Senior Matthew Christiansen, left, locks down on defense for SA this season. (Photo by Kim Murrell, SDN)
Matthew Christiansen already knows what to expect tonight.
When Starkville Academy's basketball teams hold senior night, it won't be an entirely knew for Christiansen because he experienced it just a few days ago with the soccer squad.
Christiansen is part of two winning programs as the soccer team stands 14-2-1 overall and 10-1 in Class AAA, Division II, while the basketball team has an overall mark of 15-13, going into tonight's last home game against Jackson Academy.
Although it has been difficult at times, Christiansen has enjoyed playing both sports.
"It's difficult," Christiansen said. "I've missed a lot practice with both. It's just a matter of working hard.
"It's great. We're winning games. It's the best the basketball has been since the 9th grade. It's been good. I've enjoyed it and being around my teammates."
Christiansen, Carnail Minor and Brandon Sharp are the three senior Vols that will be recognized prior to the start of the boys game.
"Without those three guys, we wouldn't be where we are right now," SA boys coach Mark Alexander said. "Matthew is kind of our defensive stopper. We rely on Carnail for his shooting. With Brandon, he kind of dictates what happens in the games because the ball is in his hands."
Alexander calls Christiansen "a coaches dream," and said playing two sports hasn't been a problem because of his work ethic.
"He going to do anything you ask him to do," Alexander said. "If he's going to miss, he will come and tell you he's going to miss. He's very serious-minded. He's going to do his best to help the team out. If he plays 5 seconds, 5 minutes, or 15 (minutes), it doesn't matter to Matthew as long as he can contribute and help the team."
His fellow seniors admire what Christiansen has been able to do in making the adjustment from the soccer field to the basketball court.
"You have to be pretty talented to play two sports at the same time," Minor said.
Sharp is selfish when it comes to Christiansen.
"I hate to see him go play soccer some games because I want him to play with us," Sharp said. "Carnail and Matthew bring it every night."
Alexander is comfortable when Sharp brings the basketball up the floor.
After sitting out last year due to an injury, Sharp has been able to play point guard for SA the entire season.
"When the ball is in his hands, I feel pretty good," Alexander said. "Nine times out of 10, he's going to make a good decision. He holds his ground and it's hard to take the ball away from him. He is a very smart basketball player if you watch him. That really shows.
"I was looking forward to having him last year and he wasn't able to play, but having him back this year has been a big luxury and I know we are going to miss him next year."
Minor has led the Vols in scoring the last two seasons and has an average of 14 points per game this year.
Alexander said Minor has been "a big addition to the program."
"He also leads us in rebounds," Alexander said. "We ask Carnail to do it all and more times than not he comes through. He's a great kid and comes from a great family. He has been a joy to coach."
The SA seniors know they will be a focus of what happens at the home gymnasium tonight, but they also understand there is an important game to play.
Even though it's a non-conference matchup, all the Vols have to hear is that JA is coming to town and the competition is raised to a new level.
"It will be very emotional, knowing it will be senior night," Minor said. "The seniors have got to come out ready to play."
Sharp said the attention in practice has been on defense and knows that's what it's going to take to have success against Jackson Academy.
"We've been working hard," Sharp said. "It's going to be real exciting going into this last game. We've got to go out and show some emotion."
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