E.A. Sports Today


On what was no ordinary senior night, White Plains sizes up what 13 senior basketball players have meant to a program just barely over the Class 4A threshold.

Banners honoring 13 senior basketball players line the wall behind the visiting bleachers at White Plains High School. (Photo by Joe Medley)

By Joe Medley
East Alabama Sports Today

White Plains’ senior basketball players came to school Friday bearing gifts.

With a big assist from Amber Ray, Coleman’s mom, they brought special T-shirts to give to teachers or coaches who’ve had the most impact on them at White Plains.

The royal blue shirts included a white logo with an “impact” theme on the front and the player’s number and name on the back.

The school produced a video montage of those thoughtful, even tearful deliveries on the White Plains Wildcat Basketball Facebook page, complete hugs, one fist bump and voiceover messages from long-time boys’ head coach Chris Randall and first-year girls’ head coach Clay Sprayberry.

Maybe the most remarkable feature of the video is its length. It took four minutes and 50 seconds for 13 senior players to deliver shirts to their impactful mentors.

That’s eight players from the boys’ team and five from the girls’ team.

This, at a school where the average daily attendance registered two-tenths of a student over threshold from Class 3A to Class 4A in the most recent AHSAA reclassification announcement.

Friday’s senior night activities between girls’ and boys’ games against Faith Christian lasted longer than the video, as all 13 players plus senior cheerleaders took their turns for pictures at midcourt with family members.

Put the boys’ and girls’ senior players together, and they equal a whole roster for most Class 7A teams.

Randall sized up what he’ll have going forward, in this postseason, and what he’ll miss beyond that.

“You just don’t have a group come through like that, with seniors, especially when all eight play,” he said. “All eight contribute. All eight are a vital part of who we are.”

Sprayberry touted his “special group” of seniors.

“I may coach another 10 years and not have another bunch like that,” he said. “They came to practice and practiced hard every day. They were committed. They were motivated. They just made coaching easy.”

For the record, senior night could not have gone more differently for the two teams. The boys, ranked No. 2 in Class 4A in the season’s final two Alabama Sports Writers Association polls, suffered a 64-60 upset at the hands of Class 1A Faith Christian.

The girls, who endured a 14-game losing streak after injuries altered the course of their season, beat Faith, 56-26, for their second win this week and third in eight days.

The boys are 22-9 headed into next week’s 4A, Area 10 tournament. The girls are 12-17 headed into area play.

As for the list, well, their banners fill the wall behind the visiting bleachers.

Cassidy Arnold, Addi Bradley, Bella Higgins, Cooper Martin and Braeton Moran were the girls’ starting lineup before knee injuries claimed Higgins and Arnold.

Arnold’s season effectively ended when she suffered a knee strain at Cherokee County on Jan. 9. One of the Wildcats top scoring options, she expects to be a factor in softball, but she’ll never get back roughly the last month of her senior basketball season.

“It’s hard watching from a distance,” she said. “It gives you a different perspective. It’s hard hard to watch and know you’re not going to go back out, but seeing my best friends play from a different perspective has changed my point of view on everything.”

Higgins’ season ended in the season-opener. The senior center suffered a torn knee ligament at Oxford.

She expects to be medically cleared in June, and college volleyball looks likely for her future. Then again, those might’ve-been thoughts come from time to time.

“It’s been really hard,” she said, “but I’ve just got to be a great teammate for the people who have always been a great teammate for me.”

As for the boys, an upset on senior night belies their season.

Cam Almon, Dylan Barksdale, Carter Johnson, Paul Laube, Silas Hines, Coleman Ray, Josh Wheeler and Daniel Williams helped White Plains to match the program’s highest ASWA ranking in Randall’s 23-year tenure, reaching No. 2 for the first time since doing it in Class 3A in 2008.

The Wildcats split with two-time defending state champion Jacksonville then won the tiebreaking coin toss to play host to the area tournament. Possibilities lie ahead.

“We’re just looking forward to the next game against Cherokee County,” Williams said. “We’re looking for a deep playoff run.”

Wheeler said playing at White Plains “definitely teaches you a lot, on and off the court.”

Randall, who got one of those “impact” T-shirts and a hug from Laube earlier Friday, likes that his eight seniors have been in school together since kindergarten. He sums up this senior class by what it hasn’t done.

“Not one technical foul,” he said. “Not one having to take a kid out because he doesn’t know how to act. Not one issue in school. Not one suspension. None of that stuff.

“Not only do they play great together, but they’re a credit to their parents.”

Cam Almon, Dylan Barksdale, Carter Johnson, Paul Laube, Silas Miles, Coleman Ray, Josh Wheeler and Daniel Williams.  

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