Newsome a three-sport standout

Published 9:36 am Thursday, August 11, 2016

When Maria Newsome was around 13, she was couch-potato kid with few goals and no sports aspirations.

“She was just sitting, watching TV and eating. And getting broader and broader,” Maria’s late father, Eddie Newsome, said in 1994. “So I asked myself: ‘If I put a goal up in the driveway, would she make up her mind to play?’ She took to it like a duck takes to water.”

At that time, Maria’s hobbies were dance, piano and art.

“I had a lot of free time,” she said in ‘94. “I wasn’t even doing my homework. I had never played (basketball) before. I thought: ‘I can never do this.’ But my dad kept working with me.”

“I did it for Maria’s sake,” Eddie said. “She was getting too big.”

When Maria tried out the new goal, it was a step into the unknown. As a 1989-90 seventh grader at North Davie Junior High, she made coach MaryAnne (Rankin) Byerly’s seventh/eighth squad – largely because she was 6-foot-2 – but she was a serious work in progress. Eighth graders Andrea Gentry and Shannon Umberger were stars on that 6-6 team.

“Maria was big, but she really didn’t know what was going on,” Byerly said in ‘94. “In our first game against Thomasville, she came into the locker room at halftime and said: ‘Can you believe they fouled me twice?’ Actually, it was Maria who fouled twice. But in one game, she scored 13 points in the first half and you could see potential. She had a long way to go, but once she got interested, it took off.”

Maria Newsome eventually figured it out. She became Miss Everything at Davie from 1992-95 and now she’s headed to the Davie Athletic Hall of Fame. Billy Etchison (Class of ‘76), Denny Key (‘89) and Newsome (‘95) represent the 16th hall of fame class. They will be honored at Davie’s football game on Sept. 2 – before the game in the cafeteria and at midfield at halftime. The 1961-62 boys and girls basketball teams will also be inducted.

As an eighth grader, Newsome played basketball for coach Carol Cozart. The 1991 North track team, coached by Cozart, went undefeated in the North Piedmont Conference, with Newsome winning the conference in the discus. North’s 1991-92 freshman basketball team, coached by Ricky Hendrix, rode Jonette Williard (25.2 points per game) and Newsome (18 ppg) to a 12-game winning streak and the regular-season title. By this time, Newsome’s talent was taking root and growing. She had a three-game stretch with 56 points and 54 rebounds.

“She’s averaging 18 points, but because we’re winning so big, she’s only playing 60 percent of the time,” Hendrix said then.

Her 6-foot-9 father, who played on Hanes Hosiery teams in the 1940s with Bones McKinney, had a profound influence on her development.

“I’ll stand in front of her and hold my arms up and make her shoot over me,” Eddie said. “It helps her playing against somebody bigger. We kept three basketballs in the carport, and if there was daylight, she was out there.”

“In the ninth grade, I’d wait for the bus with my neighbor, Marsha Ellis, and we’d shoot around at about 7 a.m.,” Maria said in ‘94. “I started playing AAU with Buster (Everette). I began thinking then about maybe playing in college. Coach Hendrix really helped me, too.”

“When I started going regularly to the (Davie) YMCA, I’d find her in there every time,” Hendrix said in ‘92. “She’s lost about 30 pounds and you can tell by watching her play how much that has helped.”

Newsome, Katie Desch, Williard and Carmen Cornatzer led coach Roverda Jarvis’ North volleyball team to 10-0 in ‘92. That spring, Cozart’s track team repeated as NPC champion, and Newsome repeated as discus champ with a toss of 95 feet, one inch.

Back then, Davie was a three-year school for Newsome’s class. In basketball, she became the standard by which all centers are measured, and the result was a storybook run. When she was a sophomore, Davie went 20-7 (12-2 for second in the Central Piedmont Conference) and Newsome made All-CPC. When she was a junior, Davie went 22-6 (13-1 CPC), swept the regular-season and tournament titles and made the deepest playoff run (4-A regional) in 15 years as Newsome earned CPC Player of the Year. When she was a senior, Davie went 25-2 (12-0 CPC), swept the regular-season and tournament titles again and made another trip to the regional. Newsome repeated as CPC Player of the Year.

The Davie basketball team’s three-year record with Newsome dominating the paint was 67-15, including 37-3 in the CPC. Davie has not reached the regionals since. Newsome graduated as the No. 3 career scorer and she currently stands fourth. Jill Amos (1,665 points from 1976-80) is first, followed by Amy Steller (1,329 from 2009-13), Deanna Thomas (1,179 from 1976-79) and Newsome (1,138 from 1992-95). Newsome got there in 82 games.

Newsome wasn’t just a star in hoops. She was a three-year stalwart in volleyball for coach Sherrie Myers. In 1992, Newsome, Michelle McHan, Umberger and Casey Jenkins powered Davie to 15-9 and second place in the CPC. The War Eagles extended their playoff streak to seven years, but they suffered a seventh straight first-round loss in narrow fashion, three sets to two against Crest.

“Maria (seven blocks, four kills) and Shannon (nine digs, five kills) were tremendous,” Myers said of the Crest match.

McHan and Jenkins were named to the all-conference team.

Newsome had grown to 6-3 when the 1993 volleyball season arrived. “When (Newsome) is blocking, the top of the net is at her elbows,” Myers said then. “Her timing is incredible and her hands are big. I don’t know why (West Iredell) couldn’t realize that you can’t go through her.”

Davie and Reynolds tied for second – three games behind 12-0 West Forsyth – in the regular season. With only two playoff berths available, Davie’s five-set loss to Reynolds in the CPC Tournament semifinals sent the War Eagles home despite an 18-5 record. Senior Tracie Sechrest and sophomore Williard were named all-conference.

“This is hard to swallow,” Myers said as she waved a tearful good-bye to standout seniors Tracy Robbins, Umberger and Sechrest.

In 1994 volleyball, Davie went 8-4 to earn the third and final playoff berth from the CPC. In the first round of the 4-A playoffs, the War Eagles jumped out to a two games to none lead over powerful Pinecrest, which was 20-1 and ranked No. 5 in the state. Davie collapsed, losing the next three sets to finish with a 12-9 record. It left a nasty scar.

“I don’t mind losing, but when you give them a Christmas present in October, I can’t take that,” Myers said then. “I just couldn’t believe we gave that game away.”

Newsome and junior setter Laura Moyer were named all-conference. “When (Newsome’s) on, nothing gets by her,” Myers said. “You can’t stop her. She was the best middle blocker in the conference and one of the best middle hitters.”

Newsome was also exceptional in track & field. As a sophomore in 1993 under coach Tim Shuford, she captured the CPC in the shot put (33-6) and the discus (95-5), and that winning discus throw wasn’t close to her best (103-3). In the Midwest Regional at Grimsley, she placed second in the discus and third in the shot put to qualify for the state in both events. As a junior in 1994, Newsome repeated as CPC champ in the shot put (33-0) and discus (102-11). In the Midwest Regional, she threw the discus 102 feet to finish third and qualify for the state.

As good as Newsome was in volleyball and track, it was her basketball dominance that sealed her rise to Davie immortality.

The War Eagles went on an unforgettable three-year run, starting with a 20-7, second-place finish in 1992-93. Newsome was a driving force from day one for the late Angie Slabach, accumulating 25 points, 30 rebounds and nine blocks in her first two games. In a blowout win over Reynolds, she had 17 points and 17 rebounds – and didn’t play in the fourth quarter. Dudley was an insurmountable hurdle that year, handing Davie all three losses during a 14-3 stretch.

It would be impossible to discuss Newsome’s legacy without mentioning the talent around her. Take a 67-52 first-round playoff win over Glenn. Umberger, who was a major contributor inside at 5-11, burned the Bobcats with 14 points and 15 rebounds.

“It looked like they had seen film or a scouting report and they were really overplaying Maria,” Slabach said then.

Davie was plagued by foul trouble in a 62-56 second-round loss at Crest. Newsome (four points, three shots, three quick fouls), Umberger and Tamica Cain were all hampered by fouls.

Senior Cain, junior Gentry and sophomore Newsome – who averaged 11.6 points, 10.9 rebounds, 1.9 blocks and hit 54.5 percent from the field – were named to the All-CPC team. “Maria is good, but she hasn’t reached half of her potential,” Slabach said.

The 1993-94 basketball team wasn’t just equipped to win. It was equipped to dominate. It was comprised of essentially the same team as the year before, and it did not disappoint, going 22-6 and claiming the CPC at 13-1.

In the Sam Moir Christmas tournament at Catawba, Davie smacked South Rowan by 20, beat West Rowan by five to avenge an earlier loss and crushed East Rowan by 19 in the finals. In the semifinals, Davie overcame 30 points from West Rowan center Wendy Hampton, who was a Florida State signee. Newsome was voted tournament MVP. Carrie Brown and Tami Ramsey joined her on the all-tournament team.

“This is the best team we’ve had in a long time,” Slabach said. “(Newsome) intimidates other players. Our girls leave practice bumped up. It hurts when she bumps into them.”

The War Eagles notched their first regular-season title in 10 years, dating to Slabach’s senior year at Davie in 1983-84. In the CPC Tournament final at Davie, the War Eagles whipped West Forsyth 58-45 to avenge their only league loss. Newsome poured in 20 points as Davie kicked into high gear after trailing 27-26 at intermission.

In the sectional final, Davie avoided disaster and staved off Hoke County 60-59 for its 19th win in 20 games. It held a commanding 56-41 lead with 2:32 to play before Hoke banged five straight 3-pointers to make it 59-56 with 27 seconds left. Brown hit the game-icing free throw. This qualified Davie for the Western 4-A Regionals, marking the deepest run since the 1979 team finished as 3-A runner-up.

“These girls are focussed,” Slabach said. “They believe they are going to Chapel Hill for the state finals. I believe it, too. I’m so happy for this team. They’ve come full circle. They won eight games their sophomore year and 42 the next two. They’ll look back on their high-school career with some great memories.”

In the regional at Hickory, Davie was simply outmanned by Freedom, losing 66-47 to the eventual state champion. The Patriots, who finished 28-1, had returned five starters from a state runner-up team in 1993, and they were averaging 70 points a game. They buried Crest 73-51 in the regional final and blistered Terry Sanford 80-51 in the state final.

“I don’t think we played all that bad,” Slabach said. “They’re a great team. They were better than I thought they were going to be.”

Four of the 12 All-CPC players were War Eagles, headlined by player-of-the-year Newsome (14.5 points, 12.1 rebounds). Seniors Brown (12.8 ppg) and Gentry (8 ppg, assist leader) and sophomore Ramsey (11.4 ppg) made all-conference.

A few weeks later, Slabach resigned at age 27 after guiding the War Eagles for six years. Her first child, Lake, was 10 months old. The beloved coach passed away May 8, 2013 after a three-year battle with breast cancer.

“It was mainly a family decision,” Slabach said in April ‘94. “We want to have some more children and we wanted me to stay home with them.” Slabach wrote letters to every member of the team, wishing them well for next year.

Laddin Lakey, the new coach, was handed a rose garden for the 1994-95 basketball season. With Newsome surrounded by Beth Wall, Ramsey, Elizabeth Greene and Williard, there was no way Davie wasn’t going to be a great team. The performance matched the hype as Davie went 25-2, obliterated the CPC and rose to sixth in the state while matching the school record for wins (the 1981-82 team also finished 25-2).

Reynolds coach Jeff Faullin marveled at the gold-plated lineup.

“Greene is an excellent player,” he said then. “She is a scrapper. Wall is a great point guard. Maria is strong in the post. There’s no way you can hold her down. Tami just does everything.”

Newsome’s legend just kept growing. She had a career-high 27 points and 14 rebounds against South Rowan. She had 26 points and 17 rebounds against Mt. Tabor. For the season, she averaged 15.5 points and 16 rebounds, including nine 20-point games.

In the CPC Tournament final at Mt. Tabor, Davie blew a 59-50 lead before pulling out a nerve-wracking 66-64 victory over West Forsyth. Newsome was her usual self with 24 points, including two clutch free throws to tie the game at 62. Williard was everywhere with 11 points, eight rebounds and seven assists. But it was Greene and Wall who rescued Davie in the closing seconds.

Greene converted a driving layup to tie the score at 64 with 25 seconds left. “You’d think I’d have been real nervous, but my mind was totally blank,” Greene said then. “I just shot it.”

With the game tied and four seconds left, Wall nailed two free throws to secure Davie’s 16th straight win. “It was the most nervous I’ve ever been,” Wall said then. “It’s the best I’ve felt since I don’t know when. I’m relieved.”

Davie received a first-round bye in the state playoffs. In the sectional semifinals, Wall was the story in a 60-56 win over Hoke County. Not only did she score 20 points, she single-handedly erased a 56-53 deficit with a seven-point flurry. In the Sectional 2 final, Newsome’s 21 points and 21 rebounds overwhelmed Purnell Swett, 59-41. Davie had punched a second straight ticket to the 4-A regional.

In the Western Regional semifinals at Hickory, North Forsyth pulled a 44-39 upset, avenging a playoff loss to Davie in 1994 and ending Davie’s win streak at 18. Davie could trace the loss to 23 turnovers.

“Last year we focussed so much on stopping Newsome that we forgot about (guards) Gentry, Brown and Ramsey,” N. Forsyth coach Mike Muse said then. “This year our concentration was stopping the wing people. We feel we did a good job and that was the key to the game.”

N. Forsyth would get smothered in the regional final, losing 63-36 to Freedom. Although it was a disappointing exit for Davie, you can’t forget 25-2. Newsome repeated as CPC Player of the Year. Senior Wall (7.5 ppg, five assists, gritty defender) and junior Ramsey (12 ppg, 11 rebounds) were named all-conference.

“I have disappointment for the girls tonight, but we had a fantastic year,” Lakey said. “I was real fortunate to have a good group of girls. When we get to be 70 years old, we can say we were 25-2.”

Newsome was recruited by Wake Forest, Duke, UNC-Charlotte, UNC-Wilmington, North Carolina, Clemson and Pepperdine, among others. But she turned down the Division-I offers to sign a full grant to play volleyball and basketball at Division-II Catawba, a short drive from her Farmington home.

“My AAU coach is real good friends with the coach at Duke, so he wanted me to talk to them,” Newsome said then. “But I did not want to go there. I didn’t really want to go to a Division-I school. I always looked at Catawba. The other choices were backups. I really liked the coaches and it’s close to home. So if anything happens to mom or dad (they were in their 60s at the time), I’ll be close. And they want to come watch me play.”

Newsome had a ridiculous start to her college career. As a freshman volleyball player in 1995, she racked up 343 blocks (solos plus combos) for the No. 3 all-time mark in a season. Her 99 solo blocks ranked No. 2 in the record book. She was a starter in both sports her first two years, but she left school after her sophomore year to help out with her ailing parents. Her Catawba career is one of those we’ll-never-know deals.

“I came back home and helped with my parents,” she said last week. “Mom and dad were in really bad health. That really disappointed them a bunch. They were at that age where it was either a nursing home or somebody take care of them at the house. I chose to come back home so they wouldn’t have to go into a nursing home. When my mom (Willa) passed away, I decided to go back and I graduated in 2006.”

Maria Newsome and husband Chris Bost – she kept her maiden name “for the sake of mom and dad,” she said – live in Farmington and have two children. Daughter Acy Bost is 14 and son Whitson Bost is 7.

The induction honor blew her away and stirred memories of an incredibly fun ride.

“I have to admit this is a really cool birthday gift, especially since I’m turning 40 (on Dec. 9),” she said. “I have been told I’m too humble. I don’t keep up with all these kinds of things. I was just happy I was able to play and met some awesome folks. This whole process makes me miss (my parents) so much. I was very lucky to have the best parents in the world, and I’m extremely fortunate to be able to say they were so much more than parents. They were my best friends.”