By Donald Heath
Special for the Effingham Herald
SAVANNAH — South Effingham girls basketball coach Alexus Parker returned to her alma mater Calvary Day School on Saturday afternoon and saw a familiar setting and familiar faces from an unfamiliar vantage point.
She encouraged players at the visitors’ bench, dressed in the visitors’ lockerroom, favorably watched points accumulate on the visitors’ side of the scoreboard.
At one time, Parker did her best to help the Cavaliers win, now she planned for the opposite.
You can come home again. But things are usually a little different.
“After losing to Camden County (on Friday night), we needed a win to give us confidence to keep going,” said Parker after her Mustangs produced a 63-53 victory over the Cavs.
Parker starred at Calvary, scoring 22.6 points a game while leading her team to a region championship and a Final Four appearance in the Class A Private state girls basketball tournament as a senior in 2013.
She earned a scholarship to Prairie View A&M and was a 1,000-point scorer during her collegiate career.
Then she returned to Savannah to coach.
Calvary assistant Daniel Jackson gave her a coaching job with his AAU team. Cavs head coach Jackie Hamilton invited Parker to work as an assistant.
“She’s always been passionate about basketball,” said Hamilton, who coached Parker at Calvary. “You can tell she cares about her players and they respect her. She creates that energy and that’s a big part of coaching, just getting people motivated and believing they can play.”
Two years ago, Parker accepted the head coaching job at South Effingham. The Mustangs improved from seven to 10 wins last season. This year, with a 7-1 start, ScoreAtlanta ranked SEHS ninth in Class 6A.
Saturday, the Mustangs played like a ranked team by leading Calvary, the No. 10 team in Class 3A, from start to finish.
Shi’Asia House had 16 of her team-high 19 points in the first half. Guards Elena Hairston and Kay’Mar Griffin scored 16 apiece.
“I think the girls, knowing this is where I played, now coaching against people who are important to me, they put the expectations on themselves (to play well for their coach),” Parker said.
South built an 18-8 lead during the first quarter and expanded the advantage to 15, 41-26, in the third quarter before Calvary fought back.
The Mustangs led only 45-41 but Laney Dobbs, Hairston and Griffin hit shots during the first two minutes of the fourth quarter to provide some comfort.
Maybe coaches never feel too comfortable until the end. After time ticked off the clock, Parker exchanged hugs with her Calvary family as if time never elapsed.
“It was fun coaching against the coaches who taught me so much,” Parker said. “It felt good to be back and see some familiar faces. Just the support of the community for those who graduated here was welcoming.”