After one of the Laney girls basketball team's state playoff wins, the senior felt like she had finally delivered a performance up to her lofty standards.
She didn't preen around the locker room and announce her comeback complete. Instead, she nodded her head as teammates showered her with congratulations. Sapp had lived up to the promise she made to herself in the fall, when doubters pronounced her career derailed because she was pregnant.
"A lot of people were disappointed in me, said I had ruined my chance at getting a (basketball) scholarship; I never gave up on myself," said Sapp, who gave birth to a boy Dec. 16.
She rejoined the Lady Wildcats after the new year, and in three state playoff starts has become a big reason why Laney has won each game by at least 25 points.
"I'm telling you right now, you better watch out for the game coming up," said Laney coach Otis Smart, whose team meets Buford at 7 tonight in the Georgia Class AA state semifinals at Macon Centreplex. "She really wants to win -- really, really wants to win this thing."
Laney and Buford have combined to win 50 games in a row. Laney hasn't lost since a Dec. 20 defeat to Marietta in a holiday tournament in Myrtle Beach, S.C. That week, Sapp was in the hospital nursing the boy she named Trumaine after his father, Trumaine Jenkins.
Sapp admitted she was worried about her future but said, "I can't call my child a mistake; you can't do that. It was just something God gave me to overcome. You have to have faith."
Her path back to the basketball court began in early January. At that point, Sapp said she hadn't touched a basketball in eight months. She would come to basketball practice just to stretch her legs, walked on her aunt's treadmill for up to 40 minutes and worked up to the point she was running with a weighted vest. When she told coach Smart she was ready to play, he suggested waiting another week.
She played her first game in the middle of January but was not given a starting spot, even though she was the lone non-senior on The Augusta Chronicle 's all-area team a year ago. At a Jan. 24 game at Dublin, Smart said "she came out and destroyed them." Still, Smart wouldn't start Sapp until the region tournament, which ended Feb. 21, with Laney capturing the title.
"Anybody who knows this team knows Sapp should be out on the floor," said Smart, who praised the efforts of Chelsea Maultsby and Keyondra Cobb for filling in at forward early in the season.
"She worked her way back. ... She's going to finish strong, and I see her going to college."
Smart calls the 5-foot-11 forward a "relentless rebounder." She even wears kneepads because of the reckless way she chases rebounds.
"Just like coach says, she's getting everything, every rebound," said senior Taylor Ayers, a senior post player who leads the team in scoring.
In the fall, when she wasn't playing basketball for the first time in as long as she could remember, Sapp said she made a list of goals. She didn't write them down, just let them marinate in her head. Now, when she needs a reminder of her top goal -- to come back as a better basketball player than she was before -- she looks at her son.
"It pushes me," Sapp said. "It's something I can't give up. I have to go farther with my education to support him."
Reach Matt Middleton at (706) 823-3425 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Georgia Girls Class AA state semifinal
who: Laney vs. Buford
WHEN: 7 tonight
WHERE: Macon Centreplex
HOW THEY'VE FARED
laney: The Region 3-AA champions have won each playoff game by at least 25 points.
- Laney 76, Putnam County 48
- Laney 70, Mitchell County 38
- Laney 70, Northeast-Macon 45
BUFORD: The Region 6-AA champions have outscored their opponents 210-127 in the playoffs.
- Buford 77, Calloway 41
- Buford 63, Coosa 48
- Buford 70, Rabun County 38
UP NEXT: Tonight's winner plays Model or Henry County at 3 p.m. Saturday.
IF YOU GO
Macon Centreplex is located at 200 Coliseum Drive, Macon, Ga., 31217. From Augusta:
- Take I-20 west toward Atlanta to Exit 165
- Follow signs to Sparta then Milledgeville
- Take Georgia Hwy. 49 toward Macon
- 24.9 miles outside Milledgeville, bear left when road forks to Millerfield Road
- Travel 1.4 miles and turn right onto Jeffersonville Road
- Coliseum Drive will be on the left before the road intersects Interstate 16.