For the last eight years, there has been an Akers playing point guard for Princeton.
Make it nine years in a row with an Akers, only this time the roles have changed for one of the sisters.
“I guess we will just have to deal with an Akers being the coach instead of being the point guard,” said first-year Princeton girls basketball Tesla Akers, with a laugh. “We will have to deal with that.”
Akers, who played four seasons at Princeton and then had a standout career at Ferrum College, returned to the sidelines of Coach Ralph Ball Court for her coaching debut on Thursday night.
It didn’t end as she would have liked, with the young Tigers dropping a 66-31 decision to South Charleston, but Akers enjoyed being back in blue.
“It is a great honor, it really is, I was very excited,” Akers said. “It is definitely different on the coaching side of it than playing.
I was a little nervous, but I was as a player as well. It was very exciting, I loved it.”
A layup by Taylor Hamm early in the second quarter pulled the Tigerettes within 12-10, but the Black Eagles then went on an extended run of success, outscoring Princeton 30-5 to build a 42-15 with 3:56 left in the third period.
South Charleston, which outscored the Tigers 22-5 in the second period, was led by Aaliyah Dunham with 15 points, including seven straight points to open the second half and three of the Eagles’ six 3s in the game.
Lanky Rhea Smith also took advantage of a significant height advantage to join Taliah Cashwell with 11 points apiece. Lina Villanueva and Ary Mosley had eight points each for the Gary Greene-coached Eagles.
“I think we got a little tired on closing out to the shooters and boxing out, they were a lot bigger than us of course,” Akers said. “Other than that I think we did OK.”
Princeton, which lost eight seniors from last year’s Class AAA state tournament club to graduation, and a ninth, Ashley Culicerto, to a knee injury, started three sophomores and two juniors against the Eagles.
“They are all mostly sophomores and two juniors and the rest are freshman,” said Akers, who hopes to have Culicerto back later in the season. “They are young, but I think we are going to surprise a lot of people,”
Junior Anna Saunders and sophomore Kaleigh Barker had nine points each for Princeton, with Barker connecting on 7-of-9 from the free throw line. Hamm added six points for the Tigerettes.
“This is just the first game, I think they played hard,” Akers said. “They played defense better than I have seen Princeton play ‘D’ in a long time, but we have got a lot of work on the offensive end, that comes with maturity and being confident in the ball.
“I think they will get there, one game at a time.”
Akers was a first-team All-Class AAA honoree as a point guard at Princeton, and was an NCAA All-American at Ferrum, and her career just ended last March.
No wonder Akers still felt the urge to run up and down the floor like she did so many times before.
“Oh every time, definitely, I wish I could play for them,” said Akers, with a smile. “I do sometimes, but I have a good group of girls and they work hard and that is all I can ask of them is to work hard.”
Akers, who graduated in 2009, was followed in Princeton by her sister, McKenzie Akers, who was also an all-state guard for the Tigers, and is now seeing significant playing time at Marshall.
“I am super proud,” Akers said. “I am her number one fan always. It is nice to see a local freshman come out of here and actually get to play at that level. It is great.”
With the first game of her coaching career now in the books, Akers is excited about the season ahead, which will continue next Tuesday with Princeton playing host to Shady Spring.
“We have to take one game at a time, work hard, play as I ask, buy into my program and what I want from them,” Akers said. “That is all I ask is we get better every game and hopefully by the end of the season we will be where we want to be.”
—Contact Brian Woodson
at Coach Ralph Ball Court
SOUTH CHARLESTON (1-0)
Alexis Wade 1 0-0 2, Lina Villanueva 3 1-5 8, Rhea Smith 5 1-3 11, Taliah Cashwell 5 0-0 11, Aaliyah Dunham 6 0-0 15, Ary Mosley 4 0-0 8, Zhakiya Brown 1 0-0 2, Alexis Baldwin 0 0-0 0, Lucretia Landis 1 0-0 2, ShyAnne Dunham 2 0-1 5, Briana Moore 1 0-2 2. 29 2-11 66.
Taylor Hamm 3 0-3 6, Anna Saunders 4 0-0 9, Sarah Cole 1 1-3 4, Adrianna Mitchem 0 0-2 0, Kaleigh Barker 1 7-9 9, Dan Hall 0 1-2 1, Jamie Vest 0 0-0 0, Tayah Belcher 1 0-0 2, Audrey Gallinger 0 0-1 0. Totals 10 9-20 31.
South Charleston...............9 22 19 16 — 66
Princeton..............................8 5 9 9 — 31
3-point goals: SC 6 (A.Dunham 3, Villanueva 1, Cashwell 1, S.Dunham 1); PR 2 (Saunders 1, Cole 1). Total fouls: SC 14; PR 8. Fouled out: none. JV—SC 42-22.