February 12, 2013 9:33:53 AM
Adam Minichino - [email protected]
That's the easiest and fastest way for D.J. Sanders and Moesha Calmes to describe their collision Jan. 18 in a game at West Point High School. But as much as the New Hope High juniors can look back on the incident and smile because they are feeling like themselves, they admit it was an experience they never saw coming or want to experience again.
"I tried to turn, but it didn't work out so good," Calmes said. "I saw her out of the corner of my eye and I tried to turn. I didn't know she was in the area. I was surprised."
Sanders and Calmes have been back nearly two weeks since they bumped heads and suffered mild concussions in a 67-26 victory against West Point in a Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 5A, Region 2 game. A victory in that game and a 67-46 win against Oxford on Feb. 1 in the first game Sanders and Calmes played in after their injuries helped New Hope (22-4) secure the top seed for the region tournament, which begins today at New Hope High. New Hope will take on Saltillo at 7 p.m., while the New Hope boys, the No. 2 seed, will play West Point, the No. 3 seed, at 8:30 p.m. Oxford will face Saltillo at 4 p.m. in the other girls game, while the Oxford boys will face Saltillo at 5:30 p.m. The winners will play Friday to determine the region champions.
Sanders and Calmes have played integral roles in a balanced New Hope attack. With nine players averaging at least three points per game, Sanders, the region's co-MVP with Oxford's Alexus Malone, leads the way at 21.3 points and 7.4 rebounds per game. She also averages 2.8 steals per game. Calmes, the team's primary ballhandler and another member of the All-Region team, averages 10.5 points, 3.1 assists, 2.8 rebounds, and 2.7 steals per game.
In a season that has been filled with injuries and illnesses, New Hope coach Laura Lee Holman said she is excited to have all of her players back for a postseason run.
"I think that is what makes this team so great," Holman said. "When somebody has gone down or is just having a bad day, there is always somebody step up and carry the load."
Holman joked Monday she would "wrap the players up in bubble wrap" this week in practice in an effort to keep everybody healthy. She hopes the Lady Trojans are past their injuries and get used to having a full complement of players. She also admitted she thought the concussions would affect Sanders and Calmes more than they have.
"It was scary," Holman said. 'I really thought I would see less aggressiveness and maybe them be a little timid. But I didn't see any of that. They came in and made an impact right away. To see the way they played at Oxford says a lot about them. They really didn't get to practice for a week and a half. Sitting and watching for a week and a half you could a little out of shape and be not quite as sharp, but they came back against Oxford and played extremely well."
New Hope had shot the ball and West Point rebounded it. Holman said the West Point player threw a baseball pass to a teammate, but New Hope's Kaitlin Bradley jumped up and deflected the ball into the air, like a pop fly into no man's land behind shortstop and left field. Holman said Sanders, who is a shortstop and a pitcher on the school's slow- and fast-pitch softball teams, took off running and Calmes was running at full speed, too. She said Calmes had a second to catch herself and brace herself for the impact. She feels the collision would have been much worse if Calmes hadn't noticed Sanders coming.
Sanders hit Calmes right below the eye and went down immediately.
"They hit heads and you could jut tell by the way they hit the floor (it was serious)," Holman said. "I got to D.J. first and I could tell real quick she had been hit real hard and she definitely was not all there. I looked at Moe and already saw the swelling on her face."
Holman said Calmes didn't show signs of a concussion immediately. Sanders left the gym before the end of the game to go to the emergency room. She said Calmes was showing signs of a concussion by the end of the game and went to the hospital, too.
Holman believes the blow was more than the diagnosis of mild concussions for both players because she said it was three or four days before either player looked or acted like themselves.
Sanders said the injury was nothing like she had experienced because she always had evidence, like blood, something was wrong if she felt pain. This time, all she had as proof she was injured was a "really, really bad headache."
Calmes said she felt "zoned out" and that she had never experienced anything as painful in her life.
"Everything was really, really slow. Even walking was slow," Sanders said. "My mother said she could tell something was different because I was talking slow. ... It was really weird because it was really hard for me to do easy stuff, like finishing my sentence. I got tired halfway through the sentence and I would just stop and people would look at me like I am crazy because I would be talking and I would just stop."
Without Sanders and Calmes, the team's primary ballhandler, Holman said other players had to step up. In a season in which several players have been in and out the lineup due to injuries and illnesses, Holman said playing without Sanders and Calmes helped the team's depth. Holman said she has no qualms about going 12 players deep. Juniors Mercedes Mattix and Bradley were New Hope's other All-Region selections. With a pressing style, the depth could be a key as New Hope tries to work its way through the district tournament and into the Class 5A North State tournament.
Calmes said she and Sanders have come back stronger from the injuries. Neither one imagined they would be able to produce like they did against Oxford in a 67-46 victory in their first game back. Calmes had 19 points, four rebounds, and two assists, while Sanders had 14 points, 10 rebounds, two steals, and two assists. Bradley led the way with 20 points. The Lady Trojans have welcomed Taylor Baudoin and Kristen Phillips back into the fold after injuries and illnesses in the past few weeks. Now at full strength, Sanders and Calmes are ready to help New Hope make an extended run.
"We're excited to have everyone back because it is like the beginning of the season," Calmes said.
n On the boys side, New Hope's Chris Mosley, Jaylon Bardley, and Derrick Sherrod were named to the All-Region team. West Point's Trey Williams and A.J. Jones were recognized on the boys side, while Qiayon Bailey and Shamaya Lyles were honored from the West Point girls team.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.