Girls basketball dominates, Bridwell sticks in bigs in 2017

Four was No. 1 in the Texas Panhandle in 2017.


In a historic year for area high school girls basketball, four teams from the region headed to the state tournament in San Antonio, and all four came home with state championships. Appropriately, they won their titles on March 4.

The accomplishments of Canyon, Canadian, Panhandle and Nazareth were unanimously recognized by the Globe-News sports staff as the Panhandle’s No. 1 sports story of the year. On a 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 points system, all Globe-News staffers voted the girls hoops success as the top story of the year.

Here is a list of the top 10 stories from 1-10 in the Panhandle in 2017, ranging from the celebratory to the tumultuous. It was an interesting year to say the least.

1. Four Panhandle girls schools win state high school basketball championships (30 points): Saturday morning at the Alamodome began appropriately enough with Nazareth as the first area team competing for a title. The Swiftettes entered their Class 1A championship game against Dodd City with a state record 20 championships, six of which were won under coach Joe Lombard, whose name will, well, pop up later on during this day.

Nazareth ended the season with a 35-game winning streak, as coach (and Nazareth graduate) Eric Schilling won his third state championship in four years as the Swiftettes won 48-42, with senior Allie Schulte and freshman Cambrie Heiman concluding and begginning their Naz championship careers respectively.

About 15 minutes after Nazareth took home another trophy, Canadian was trying for its first state title in its second try.

Canadian faced Buffalo for the Class 3A title after being ranked No. 1 in the state for most of the season. The Lady Wildcats fell behind in the second half, but senior Haevyn Risley led a comeback with 13 points in the fourth quarter, as Avery Pennington hit a short jumper with 40 seconds left to put Canadian ahead for good in a 51-49 victory to bring home the school’s first state title.

Panhandle, meanwhile, was playing for its second state title in Class 2A, on the 25th anniversary of its 1992 state title. The Pantherettes came into this season on a mission, after losing in the 2A state championship game a year earlier.

That experience seemed to make Panhandle a year older and wiser this year, as the Pantherettes won a tense championship game over Martin’s Mill 50-43, bringing the Pantherettes their first state title in a quarter century.

And the stage was cleared for the headlining act, Canyon. For the fourth straight year, Lombard took the Lady Eagles to the state title game, and this time around they faced their toughest challenge in Mansfield Timberview, a team who’d already beaten them at a tournament earlier in the season.

Timberview took a 12-point lead in the first half over Canyon, but as usual under Lombard, the Lady Eagles remained cool. They chipped away at the lead and senior Angel Hayden, who won her third straight state title game MVP award, scored the final five points to lift Canyon to a 47-45 victory.

That all adds up to 4+4 = No. 1.

2. (tie) Parker Bridwell breaks through as a major league pitcher and Jan Barker retires after a legendary career (24): A young figure making his splash on the national stage and a local legend saying goodbye to a phenomenal career tied for the No. 2 spot.

Hereford native Bridwell was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in the ninth round in 2010, and after six years in the minors, got a cup of coffee with the big club in 2016. But shortly after the start of the 2017 season, the Orioles decided there wasn’t a spot for Bridwell in their organization, and on April 17, traded him to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim for cash considerations.

Bridwell bounced between the Angels’ Class AAA affiliate in Salt Lake City and Anaheim as the organization tried to get him to make the transition from the bullpen back to starting. Even though Bridwell made his first career start on May 30 against the Atlanta Braves, he ended up going back to Salt Lake for a relief appearance two weeks later.

When Bridwell was called back to Anaheim again, though, he stayed. He ended up making 20 starts for the Angels and showed he belonged, posting a 10-3 record with a 3.64 ERA and figures to be a fixture in the starting rotation in 2018.

While Bridwell is getting started, Barker decided it was time to stop. On Nov. 27, after a 31-year coaching career that featured 1,116 wins and 10 state championships, the Amarillo High volleyball coach announced her retirement.

Barker, who won a state championship with the Lady Sandies in 2016, finished this past season with a 39-8 record and a berth in the Region I-5A semifinals. Earlier this year, she was voted into the Texas Girls Coaches Association Hall of Fame.

After Thanksgiving, Barker decided she wanted to spend more time with her family, including a 7-month-old grandson. So ended a career that featured at least one playoff victory in every season, highlighted by a stint from 2006-09 where she won four straight state championships.

4. Amarillo announces that Class AA baseball is returning to town in 2019 after a 37-year absence (21): It was a rare summer without baseball in Amarillo, as no independent team played at Potter County Memorial Stadium. But appropriately enough on the first day of summer, it was announced that affiliated baseball would return to town for the first time since 1982.

On June 21, the Elmore Sports Group announced that it would be moving its Class AA Texas League franchise from San Antonio to Amarillo for the 2019 baseball season. The team is scheduled to move into a $45.5 million downtown stadium and give Amarillo affiliated minor league baseball for the first time since the Amarillo Gold Sox, a San Diego Padres affiliate, left town in 1982. The stadium is expected to be completed by Feburary 2019.

5. Amarillo High football coach Mel Maxfield surprisingly submits his resignation after eight years at the school (20): The day after Barker retired, another coaching change jolted the Amarillo High campus, as head football coach Mel Maxfield decided to resign after eight years at the school.

Despite a 65-29 record at AHS and a 239-113-1 career mark that made him the winningest coach in the Texas Panhandle, Maxfield stepped down after saying it was a consensus decision with the school district that a fresh voice was needed in the football program. While the Sandies made the playoffs every season Maxfield was at the school, they were eliminated in the first round each of the last two seasons.

6. David Chavlovich becomes West Texas A&M men’s basketball all-time leading scorer (8): In terms of career length, it didn’t take David Chavlovich long to become immortalized in the WT record books.

Late in his junior season on Feb. 4 in Odessa, Chavlovich became the school’s all-time leading scorer in a 77-73 loss to UT-Permian Basin, hitting a 3-point shot 40 seconds into the second half. He passed Martin Lattibeaudire, who held the previous record at 1,566 points.

Chavlovich, now a senior, continues to break a school record every time he scores, as his point total is at 2,020 and counting.

7. (tie) Dumas has a stellar athletic year, winning state wrestling title and District 3-5A football championship and Kevin Blaskowski resigns after 12 seasons as West Texas A&M softball coach (6): While Dumas High is apparently saying goodbye to its last full calendar year Class 5A, Blaskowski said the same to a successful softball program he helped build this past fall.

Dumas brought home a state team championship in boys wrestling in February, scoring 92 points at the Class 5A state meet to edge Randall by a point as Zach Garza won the 152-pound individual title to finish a season where he was 40-0. Nine months later, the Demons capped a perfect District 3-5A football season by routing Amarillo High 36-3, giving them their first district title on the gridiron since 1997.

An even bigger surprise took place in Canyon on Oct. 15 when Blaskowski resigned to persue what he termed a business opportunity as Director of Softball Operations for DFW Express Fastpitch. Blaskowski posted a 467-246 record at WT and led the Lady Buffs to the 2014 NCAA Division II national championship.

9. (tie) Amarillo native Mike Scroggins is voted into the PBA Hall of Fame and Canyon softball team makes history by becoming first Panhandle school to reach the UIL state tournament (5): Scroggins and Canyon softball both recorded historic firsts in their respective fields in 2017.

On Feb. 13, Scroggins became the first person from Amarillo to be inducted into the Professional Bowling Association Hall of Fame in Shawnee, Okla. Scroggins has won eight national PBA tour titles, including the Masters and the U.S. Open.

Meanwhile, the Canyon softball team showed that the basketball wasn’t the only girls sport on campus represented at a state tournament. The Lady Eagles went undefeated in 3-5A and rolled through the playoffs all the way to the state tournament in Austin in June.

Honorable mentions: There were other stories in the area which were worthy of recognition this year and received votes from the staff. Valley’s Jake Merrell won all three distance events at the Class 1A state track meet, Sherwin Cox retired after 38 years as Ross Rogers Golf Complex head pro and the West Texas A&M women won the national team track championship.