FORT WAYNE – Before the actual name of the Tiffany Gooden Award winner was announced at Monday nights program that honored the All-SAC and All-Northeast Indiana boys and girls teams, Tiffany Gooden, who announced the winner, gave Snider senior Akilah Sims a breath of hope.
I remember her saying girl, so it was just me and (Bishop Luers finalist) Miracle (Woods), said Sims, one of two girls and two boys as finalists as the top player in the SAC. I think its when she said Preparing for this year. I didnt know it was me, but I was like, Ive been doing that. Ive been doing that. Then she said we were 21-4, I was like, Oh my God, thats me. And then I started crying.
Indeed, it is the 5-foot-11 forward and member of the Indiana All-Star team who became the second Snider girls player to win the Tiffany Gooden Award. The first, of course, is Gooden, who was presented the award in 1994.
In all, more than three dozen athletes from the SAC and area schools were honored at the annual awards program. The All-Northeast Indiana teams and program are sponsored by SportONE Ortho Northeast and The Journal Gazette. The event took place at the Rhinehart Music Center on the IPFW campus.
In addition to Sims winning the Gooden Award, Concordias Dave Miller was selected as the SAC Girls Coach of the Year and Northrops Barak Coolman was named the SAC Boys Coach of the Year.
Even after accepting the award from Gooden, Sims had to compose herself.
Tiffanys my mentor, Sims said. I look up to her as basketball player and as a woman. By me getting this award, its like, Wow.
Shes been coming to my games for a couple years, and weve developed a relationship since then.
Sims averaged 23.0 points, 12.2 rebounds and 3.8 steals for the Panthers, who finished second in the SAC but won a sectional title.
Ive known Akilah since she was a young child, and Ive watched her grow and develop over the years, Gooden said. To see the growth that has transpired from her freshman year to now is phenomenal. Shes not only a great athlete and a great basketball player, but shes a great student. Shes a great person. Shes a Christian young woman; and to me, she represents what I tried to embody as a young student-athlete at that age.
Coolmans Bruins (21-4) were the SAC regular-season runners-up and SAC tournament champions. And they won a sectional title.
You do have to credit the kids because they bought in to what Ive been trying to teach, Coolman said.
Even though Millers Concordia team (21-5) placed third in the SAC, the Cadets won the Class 3A state championship.
The SAC is very tough, Miller said. What that does for you is prepare you so well for the (state) tournament. You play that competition, you win some, you lose some at that level, but boy, are you prepared when tournament comes.