As the clock ticked down the final minute of Friday’s Wetumpka-Park Crossing game, it was clear the result was already decided but that night meant more than adding another number to the win column for Wetumpka. For one final time in the regular season, Indians coach Byron Gaskin subbed in all four of his seniors together to finish on their home court.
Park Crossing took the 100-76 victory but each senior got to share some of the glory in their final moments. Tyquan Rawls, Timothy Johnson and Malik Davis each hit a 3-pointer in the fourth quarter while Zeylin Hooks led the way with 14 points.
“They mean a lot to us,” Gaskin said. “This is a leadership group and I’m super proud of these guys. This is about letting them finish their careers off on their home court. It definitely means a lot to them so that’s why they got this start.”
Rawls, who is expected to sign a college football scholarship Wednesday, has been the leading scorer for the last three seasons. He became a sharpshooter and continued to deliver in big moments, often scoring most of his points in the second half when his team needed it the most.
“He’s an athlete and he loves the game,” Gaskin said. “He’s always going to lead and he’s going to play hard. That speaks of his character and to him as a person. He challenges everybody.”
Despite a future in football waiting, Rawls said he never questioned skipping basketball season because he wanted to play with the rest of his teammates that he started the process with.
“I have been playing on this court for about six or seven years so this was tough,” Rawls said. “The boys I was playing with through middle school, they wanted me to play. Tim asked me to and I figured I should finish off playing with the boys I started with. That meant a lot to me.”
Johnson and Davis are not regular starters but Gaskin gave them the nod on Senior Night. Johnson quickly delivered with two big buckets early and finished with 12 points and four rebounds while Davis added some drama, saving his only points for the final minute when his 3-pointer sent the home bench and fans into a frenzy.
Gaskin called Hooks a “true basketball guy” as he is one of the few players that puts the time in year-round on the court. When Gaskin arrived at Wetumpka, Hooks was a sophomore on the JV squad.
“I got to coach him that first year and I told him he was just going to have to keep working,” Gaskin said. “He has improved every year. He beats me to the gym and he leaves when I leave. You have to love a guy like that.”
Hooks scored 11 points in the first half and added two second-half assists to his team-high scoring total. Hooks said the team may not have racked up the wins like he wanted to but he believes he will be remembered for his play on the court.
“This was really emotional,” Hooks said. “I tried to lead my guys and teach them things I learned to be better players and better people. I want to be remembered as that guy that always contributed some intensity and a lot of energy. I was fighting for my team.”
Gaskin said that kind of attitude embodies this senior class and he expects it to leave an impact on the future players of the program.
“They are going to show you how to work hard every day,” Gaskin said. “You’re going to have to outwork them or you’re not going to see the court. They have already passed that down and you see that with the other guys getting better.”