Carrollton Varsitys Breakthrough

Hebron rising junior Aryanna Jimison, right, was named newcomer of the year for District 6-6A girls soccer.

The 29th ESPY Awards, the annual ceremony devoted to honoring standout professional and collegiate athletes and teams of the past year, aired on Saturday.

It's the sports equivalent to the Oscars or Grammys, so Star Local Media has decided in recent years to put a high school spin on the concept.

The 2020-21 school year won’t be soon forgotten by the athletes, coaches and fans involved, as high schools adapted to the change brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and managed to play out a full year of high school sports.

During that time, Carrollton and Lewisville showcased no shortage of notable individual and team athletic achievements, so it’s only appropriate to put the last year of local sports into an award-winning perspective. In the coming weeks, the city’s top athletes, teams and games will be recognized among nine different awards.

With that said, Star Local Media presents the ninth edition of The Varsitys.

 

Best Game

Lewisville vs. Plano East girls basketball, Jan. 19

The Lady Farmers gave the eventual District 6-6A champions all they could handle in this mid-January showdown.

Lewisville led for the near-entirety of the ballgame, deploying a stifling brand of defense that walled off any activity in paint by the Lady Panthers. Lewisville forced a number of errant looks inside and managed to generate some points off turnovers on the other end of the floor as well.

Buoyed by strong defensive play by rising junior Mya Dotson and alum Haley Allen, the Lady Farmers led East 22-17 at halftime before the Lady Panthers’ own defense returned the favor over the final two quarters. East’s vaunted press helped account for 24 turnovers to chip away at the Lewisville lead, which set up a dramatic homestretch between the two eventual playoff qualifiers.

After East rising senior Tiana Amos and Dotson traded free throws in the game’s closing moments for a 38-37 Lady Farmer lead, the Lady Panthers conjured some late-game heroics after Amos converted an off-balance layup through traffic with 1.1 seconds remaining for a 39-38 East lead.

On a different night, perhaps that basket is called a charge given Allen’s defensive positioning during the shot attempt, but it was instead the decisive bucket for the Lady Panthers as they preserved their unbeaten record in district play. 

Breakthrough Athlete

Aryanna Jimison, Hebron girls soccer

A perennial playoff team, the Lady Hawks elevated their game for the team’s first regional quarterfinal appearance since 2017. Hebron did so despite entrusting heavy minutes to a number of underclassmen who performed well beyond their years during the 2021 season.

Look no further than Jimison, who was named District 6-6A’s newcomer of the year after a breakout sophomore campaign for the Lady Hawks. A force in the midfield, Jimison scored 14 goals and assisted on 12 others for Hebron, including both goals scored in the team’s bi-district upset of state-ranked Allen.

Jimison was one of the key pieces behind Hebron’s midseason turnaround — the Lady Hawks erased a 1-3-1 start to district play by winning nine of their final 12 matches of the season.

Biggest Moment

High school sports return during COVID-19 pandemic

To what extent there would even be a high school athletics year was in question during the summer of 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic shut down springtime sports around the state in March 2020 and put local high school programs in limbo as to what would lie ahead.

A light at the end of the tunnel appeared in June when schools were given the go-ahead to conduct limited summer workouts with an added emphasis on hygiene and social distancing.

The next dominoes fell in mid-July when the UIL staggered the start of the athletics year for the state’s smallest and largest classifications — delaying the start of sports like football and volleyball until September for 5A and 6A schools.

As areas like Celina took to the playing field on schedule in August, it required adapting to myriad protocols — limitations on attendance, socially distanced crowds and sideline benches, plus athletes competing while masked.

It was the “new normal” of trying to afford student-athletes an opportunity to ply their crafts during a pandemic, and although it meant braving plenty of change, it was a welcome sight for the athletes, coaches and fans alike.

By the end of the school year, the UIL completed its entire athletics calendar and crowned state champions in every classification.

For continued news and coverage on the local sports scene, follow Matt Welch on Twitter.

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