Thursday, January 3, 2013

White Station Spartans shine in first game after coach's death

from Commercial Appeal

Darryl Durham would have been proud.

He would have been proud of the way his girls team was first to just about every loose ball, how crisply it executed its offense and how it knocked down shot after shot. But Durham would have been most proud of the poise his team showed in a 63-43 victory over an East High team that entered the contest ranked sixth in The Commercial Appeal's Girls Dandy Dozen.

"It was hard," said Spartans junior guard Courtney Banks. "When they did the moment of silence, we kind of broke down a little bit. But we just had to go out there and play."

Wednesday's game was the first for the White Station girls team following the death of their head coach Dec. 30. Durham, who was 56, had been battling lung cancer for nearly a year.

And the visiting Spartans (5-4, 1-0 16-AAA) turned in a fitting tribute by taking control early against an East squad that had lost just once previously all season.

"They responded to the way coach Durham has coached them," said Paul Mann, who is coaching the Spartans the rest of the season with Ashley Small, a former White Station player.

"This is his team. It's been hard ... but all the credit goes to the girls."

Emanye Robertson scored 14 points to lead the Spartans while freshman Dejan Montgomery chipped in with 13. Banks played a fine floor game and added 11 points.

It was impossible not to feel the presence of Durham, who had coached the Spartans since 2006.
There was an empty seat — the spot where the head coach sits — on the White Station bench and Spartans players sported messages to Durham on their headbands and shoes.

"His love of the game was just stupendous," said Small. "It was outrageous. Even when he was in the hospital he was saying 'I've got to get back to practice.'

"He was very sweet-hearted and everybody loved him, from the students to the players. He taught me so much about having patience and staying grounded. I owe a lot to him."

Durham's last game on the bench was Dec. 18 against Arlington.

"He was in pretty bad shape that night," said Mann, whose relationship with Durham goes back nearly 40 years to when he coached the basketball team at Tech High and Durham was his point guard.

"He leaned over and said to me, 'I don't know how I'm going to make it.'"

Funeral services for Durham will be held Saturday at 11 a.m. at Mt. Zion Baptist Church located at 60 South Parkway E.

In other games
Girls: Baylor signee Nina Davis poured in 41 points and Tia Wooten added 22 as Central improved to 8-3 with an 89-52 win over Hamilton

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