It was a year like no other.
While Monterey and Delta Charter basketball teams were doing everything possible to get a season in the books, Ferriday and Vidalia High’s basketball teams kept their gyms dark, canceling their seasons because of COVID-19.
Monterey’s Ethan Clark and Delta Charter’s Shively Blaney, both seniors, made the most of their bizarre seasons, putting up their best numbers of their careers.
Clark and Blaney are the 2020-21 All-Parish Players of the Year, while their coaches - Eric Richard of Monterey and Ronald Ellis of Delta Charter are the Coaches of the Year.
“Every day was unchartered territory,” Richard said. “We didn’t know what to expect and what the next day would bring. In November it looked like we wouldn’t even have a season. But we made it to the finish line.
Richard said making sure the limited amount of fans able to attend games had tickets, especially parents.
“It was eerie seeing people at the game wearing masks,” he said. “But we made it through.”
The Wolves finished 15-5, defeating Lacassine 39-36 in Vidalia in a first-round game before falling to Class B state-runner-up Anacoco 61-34 in the second round.
“I was very proud and I thought it was important for this senior group to have a senior year,” Richard said. ”This is the first junior high group I coached. We fell short of winning out third straight district title, but we were able to win a playoff game again.”
The playoff win at Vidalia was a thriller, as Clark nailed a 3-point shot with 16 seconds remaining and the Wolves forced Lacassine into two tough shots to tie the game with 5.8 seconds remaining to defeat the Cardinals 39-36 Friday at Vidalia High in a Class B first round contest. Monterey’s gym is not big enough by LHSAA standards to host a playoff game.
“That’s something you always dream about and to be able to do it with the group of guys I played basketball with since we were little and having my parents and grandparents there made it even bigger.”
Clark averaged 10.5 points as a junior with 6.3 rebounds. With the loss of Trey Boyd, who averaged 18.8 last season as a senior, Clark knew he had to improve his overall game.Clark averaged 13.7 points, 8.2 rebounds, two assists and had 30 blocks on the season.
“The biggest part was Coach Richard talking with me and demanding a lot from me,” Clark said. “He understood I could play at a higher level and with the loss of Trey I had to for us to be able to compete.”
After missing most of baseball last year because of COVID-19, Clark was apprehensive about being able it play basketball as a senior.
“At first I wasn’t looking good,” Clark said. “But when we got the green light to practice and got that first game in I knew we were going to be able to play.”
It should not have been much of a surprise to Delta Charter girls coach Ronald Ellis. After all, he’s gone through having to miss summer workouts because of the construction of a new gym floor and missing out on the next summer workouts because of COVID-19.
So when he lost a first round home playoff game because of an unheard of ice storm in February, it was just another case of having to deal with another obstacle.
The Lady Storm finished the season at 6-11, earning a No. 16 seed and home game against LaSalle on February 20.
But two winter storms damaged the Delta Charter gym.
Ellis tried local gyms with no luck, and the game ultimately had to be played in Jena, making it more of a home game for LaSalle.
“I always tell our girls when there are obstacles, find a way,” Ellis said. “We had a young team and we missed two off-seasons. That’s a big part of preparing for a season.”
The Lady Storm lost to LaSalle, 45-30.
“They ran a box-and-one and we had trouble adjusting to it,” Ellis said.
Ellis said he was happy to have a completed season.
“It was tough mentally on a lot of people,” he said. “Parents were calling with questions making sure we were taking care of their kids. I’m glad we got through it safely.”
Ellis said he hopes not to miss another offseason and that the new gym floor will be completed near the end of the school year.
“Especially losing someone like Shyvlie because she leaves such a big hole to fill,” Ellis said. “I’m already talking to our team about everybody needing to step up. Which makes this off-season even bigger.”
As one of two seniors on a team with no juniors, Blaney knew she would have to elevate her game even more after averaging 14.6 points and 3.8 assists per game last season.
Blaney averaged 22.8 points a game, 3.2 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game.
“I really didn’t feel any pressure,” Blaney said. “I knew I had to lift my game up and set an example. I was really looking to show the younger players what to do for when I was gone. That gave me a lot of motivation.”
Watching spring sport participants lose most of their senior years was also motivation.
“I treated each practice and game as if it were my last,” Blaney said. “Everything mattered so much more. I would have loved to have gone farther in the playoffs, but I still enjoyed by senior season.”
Four times Shively scored 30 points or more.But instead of finding satisfaction in that, Shively used it as another reason to push herself.
“I just thought if I can do that in four games, I should be scoring more in other games,” she said.
Those other games usually meant more defensive pressure on her from start to finish.
“There were some teams that knew if they could stop me they could stop the team,” she said. “But I used that to push myself and try and find other ways for us to win. I was going to do whatever it took.”
Blaney is now playing softball. But she still sheds a few tears knowing her basketball playing days are done.
“I’ve been playing basketball since I was a little girl,” she said. “It still really hasn’t set in that it’s over.”
Also named to the boys team were Monterey seniors Cole Centennial, Phillip Atkins and Daylen Gray and Delta Charter seniors Trace Miller and Semaj Davis and junior Amir Cooper.
Centenni averaged 7.0 points and 2.4 assists a contest.
Gray averaged 6.7 points, 2.8 assists and four rebounds a game in his final year at Monterey.
Atkins averaged 8.6 points, 2.0 steals, 3.2 assists and 3.5 rebounds a game.
Miller averaged 17 points and eight rebounds a game.
Davis averaged eight points and eight rebounds a game.
Cooper averaged six points, 6.6 rebounds a game.
Rounding out the girls team were Monterey juniors Allie Lipsey and Maddy Green and freshman Addy Lacaze, along with Delta Charter senior Tiara Jefferson.
Lipsey averaged 13.1 assists, 6.3 rebounds, 3.8 steals and 3.0 assists a game.
Green averaged 4.1 points, 4.2 rebounds a game.
Lacaze averaged 6.1 points and 5.28 rebounds a game.
Jefferson averaged 6.5 points and 3.5 rebounds a game.