PLANTATION — In many ways the 3-pointer Tiana Stubbs made at the start of a game against Somerset Prep was the easiest shot she ever had in high school, but it was also the toughest.
This season is Stubbs’ senior year. It was supposed to be a year that she further established herself as a bona fide college prospect.
It was supposed to be a year in which the girl from the Hollywood Reservation played a major role on one of the top teams in the state seeking its third straight state championship.
Instead, the torn ACL and meniscus injury she suffered toward the end of last season kept her out of action all this season.
In order to try to add a special touch to her senior night, the coaches at American Heritage and Somerset arranged that Stubbs would be allowed an open 3-point shot at the start of the game and then retire back to the bench. Somerset was also allowed an uncontested 3-point shot.
With no defenders around her, Stubbs sank the 3-pointer on her third attempt. American Heritage’s bench and the crowd, which included her father Glen and other family members and relatives, erupted with cheers. Her teammates, including her sister December, congratulated her at midcourt.
“I wanted to cry, but I couldn’t cry,” Stubbs said. “It was good. It was special for me. I’m glad they did that.”
It was the final points for Stubbs in the gymnasium she and her sister have called home since they were sixth-graders.
Even without Tiana Stubbs, American Heritage has continued to be a powerhouse, racking up more than 20 wins and district and regional championships (American Heritage advanced to the state Final Four, which was set to be played after deadline for this issue of the Tribune).
What if Stubbs had been able to play this year?
“Lights out for sure,” said December Stubbs.
“We’ve had a good year, but with Tiana here it would have been much better,” American Heritage coach Greg Farias said. “She’s an amazing young lady. She’s athletic, she’s fast, she can shoot the ball and she can defend.”
Those are some of the reasons why she had drawn interest from colleges like Boston University, Florida Atlantic and Jacksonville before her injury.
Her focus for now is to continue to support her team as it set its sights on another state championship.
“It’s tough, but I support my sister. She basically plays for me,” Stubbs said.
Indeed, in many ways December Stubbs is the “general” of the team.
An elite passer of the ball whose court awareness is among the best, Stubbs does a lot of things well with and without the ball.
She’s usually one of the smaller players on the court, but she can often be found battling against giants for rebounds.
“December is the hardest working young lady I’ve ever met,” Farias said.
“She does all the dirty work. She doesn’t get the accolades for being first team and all that, but what she does in the game is unbelievable.”
Her talent has been noticed in Broward County, too. She is American Heritage’s only senior to be selected to play in Broward County’s public versus private all-star game in March that features the area’s top seniors.
Farias said Division II and NAIA schools have expressed interest in December.
There’s no doubt next season will feel different at American Heritage without the Stubbs sisters.
“It was a privilege to have them. They’re amazing young ladies,” Farias said. “Hopefully we can keep working with the Tribe because they have some amazing basketball players.”