Without much fanfare and without TV cameras or radio crews, point guard Jasmine Symms celebrated her senior night at Riverside on Monday as the Warriors picked up a 57-41 win over visiting Oak Hill.
Victories of any kind have been hard to come by over the course of Symms’ four years, but as her prep career has inched toward a close, she’s learned to appreciate the small things – like a piece of cake with her face on it after the game.
Symms’ face, name, and numbers will go down in Riverside history. She likely will become the school’s all-time leading scorer — surpassing Carly Price’s 1,152 career points — over the next couple of games, as she currently has 1,099 career points. Earlier this season, she became just the fourth Warrior to eclipse 1,000 points for her career.
But most players in the 1,000 club can’t relate to the amount of work it has taken Symms to get there. Up against box-and-one defenses and as the center of an opponents game plan every single game, she’s had to earn each and every one of those tallies. All while shouldering the load for an undermanned squad stuck in arguably the toughest conference and one of the toughest regions in the state.
“It is pretty hard,” Symms admitted it. “I talk to my team and tell them they have to screen my defender to get me open and they’re starting to learn that.”
There were trying times along the way to say the least, particularly a year ago as the Warriors limped through a 4-19 season. Since her arrival as a freshman, the Warriors are just 26-60 and 3-37 in MSAC games.
That despite Symms averaging double figures in scoring every year including 15.1 points per game last season. She entered Monday with a 16.7-points-per-game average this season.
Symms had a game-high 19 points for the Warriors (6-11) in Monday’s win.
Coach Scott Garretson admitted there were times he thought he’d lose her. Symms admitted there were times she thought of leaving.
But neither happened. Instead, Garretson said he has seen maturation replace frustration as the the years have gone by.
“She’s a competitor and she’s forced more to shoot more than the average person and she’s had her games in the past where I could see the frustration setting in and lost her cool at times,” Garretson said. “But this year I’ve seen the leadership. I haven’t seen her get frustrated once. She’s not once quit, not once giving up and she’s become a vocal leader.
“It’s been refreshing,” Garretson added. “A couple of times in practice she’s busted the younger girls out for not giving effort and we look at each other as coaches and say, ‘There you go Jas.’”
It’s becoming rarer and rarer to see good players stick it out through lean years on the high school level. Some transfer. Some just quit. Yet as heavy as the losing has weighed on her shoulders at times, Symms said she has always taken pride in wearing Riverside purple. It’s that sense of community pride that kept her coming back, no matter what the scoreboard said.
“I just feel like this is home,” Symms said. “All my friends are here and I’m not good at making new friends. I’m dedicated to this sport and this place is home to me. I’ve grown up here. I know everybody.”
Everyone that has anything to do with basketball in Eastern Kanawha County knows her as well. In fact, that is what is continuing to drive her, leaving a lasting impression on the youngsters in the community.
Symms remembers when she was that little girl, staring up at the 1,000 board and hoping she’d be on it someday. And now, little girls will gaze up at her name.
“It’s been my lifelong goal since I was a little kid,” Symms said. “Playing Warrior League here when I was 5, I’d always look up at the 1,000-point board and think, ‘I’m going to be up here one day.’ It feels good that I’m finally going to be up there.”
Garretson said her presence has made the team’s younger players better. Symms hopes her reach stretches beyond that.
“I hope they just follow what I do,” Symms said.
What she will do next is still undecided. Symms said that she’s torn between playing softball or basketball at the next level.
But whatever comes next, Garretson said her mark on the program will be long-lasting.
“I’ve been around a long time and I’ve seen every team since 2005, and Riverside has never really had a great ball handler and she’s the exception to that rule,” Garretson said. “She’s allowed me to set up offenses and do things I wanted to do as a coach, because in the past I couldn’t even get in anything because teams would get up on our guards and take it and go the other way.
“She has allowed this program to reach a different level with her play-making abilities. She’s the best point guard I’ve ever seen here. There’s no comparison.”
Haidyn Bare and Kendall Merrell each added 10 points for the Warriors. Samiah Lynch led Oak Hill with 11 points.