February 7, 2013 11:48:17 PM
There are a lot of ways to honor seniors in their final regular-season home games.
Balloons, flowers, and gift baskets are traditional offerings. Cakes, trophies, and framed jerseys take the festivities to another level.
With coach Drew McBrayer's blessing, Sylvester Brandon, Demetri Clark, Darrion Cribbs, Ryan Lee, Chris Mosley, and Derrick Sherrod added another page to the senior playbook with a rainbow assortment of footwear. From hot pink to red to orange to black with the Marvel Comics hero Iron Man on them, the socks ran the gamut of bold to conservative.
The Benetton approach served the New Hope High School boys basketball team well. Sherrod scored a team-high 12 points to lead a 30-point showing by the seniors in a 61-56 victory against Caledonia.
Whyatt Foster added 12 points, while Mosley and Demyis Mayberry added nine apiece to help the Trojans improve to 14-11.
"All the seniors got together and we had wanted to wear colorful socks all year," Mosley said. "We wanted to wear gold jerseys, but we couldn't wear them because they had to be black."
Mosley opted to go with a hot pink sock on his right foot because it is his dominant foot. Cribbs also went with a hot pink sock on his right foot, while Brandon went with two pink socks. Clark offered a little bit more color with an orange sock on his right foot and a red one on his left. Even though McBrayer lifted his edict on only white or black socks for one night, Lee decided to play it "safe" and stick with white socks. The wrinkle was they had Mississippi State University logos on them.
"We have to stay focused because the district tournament is next week," Lee said, explaining his choice not to add color to his uniform.
Sherrod took the break from the conventional to go with Iron Man socks. Mosley joked that Sherrod likes to think of himself as an Iron Man, but that he really is the team's "Superman."
That honor easily could go to Mosley, too. The lanky swingman talked to McBrayer earlier in the week and told him he would prefer his five senior teammates start the final regular-season game. McBrayer said it wasn't surprising Mosley thought of his teammates first.
"That means a lot to me to see a kid that selfless," McBrayer said. "He has been through a lot. He is that kind of kid. He is not worried about himself. He is worried about everybody else around him and his teammates succeeding instead of him getting personal glory for it."
Mosley lost his father, David, on Christmas of his freshman year at New Hope High. He honors his father by wearing a warmup jersey with with the words "In Loving Memory of David Mosley" on the back. He couldn't help but get a little emotional before the game when he was recognized at halfcourt in the senior ceremony. He bit down on his warmup jersey as his mother, Elizabeth, and his aunt, Rhonda Sanders, walked out to meet him to have their picture taken. It was a moment Chris Mosely is sure his father saw.
"It has been hard (without my father), but all I have to do is keep God first and everything else is going to be all right," Mosley said. "He has front row seats when I am playing. I would just say, 'I love him' and give him a big hug."
McBrayer said Mosley has been strong after losing his father. He said Mosley hasn't allowed his loss to prevent him from being a positive example to his teammates or a role model for younger athletes.
"He definitely has grown into being a man because of it," McBrayer said. "He is just as good with my two girls as he is with the kids he coaches. To see the smile on their faces when they're around him and with him ... He is a special young man. It is going to hurt to lose him."
Mosley coaches his cousins, Jay and Eli Sanders, and other children on soccer and on T-Ball teams in the Columbus-Lowndes Recreation Authority. He feels that is a great way to be someone kids can look up to, just like he looked up to his father.
"I always go over there and play with them and keep a positive attitude because they look up to me," Mosley said. "I want to do things good (because) if they see me doing bad things, like if they see me smoking, they would be like, 'I can smoke. Chris smokes.' That is why I coach them in T-Ball and soccer and tell them to keep a positive attitude."
Caleb Brown scored a game-high 16 points for Caledonia (15-9).
Caledonia coach Josh Scott said turnovers again proved to be a stumbling block. The Confederates trailed 57-45 with 2 minutes, 26 seconds remaining, but they whittled away at the lead thanks to a 6-of-16 effort in the final quarter by the Trojans. Caledonia cut the deficit to six and had chances earlier in the quarter to cut deeper into the lead but couldn't hit free throws or 3-pointers to put even more pressure on New Hope, which finished 16 of 32 from the free-throw line. Four turnovers at the start of the fourth quarter also proved to be costly missed opportunities.
"This team has executed about as well as any team I have had," Scott said. "But it has been turnovers all year, and our ability to be patient has determined whether we won or lost."
Ben Marchbanks added 10 points and Jarius Chatman added nine in a balanced scoring attack. Scott said his team has been prone to lapses and to periods of overconfidence that push it to play a little too fast. As a result, Scott said Caledonia rushes shots and speeds itself up when it is better served to take its time and work the basketball for a better shot.
"If we had been able to take care of the turnover situation early in the year we would have been an 18- or 19-win team," Scott said.
Still, Scott said the Confederates have embraced a team concept that typically doesn't allow individuals to go for 20 or more points. On Thursday, seven players had at least five points or more, which Scott said has been the norm this season.
"The kids have accepted they're not going to have many 20-point nights, which is not an easy sell, but these kids have bought into it," Scott said.
In the girls game, D.J. Sanders had 19 points and Antonia Jethroe had 16 in a 65-19 victory against Caledonia. New Hope honored seniors Lauren Holifield, Jethroe, a transfer from Columbus High, and Gabby Murray (six points) after the game.
New Hope will play host to the district tournament Tuesday. The top-seeded girls (22-4) will play host to Saltillo at 7 p.m. Oxford will take on West Point at 4 p.m. On the boys side, Oxford will play Saltillo at 5:30 p.m. and second-seeded New Hope will take on third-seeded West Point at 8:30 p.m. The winners will advance to Friday night's district title games.
The Caledonia boys will take on Louisville at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday at Houston High. The Caledonia girls will face Noxubee County at 4 p.m. Tuesday. The winners will advance to play Thursday.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.