Photo courtesy of Lohud: Ella Simko ‘19 presents Nadine McKenzie, mother of Shamoya, with flowers and cards prior to the Mamaroneck Girls’ JV game against Mount Vernon.
Most high school basketball games are filled with a lot of intensity. However, Mamaroneck’s game against Mount Vernon on January 6th felt different, and that was due to the death of Mount Vernon Girls’ JV player, Shamoya McKenzie.
Shamoya was a 13-year-old rising star on the Lady Knights’ basketball team. The 6’2” eighth grader had hopes and dreams of playing at the University of Connecticut and in the WNBA. On New Year’s Eve Day, Shamoya was shot and killed by a stray bullet while sitting in her car with her mother on the way home from basketball practice. This horrific action shattered Shamoya’s family, and left an unimaginable hole in the Mount Vernon community.
As a tribute to Shamoya, who usually took the tip off at the start of the game, captain Ella Simko ‘19 of Mamaroneck’s JV basketball team tearfully took the tip uncontested and alone, hitting the ball to the Mount Vernon girls waiting outside the circle at midcourt. At this point, referees stopped the game so that Mount Vernon players could deliver the game ball to Shamoya’s mother, who was seated on the Mount Vernon bench. The girls from Mount Vernon hugged and paid their respects to a seemingly stunned and numb Ms. McKenzie. Then it was Mamaroneck’s turn to give their condolences. Both the JV and Varsity team approached the bench to present cards, flowers, and sympathy to the entire Mount Vernon Girls’ basketball community.
Once the ceremony was done, the game resumed with a real jump ball. Mamaroneck lost, 42-39, and the game was a physical and mental battle for both sides, but the players showed tremendous resilience and integrity throughout. Simko stated, “Emotionally, it was a really tough game on all of us. It’s difficult to go from constantly crying to concentrating and playing a basketball game, but we all played for Shamoya and that’s all that mattered to us. This wasn’t just a really sad story that we heard on the news, it’s a tragedy that became very real and personal as soon as we walked into the gym. It’s a really difficult situation for anyone to be in, and I pray no one will ever have to go through something so heartbreaking; […] I am so honored to have been a part of honoring Shamoya and I know it’s a game I will remember for the rest of my life.”
This game truly showed the power of sports. Although it may seem to some like sports games are a source of division, pitting player against player and school against school, this basketball game brought the two communities together and demonstrated the importance of unity in the face of violence.
By Lindsey Randall