priester said the team's five seniors provided solid leadership and a boost for the future.

"We want to take the positives we had this season and build on them for next year," he said. "We have a good, solid group returning."

Two Bruins are on the all-county first team, including junior guards Shurdell Wright and Michael Catoe.

Catoe averaged 10 points, four rebounds, two assists and two steals a game.

Wright netted 10 points per game with three rebounds, two assists and two steals a game.

AJ's Ryan Miller, a solid sophomore who earned all-region honors with Belk, is an all-county first-teamer. Miller averaged 12 points a game and 7.7 rebounds, tops in the county.

Buford's Qua Reid, an all-region pick, and Indian Land's Travis Anderson round out the first team.

Reid, an all-region selection, was second in the county in scoring, averaging 13.2 points per game to go with 4.4 rebounds for the Jackets.

Anderson, on IL's 7-16 team, hit 8.9 points a game and grabbed 7.5 rebounds per contest.

Second team: Mitchell Belk (L), Justin Gordon (IL), JoJo Morris (BHS), Justin Sellers (AJ), Jabari Williams (B), Daniel Wright (AJ)

Player and coach of the year awards and all-county selections were made from nominations by the four boys county coaches.

Contact sports editor Robert Howey at 283-1157