Ashburn, Va. — The 2020-2021 basketball season will go down as one of the most memorable in history. As athletes wore masks inside spectator-less gyms, teams did all they could to cheer each other on, while their families watched online. Despite all the oddities the season has brought, teams are doing what they can to honor their seniors through modified senior night celebrations.
This was true for Independence High School as they honored their senior girls basketball players—point guard Cameron Shackford and center Tori Womack—prior to their matchup with VHSL Region 3B foe Lightridge High School on January 29 in Ashburn. Not only did the Tigers honor their seniors, but Shackford and Womack rose to the occasion as they finished with a game-high 8 points and team-high 10 rebounds, respectively, as Independence held off a Lightridge rally, 27-24.
“Last year, Cameron and Tori stepped into a tough role being the only upperclassmen in a first-year program,” Independence head coach Katie Wimmer said. “From day one, they took the lead, bought into the system, and it showed in a hard-fought win tonight.”
It was a slow night offensively for both teams, but the Tigers hit enough shots when it mattered to give them the edge.
The first-year Lightning held the Tigers scoreless for the first five minutes of the second quarter before Shackford and sophomore guard Olivia Grimes each hit threes late in the half to give Independence a 18-12 lead heading into the intermission.
Coming out of the half, Lightridge jumped on Independence, as freshman point guard Riley Hwang and sophomore forward Tori Pierce scored 4 points apiece to cut the Tigers’ lead to just 1 point heading into the final quarter.
“This is a team that beat us by 25 the first time around,” Lightridge head coach Ed Knox said. “I can’t say enough about our girls. They work so hard. You could see there’s no quit in them. They’re not going to give up, and they do anything we ask them to do without hesitation.”
The fourth quarter was once again a defensive battle as both teams struggled to get on the board, and it was once again Shackford who stepped up and hit a pair of free throws late in the game to help the Tigers hold on.
The Lightning will look to pick up their second win of the season as they host Park View on February 3, a team they beat on January 6 to earn the program’s first ever win.
“It’s been a challenging season for us for a lot of reasons, primarily because we’re a first-year program and we had to shut down for two weeks because of COVID,” Knox said. “We’re not looking at this season from wins and losses; we’re looking at it from a transformational aspect. I think we’re building a nice program with kids who are excited about playing basketball.”
Independence will look to ride their win into a weekend clash with Park View on January 30 before the VHSL Region 3B tournament tips off on February 8.
“The win tonight shows the girls’ hard work and commitment,” Wimmer said. “That’s all I could ask for on senior night. They had to fight for it, but after all the hard work they put in, they deserved it.”