AMERICAN PRESS FEMALE OUTSTANDING ATHLETE OF THE YEAR: Brister leaves trail of success at Lake Arthur

Rodrick Anderson

Lake Arthur’s Deonna Brister has never backed down from a challenge.

She jumped into high school sports as a seventh-grader with the Tigers’ softball team, and she kept adding sports, including basketball, track and cross country. Jumping from one sport to the next with little time in between, Brister always found a way to succeed.

Brister wrapped up her career with a stunning senior campaign, earning all-district in four sports, taking the softball team to the quarterfinals for the first time in program history, winning the American Press All-Southwest Small Schools basketball and LSWA Class 2A MVP awards, and leading the Tigers to the Class 2A state basketball championship. She can add American Press Outstanding female Athlete of the Year to that.

“It has been an eventful year,” Brister said. “With COVID and everything, that affected it too, but I wouldn’t change anything about it.

“I started playing high school sports in seventh grade because of softball. I did track, cross country, and basketball when I was in the eighth grade. I was young, but I still got after it, and it was an experience.”

Softball was her favorite sport until meeting Lake Arthur girls basketball head coach Vickie Sketoe. In five seasons, Brister set the school career rebound record at 1,067 and finished with 2,167 points, No. 2 behind Heidi Duplantis (2,203).

“Coach got a hold of me, and she just made me love the game even more,” Brister said. “She (Sketoe) is amazing.

“She knows what she is doing. She pushes you when you don’t think you can go anymore. She believes in you. She wants what is best for the kids. It has been an amazing experience playing for her for the five years that I did. I was really big into softball, and I didn’t know that basketball would be my life. It is the nature of it — the atmosphere of the games. It is just more upbeat. I feel like it is more competitive and intense. I just love basketball.”

As a senior, Brister averaged 20.1 points, 10.4 rebounds, and three steals per game, leading the Tigers to their first state title since 1976.

“Deonna is one of a kind,” Sketoe said. “She is a leader and just a good kid. I knew she was going to be special. She is just an all-around player.”

Brister’s favorite memory was winning that state championship in Hammond in March, 62-61 over Doyle.

“It still feels unreal,” Brister said. “It still feels like I have another year, but I don’t.

“It is just crazy how hard we worked for this throughout every year. We were so close my freshman year, but we came short. To finally get it done, it really means a lot. Actually, I didn’t hear the buzzer go off because it was so loud. I was going to take the ball out, but I wasn’t going to bring it in because I knew there wasn’t a lot of time left. I looked up and just saw the red ring around the backboard, and my heart just dropped.”

This season, Brister finished fifth (19:49.6) at the state cross country meet, led the Tigers to the Class 2A softball quarterfinals where they lost to eventual state champion Doyle 9-4 and placed fifth in the triple jump (33-43/4) at the Class 2A outdoor track and field championships.

Playing sports helped her off the court as well as she maintained a 3.98 grade point average and helped her communicate better with her peers.

“It helped me communicate better with people,” Brister said. “You have to communicate on the court.

“It made it easier to talk to people. My work ethic improved throughout the years, and it carried from the basketball court to school and everything else I would do.”

Brister will start a new career this fall with the Nicholls State basketball team.

“I look forward to growing as a player and experiencing the next level,” Brister said. “I am going to have to adjust to it, but I can do it.

“I took college courses my senior year. Sometimes I was doing homework on the bus on the way to games. Other than that it wasn’t bad. I did what I had to do in class to where I didn’t have homework when I got home.”

””

Deonna Brister, Lake Arthur High School

Kirk Meche / Special to the American Press

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