ALEXANDRIA — Daniel Dunn wowed everyone during the East Ascension’s 61-41 win over Zachary at the Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA Girls Basketball tournament Thursday night.
The young man from the EAHS student section turned a series and flips up and down the court during two breaks in the action, much to the delight of the crowd.
As impressive as Dunn’s feat was, it could not match the maturity and sportsmanship both teams and their coaches displayed afterwards. If you read our Friday edition you saw that East Ascension was awfully impressive too.
Yes, the games and the championships won are important. But high school sports are about much more than that, something these teams showed.
The postgame interview process is not always my favorite. It usually goes well for the winning team. Articulating success often comes easy. But losing? That is much tougher.
“Coming here was the best decision I have ever made,” said Zachary coach Tami McClure at the end second season at the school. “Just the turnaround from last year and learning what they need to do, I’m very proud of these three and our whole team.”
Later, McClure turned to seniors JaMecia Profit, Rayah Haynes and Bryana Langford and told them she loved them and what they had accomplished not only by bringing Zachary it its first LHSAA tourney since 1984 but every day.
Each girl spoke frankly about how it felt to have one of those nights, a night when the shots didn’t fall and when the opponent was better.
“Me personally, I didn’t do anything for my team tonight,” a disappointed Haynes said. “These four years at Zachary High I grew as a better player and a better teammate. I’m always going to have happy memories of playing with these girls. But we just didn’t come to play tonight and it showed out there. I don’t know if we were nervous or antsy, but nothing was going right for us.”
Haynes, a McNeese signee, noted that all three seniors will continue their careers in college. The seniors said the loss will stay with them. My hope is that the loss offers motivation that pushes them to greater things, not just in basketball, but in life.
McClure said she told her longtime friend and colleague, East Ascension’s Dennis Chandler, “You’d better bring it home,” meaning the 5A title. The Spartans face Natchitoches Central at 6 p.m. Saturday at the Rapides Parish Coliseum to decide the title.
The Spartans were elated to advance to their first title game. I reminded the publicly soft-spoken Chandler to speak into the microphone. He talked about the journey, advancing to a title game after 21 years at East Ascension and contrasted his previous coaching stint. Chandler coached at Tallulah’s McCall High, now Madison Parish High, where he won two Class 3A titles in the 1990s.
“We were out in the country and all we had was basketball,” Chandler said of the years at McCall. He talked about how this EAHS bought into what was needed and put in the work that led to Thursday’s historic win.
Guard Diniaa McZeal elicited a few giggles when she talked about Chandler “getting on my butt” when she wasn’t playing well. Tristen Washington talked about playing with a sense of urgency.
“I knew I had to bring it home for my seniors,” Washington said. “I had to give it my all.”
When exiting the interview room McZeal said the key to success for Saturday is no secret.
“If we play hard all four quarters and listen to coach, we’ll be good,” she said.
As you can see, not all the good stuff happens between the lines.