Packers win state championship

Published 5:54 pm Tuesday, February 23, 2021

For the first time in the school’s 115-year history, Smithfield High’s boys basketball team are state champions.

The 61-54 victory over John Handley High School at Winchester on Feb. 20 is a triumph in a year that’s seen student-athletes, coaches and parents work through sustained challenges and changes due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Their sacrifice and persistence paid off. Coach Theotis Porter knew he and the team were about to make history as the game ran down to the final minute, giving the team the Class 4 Virginia High School League title.

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“A lot was going through my head in that moment,” said Porter, who was an assistant coach at King’s Fork in Suffolk when it won the state championship in 2009. “The pressure was different, the feeling was a little different and knowing the journey that myself and the staff have been through with these kids,” he said. “It was a surreal moment, and it just kind of put things in perspective.”

“It was a very fulfilling and great feeling to see that clock go off,” added Porter, who is in his third year at Smithfield.

Matthew Moore, Smithfield’s athletic director, echoed that sentiment.

“This amazing accomplishment couldn’t happen to a more deserving coaching staff or group of student-athletes,” said Moore. “To overcome the late start of the season, the limitations placed on our practices due to the need to implement safety mitigation strategies, and the stress of living through a pandemic, which has been a time of loss for many in our community,  just goes to prove how resilient our student-athletes are. To win our first athletic team championship in our school’s 115-year history considering all of these obstacles is nothing short of impressive.”

Porter said running a successful program through a pandemic is a challenge that everyone met head on.

“Just trying to keep myself, my staff, my family as well as the kids and their families, it was a bit stressful at times dealing with that,” he said. “But once we were able to talk to our parents and our kids and get everybody on the same page it really kind of ran itself at that point. We had our mitigation strategy that our administration put forth, which was a great plan and everyone followed it to a T and we didn’t have any issues along the way.”

Smithfield’s basketball team includes eight seniors. Porter said they plan to continue as college student athletes.

“The student athletes, coaches, and parents should be commended for their dedication during this difficult time,” said Smithfield High Principal Bryan Thrift. “We are thankful [Superintendent Dr. Jim] Thornton allowed our students the opportunity to participate in VHSL athletics. This outlet is essential for students during the pandemic.”

“I cannot overstate how proud I am of all of our winter sport athletes,” Thrift continued. “To bring home the state championship is a major accomplishment for the school and the community.  Watching the bus pull into Smithfield High School escorted by Isle of Wight County Sheriff’s office, led by Sheriff James Clarke, was an emotional experience. The basketball team was greeted by 100-plus fans at the school, honking horns and cheering as the boys got off the bus.  This was the welcome home you would expect from such a great community.”

Porter said he’s in conversation with school leaders to possibly organize some socially distanced celebrations to honor the team. He said the community can stay tuned to social media for details as those plans come together.

Championship team roster

Troy Giles, sophomore

Tristan Baker, senior

Corey Moye, senior

Rashad Tucker, senior

Kelby Saunders, senior

Markese Custis, sophomore

Jabarie Thomas, senior

Sekou Frye, sophomore

Josh Condit, senior

Kevin Parker, sophomore

Ryan Bond, senior

Ché Mullins, senior

Team captains: Rashad Tucker, Kelby Saunders

Head coach: Theotis Porter

Assistant coaches: Keith Goode, Frank Baylor, Tony McGee, Sherlon Savage, Taurus Riddick

Regular season record versus:

Franklin 55-31

Gloucester 72-54

Franklin 67-46

Gloucester 67-52

Poquoson 43-19

Tabb 63-37

Grafton 63-45