News from the Tennessee Valley Sports

Lawrence County senior Jasma McDonald, right, driving against J.O. Johnson earlier this season, is part of a balanced scoring attack for the Lady Red Devils.
Daily file photo by Gary Cosby Jr.
Lawrence County senior Jasma McDonald, right, driving against J.O. Johnson earlier this season, is part of a balanced scoring attack for the Lady Red Devils.

Lady Devils
ace chemistry

Unselfish play translates into
plenty of wins for Lawrence Co.

By Mark Edwards 340-2461

MOULTON — Over the objections of Lawrence County basketball teammate and friend Jasma McDonald, Shea Mason likes to tell a story about the two of them from fifth grade.

McDonald and her family had moved to the Moulton school district recently, which meant that she knew almost none of her new classmates. Mason said she walked by McDonald without saying a word, and later, McDonald's mother, a teacher at the school, stopped her.

"She asked me if I didn't want to be friends with her daughter," Mason said, smiling.

As it turned out, nothing could be farther from the truth. Mason, McDonald and a dozen other Moulton girls eventually became fast friends, and those 14 have helped Lawrence County High's girls basketball team surge among the state's elite Class 4A squads this year.

Lawrence County has posted a 18-3 record, falling only to 5A No. 2 Hartselle, 5A No. 6 J.O. Johnson and 6A No. 4 Bob Jones. This comes on the heals of a 19-12 record last season.

Head coach Kenny Coffey credits the good record to the chemistry of the players and their willingness to share the spotlight.

"I've been kind of lucky this year in that they all get along and play hard," said Coffey, who has compiled 338 wins, three state titles and three state runners-up in 15 seasons as Lawrence County's head coach.

"The chemistry is the best thing about this group. They don't care who has the best night."

McDonald, Mason and Sallie Beth Burch — a trio of seniors — have stepped forward as the team's most recognized players along with sophomore Nikkia McDaniel. All four have scored more than 1,000 career points.

However, none score that much more than the others. McDonald averages 14 points a game, while Mason averages 13, McDonald 12 and Burch 11. Also, Coffey has six others who average at least 2 points a game.

This is the same program that has had some big stars wear the red and white jersey — Natasha Thomas (1995-2000) ranks seventh in state history in scoring, Brooke Hand (2000-03) ranks 24th, and Leslie Wallace (1992-96) ranks second in steals and sixth in assists.

But this year, it's not often anybody stands head and shoulders above the others — in fact, all 14 players stand between 5-foot-6 to 5-foot-81/2, which is the height of senior center Joanna Cain, the fifth starter and a solid defender and rebounder.

"We've played together a lot for a long time, and we know each other real well," McDonald said.

Added Mason: "We've developed good chemistry."

And added Burch: "No one person has to have a great game. If I'm having a bad night, them Jasma might pick me up. If Jasma has a bad game, it might be Shea or somebody else. We all pick each other up, and that's why we're winning."

To illustrate their point, take a look at a recent stretch of games.

In a win over Decatur, McDonald led with 16 points and 11 rebounds. The next day, McDaniel had a team-high 21 points against J.O. Johnson.

Four days later, the Lady Red Devils beat East Lawrence as Mason had 27 points and 11 rebounds. Then three days after that, Burch had 16 points and 10 steals in a win over Fairview.

Coffey said that if his team has a drawback, it might be the lack of size. Other teams often have a taller post player to send against Cain.

Also, Coffey said that his team isn't talented enough to coast through games.

But so far, he hasn't had trouble with that.

"This year's team plays with intensity," he said.

"They know that if we don't and have an off night, we'll get beat."

Balanced Lawrence County

  • The leading scorer, sophomore, Nakia McDaniel averages only 14 points a game and is one of four in double figures. The Lady Red Devils have 10 players averaging at least 2 points a game.

  • Nobody on the roster is shorter than 5-foot-6 and nobody is taller than 5-81/2.

  • With this balance, Lawrence County has compiled a 18-3 record with the losses coming only to ranked teams: 5A No. 2 Hartselle, 5A No. 6 J.O. Johnson and 6A No. 4 Bob Jones.

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