Being down 16 points in the first half of the CIAA Tournament wasn’t something the Livingstone College women were hoping for — but they were prepared for it.
Livingstone College came back to take the lead and hold an eight-point advantage in the second half before fouls and turnovers did it in. Virginia State won the game 66-63. But it had to fight a determined, gutsy bunch, tooth-and-nail to do so.
“The Livingstone women basketball team is a picture of adversity,” interim head coach Maurice Sumpter said after the game. “The young ladies can do more than you could imagine. And they came on other side of it. Not unscathed. They come out on the other side. And you saw that today during the game.”
Sumter is the third person to coach Livingstone since the season started back in November.
Chiante Wester started the season as the Blue Bears head coach, but she was suspended in the first semester following claims of “toxic bullying” within the program. No decision has been made on her future, but Lamont Massie-Sampson was fired as Director of Althetics around the same time.
For a while, eSports coach Will Stanley took the reins of the team. Ultimately Sumter, a member of Webster’s staff, took over the program on Jan. 8. He led the team to a 7-10 record under his leadership, finishing fourth in the CIAA Southern Division.
Livingstone toughness was a gift and a curse
Livingstone College plays a hard-nosed brand of basketball, which is a strength but can also come back to hurt them. Wednesday evening it sent Virginia State to the line for 39 attempts while shooting just 13 of their own. It’s something that Sumter has noticed and tried to figure out.
“It was a big disparity. I’m not saying that would determine the outcome of the game, but it was noticeable. “We’re a physical team. And to be honest with you, we’ve been dealing with that all year, trying to measure the physicality throughout the game, throughout the night. And that’s been a common theme throughout the year where there’s been a disparity in the free throws.”
Andresa Alexander admitted things haven’t been all roses, but she and her teammates appreciate Sumter for holding the fort down.
“I feel like it’s definitely been a challenge, especially going through three coaches that one year. But I mean, Coach Mo has definitely made it a little bit easier for us. Of course, we have growing pains like every other team will have with their coach, but it’s just like we definitely know that he has made us better in some way, shape or form as a team individually. He’s been there for us mentally and physically and we appreciate that from the bottom of our heart.”
With the season over, flanked by Alexander and Thalia Carter, Sumter’s face was a mixture of disappointment and pride as he reflected on the last six weeks since taking over the gig.
“You know, they taught me just as much as I’ve taught them. And I’m just so proud of them beyond measure. It’s just amazing to be sitting in this seat with these two amazing young ladies beside me. But every last one of those young ladies in the locker room. And I just want to send a salute to them — and a special thank you to these young ladies and also coach Chiante Wester, who’s not with us. But all of us are a family together. I just enjoyed the experience with these young ladies, and I’m glad that they got a chance to experience every minute of it.”