Demopolis girls win on Senior Night

Published 10:52 pm Thursday, January 29, 2009

Demopolis used its depth and defense to outlast Sunshine Thursday night, picking up a 57-41 win over the visiting Tigers to commemorate senior night.

“You can’t say enough about those four,” head coach Tony Pittman said of seniors Valissa Sams, Aleshia Arnold, Shay Smith and Joshalyn Lawson. “As go our seniors, so goes our basketball team.”

The night was characterized largely by the battle between two of the area’s top female players as Sams was charged with limiting Sunshine’s all-around scoring threat, Shafontaye Myers.

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“Playing against somebody like her, you’ve got to come out with a lot of energy and play with a mindset to get the job done,” Sams said of the task.

“I keep talking about the energy she brings to the game. She is the heart and soul of this basketball team,” Pittman said of Sams. “She can score, but she’d rather play defense. She rebounds. She plays great defense. Somebody will be very lucky to have her next year.”

Thursday night, Sams showed her talents at both ends, scoring 18 points while holding Myers to 10.

“She had a great effort against Taye,” Sunshine head coach Phillip Wagner said of Sams’ work.

His team fell to 17-4 with the loss.

“You’re talking about 17-4. That’s not bad. That’s not bad at all,” Wagner said. “(We) kept it close. We struggled on the boards. I think (we) played well and we’re getting ready for the playoffs.”

Arnold, who opened the game by dropping in a layup off the assist of Smith, added 17 points for Demopolis. Tia Scott scored 10 for Sunshine while Shanquila Carter finished with nine.

For Sams and her fellow seniors, the win set up a bittersweet moment.

“It was exciting,” Sams said of the victory. “But at the same time, this could possibly be our last home game ever.”

Demopolis will need to control its own destiny in the upcoming area tournament in order to earn itself one more time in front of the home fans.

While the night was predicated on the career of the team’s outgoing seniors, Pittman inserted his five youngest players to close the game. The game was capped when eighth-grader Jonniece Collins drained a three-pointer at the buzzer, giving her the first points of her high school career and putting an exclamation point on the evening. After the game, Pittman referred to the moment as a sort of passing of the torch from one group to the next.

For now, however, he and his squad will focus on the impending area tournament in Selma.