First place: Richard Walker, The Gaston Gazette

Follow Richard on Twitter @JRWalk22

Each entry is strong. The profile of the basketball player who fought back from hip surgery reveals the life lessons taught by sports. The 50-year mystery of the woman placing flowers on a star athlete’s grave is a sure talker in the town. The 50-year look-back at breaking the color barrier in Legion baseball is well-reported and the timeline adds nicely to the package.

Second place: Chris Singleton, Houma Today

Read online: Concerns arise over football-field conditions, Mother upset about school’s response to post-game attack

Follow Chris on Twitter @courierchris

It’s refreshing to see a sports writer enter two news stories: football field conditions and a melee after a basketball game. These are the types of issues too often overlooked in sports sections. The feature entry on the retiring coach also was well-reported.

Third place: James Bennett, The Daily Herald

Read online: Fans come to Columbia for theater of the absurd, From insult to inspiration: NBA team’s play on court makes up for missteps off it

Good depth in reporting on pro teams in coverage area and nice change of pace in coverage to write about the theater of the absurd: pro wrestling.