Livingston's Jones has big day for Alabama
By By Laurence Hilliard / special to The Star
June 10, 2002
CLINTON Shani Jones' mother back home in Livingston, Alabama played a key role in Alabama's 76-71 victory Saturday in the 12th annual Mississippi-Alabama Girls All-Star Basketball Game.
The Alabama team practices leading up to the game were so tough, Jones became discouraged. "It was so hectic, I didn't know if I was going to be able to make it," she said.
Because she did, Alabama now enjoys a 7-5 edge in the series. For without Jones' team-high 17 points, Mississippi almost certainly would have tied the series. And it wasn't just the number of points she scored that hurt the home team, but the way she scored them, with all but two coming on 3-point shots. During a 19-2 first-half run, she threw in four straight treys in less than 3 minutes, all perfect swishes.
Jones made her fifth 3-pointer in the second half, but this time she needed a little help, as the ball went off the rim, off the glass, then nestled on the rim before falling through. "I was turning and bending on that one to make it go through."
She could not say how many 3-pointers she hit during the 2001-2002 season, but she had as many as 9 in one game and averaged 24 points while leading Livingston to an 18-7 record.
Kimyatta Viverette of Lake certainly was not to blame for Mississippi's loss. While some of her more celebrated teammates had subpar performances, Viverette recorded a double-double, leading Mississippi in rebounds with 19 and finishing second in scoring with 13 points. And that despite an ankle sprain suffered early in the second half that was still tender when she was examined by a trainer 20 minutes after the game ended.
Viverette left the game to have the ankle taped, then returned and helped Mississippi overcome a 13-point halftime deficit before falling short at the end.
Only a game-high 22 points by Tosha Christmas of Provine kept Viverette from garnering team MVP honors, and some of the spectators felt she was deserving of the award.
Viverette played in 1A at Lake, the smallest high school classification in Mississippi. But she looks forward to playing big time college basketball some day at either Southern Mississippi or Memphis. "Both offered me scholarship."
First she will go to East Central Community College, although she is not sure if she will stay one or two years before moving on to one of those Metro Conference schools.
Jason Forte of Bay Springs had a simple explanation for Mississippi's easy 98-67 win in the boys game.
Forte, a USM signee, said his team heard that Alabama would be much bigger than Mississippi. "Then we saw them (during practice sessions) and realized they weren't any bigger than us."
Besides the thrill of victory, Forte and John Gray of Wayne County both said they enjoyed the entire All-Star Game experience. "I really grew up a lot this week. I learned a lot about discipline," said Forte, who contributed 11 points, including three 3-pointers, to the MIssissippi victory.
Gray had "a lot of fun" during the week. "It was an honor being chosen to play with the best players in the state." He looked every bit like one of the best with an all around performance that included 7 points, 5 rebounds, 4 steals and 3 assists.
Gray said the key was defense. "We played great defense and that got the offense going."
He plans to continue his basketball career at Jones County Junior College. "I'm going to work out and see what I can do there."
This was the second All-Star Game for Geary Jackson of Wayne County, Mississippi's head coach. He was an assistant in 1993 while head coach at Meridian. "That was the year we had McDyess and Dampier."
Antonio McDyess of Quitman and Erick Dampier of Lawrence County, both now in the NBA, led Mississippi to an 82-75 win at Florence, Alabama.