This past basketball season saw some high-scoring performances from local standouts, and there’s likely more to come.
With time remaining in their high school careers, Rome High’s Caleb Byrd and Rockmart’s Keyarah Berry led their teams to long-awaited success with stellar efforts on the court.
For their efforts, the two standouts are the 2019 Rome News-Tribune Players of the Year and lead the RN-T All-Area basketball teams for this past season.
Byrd, a rising senior, helped lead Rome's boys' team to its first playoff appearance since 2014 as the Wolves reached the Sweet 16 after upsetting top-seeded Riverwood in the opening round of the Class 5A tournament.
Byrd scored 943 points for the Wolves this past season for an average of 34 points per game, including a 51-point game against Class 6A Forest Park. He also finished with four assists and five rebounds per game.
“Obviously, he did a great job on the court, but he brought just as much off the court,” said Rome boys' head coach Terry Smith, who was an assistant coach on the team this past season. “He’s got great character, and that says a lot. He’s all around a great kid on the court. He’s a competitor, and he plays much bigger than he is.”
Byrd has high hopes for his team as he enters his final season with the Wolves.
“I just want to make it further than we did this year,” Byrd said. “Rome hasn’t been to the playoffs in a long time, so that was a great accomplishment, but we can’t stop at the Sweet 16. We’ve got to keep going. At least to the Final Four, or the championship. That’s what I’m hoping.”
Berry, a rising junior, helped lead Rockmart to a historic season as the Lady Jackets finished with 20 wins for the first time in program history and were crowned region champions for the first time since 1961.
Berry finished the season with an average of 28.3 points per game and scored her 1,000th career point in only her second varsity season. She also averaged eight rebounds and 3.8 steals per game.
“You don’t see those kind of abilities at that age,” Rockmart girls’ head coach Tim Puckett said. “She never shows emotion. When she gets called on something she never looks to the official. She just keeps playing the game. I’ve never had to get onto her for anything. She’s always done what I’ve asked, and everything we’ve thrown at her she’s done.”
In the Region 7-AA tournament, Berry finished with 82 points in two games and eventually led her team to the Class AA Elite Eight, which was also a first for the program.
“I was so glad to be a part of that with my team by my side,” Berry said. “It was a good season. I don’t focus on myself. I like to get others involved and see what they’ve got. It’s not all about me. I want to win state before my senior year.”
Joining Berry on the girls’ first team are Darlington’s Caroline Dingler and Model’s Megan Kent.
Dingler averaged 17.5 points, five rebounds, 4.5 assists and 4.5 steals per game, and scored her 1,000th point in her junior season.
Kent, a senior, led the Lady Blue Devils to the Final Four of the Class AA state playoffs. She averaged a double-double with 13 points and 10.9 rebounds per game.
Joining Byrd on the boys’ first team is Pepperell duo Andrew Wilder and Payton Rhoades.
Wilder, a senior, averaged 20.9 points and 9.1 rebounds per game, his junior teammate, Rhoades, averaged a double-double with 16.3 points and 13.2 rebounds per game,