While City High and Liberty’s basketball doubleheader was an exciting occasion for all in attendance, it was not the most important aspect of the evening.
Billed as “Mental Health Awareness Night,” the girls’ basketball teams at City High and Liberty showed their advocacy for change in a number of ways.
City High players wore shirts that read “Needed you tomorrow.” Liberty wore “OS14” shirts to honor beloved student Owen Skelly, who died by suicide the previous year.
Before the game, players and coaches from both teams gathered at half court and observed a moment of silence for those who have been affected or have lost their lives due to mental health struggles.
Liberty coach Jaime Brandt said the opportunity to spread that message was extremely important.
“It’s always special to play for something bigger than basketball,” Brandt said. “Tonight we were able to honor Owen (Skelley) and what he brought to our community and the awareness that came from him. Life is hard and it’s okay not to be okay. So use our platform to spread that message.” To be able to do that, which is high school basketball, it was really special.”
City High coach Lynsey Barnard said it was a chance for the kids to show they care.
“There’s a huge stigma about the mental health of athletes,” Barnard said. “We’re taught to be tough and to respond a certain way. It’s hard for anyone, but especially athletes, to be vulnerable and say they need help. So it’s important that we View the kids as students first and then as basketball players second. Obviously you want to win basketball games, but there is no rivalry more important than our kids.
Here are the biggest takeaways from Friday’s game:
Liberty Girls Use Strong Defense To Win
Renowned for their offensive prowess, the Lightning had to try a different approach in Friday’s defensive duel against the Little Hawks. In the girls’ game, Liberty won 39–25.
Brandt said his team appreciates challenging games because it forces the entire roster to contribute.
“When we can win games when Jasmine (Barney) has seven points, it says a lot about our team and how deep we are,” Brandt said. “I tell the girls every day in practice that every night can be different. As a team, I think we’re getting more confident and learning how to win and that’s something our program hasn’t done it before.”
Sophomore Janessa Mosley led the team in scoring with eight points, a season high. Mosley said her teammates inspire her to go the extra mile.
“I think offensively, I was able to attack more,” Mosley said. “Most of my energy came from my teammates and their support. My teammates would do something well and that would make me want to do my part on offense and defense.”
The crime of City High girls disappears in the second quarter
After trailing 9-5 in the second quarter, the game was still in reach for the Little Hawk girls. But he failed to land his shots.
In the second period, City High was outscored 11–4, with two points coming from layups from sophomore Augie Palmer and the other points coming from free throws by sophomore Amy McComas and freshman Tessa Driscoll.
Little Hawks coach Lynsey Barnard said her faith in the team is still unwavering.
“Nothing happens in the game that changes my mind about what we’re capable of,” Barnard said. “Really it’s about doing what we’re able to do for the entirety of a game. When we can do that, we’re going to steal the game against one of the really talented teams out there.”
Da’Shaun Fisher carries the Liberty Boys offense on his back
Senior Da’Shaun Fisher, one of the top scorers in the Mississippi Valley Conference, imposed his will against the usually tough City High defense. He led all players with 34 points in Liberty’s 67–56 boys’ victory.
Fischer said his mindset is to help his team in any way he can.
“Obviously, when I’m playing 30 plus points, it’s going to feel great,” Fischer said. “But even when I know I’m not having the best game, I know I can do more than just score. I can make the ball easy, I can defend. I can rebound, I will do anything to help my team win.”
Lightning coach Ryan Kelly said that Fisher is a game-changer.
“He looks really good to me,” Kelly said. “He’s an incredible player and I’m blessed to have coached him and continue to coach him. He helps us a lot because of his weak attacking ability and athleticism. One thing I’m really happy about is that He’s starting to trust. his teammates. So when teams start double-teaming him or starting to line up on him, he’s trusting that his teammates will be open. It’s something I hope That’s going to make us really dangerous on the road.”
City High Boys’ late-game push proves too little, too late
With the exception of a disappointing offensive performance in the first quarter (in which they combined for only nine points), both teams had good scoring nights by normal standards.
What helped the Liberty stay on top for most of the night was the fact that the Lightning continued to attack during the remaining three quarters. Meanwhile, the Little Hawks had several offensive possessions throughout the game in which they found themselves a bit lulled.
Coach Brennan Switzer said the Little Hawks have been a resilient team this season, but they can’t always count on late rallies to save them.
“The one thing my friends know about is that we will compete,” Sweizer said. “It’s something I know they will do consistently, but it’s almost becoming a crutch for us because we don’t take the time to execute offensively or make good decisions on the pass, which leads to turnovers. “