Tidewater Academy ranked No. 1 in state

Published 8:21 am Friday, January 16, 2009

WAKEFIELD—Boys’ basketball at Tidewater Academy, which has been a successful tradition since 1964, has become a model this year for the rest of the state. When the Virginia Independent Schools Division III poll came out on Monday, the Warriors were ranked No. 1 in the state.

Tidewater Academy upped its record to 13-0 and 7-0 in the Virginia Commonwealth Conference with a 71-57 victory over Amelia Academy Tuesday night.

Tidewater head coach Walter Westbrook, who has been involved with the program since 1982, said the nine players on his squad are all contributing in some way.

“They are very good defensively. They enjoy playing with each other and they share the ball extremely well,” he said. “The best thing about this team is that each has accepted their role on the team and they enjoy their role. Every one of them can do something well.”

Leading scorer Casey Rickmond is averaging about 18 points per game. Clinton Hellyer is a three-year player and a co-captain with Rickmond. Ryan Stephenson is a rebounder and scorer. Point guard Austin Westbrook is leading the team in assists. Tommy Starks is the first player of the bench and the team’s second leading scorer.

Although he thought the Warriors would be good this season, Westbrook is surprised by the team’s undefeated record.

“I thought we’d be one of the top four teams in the VCC and probably one of the top 10 teams in the state,” he said. “We have 31 teams in Division III. It’s still early in the year and we still have about eight weeks left to play. They just exceeded my expectations because of how well they play with each other.”

A key victory this season was a six-point victory over Evangel Christian, last year’s Division III champion, on Dec. 20. Evangel was ranked No. 1 in the state at that time. Evangel has since dropped to third. Isle of Wight Academy, at 10-3 as of the poll, is ranked seventh in the state. Ten coaches and athletic directors across the state vote for the top 10.

With just nine players and a long way to go, Westbrook warned about unforeseen obstacles.

“This team, in my opinion, is off to a successful start and hopefully to a successful season. At this level (Division III), you are only one injury or an academic casualty away from a super year being a good year,” he said.