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Winning one for Kayla
Falcons remember fallen classmate
Singing the national anthem has just become part of the routine for River Valley High senior Aleqse Hawkins.
When she's not putting up stellar numbers for the Falcons' girls basketball team, Hawkins displays her vocal talent at the boys games where she frequently sings the "Star-Spangled Banner."
She's performed the number countless times now, yet one performance sticks out in her mind.
Last season after singing at a game, Hawkins was approached by a senior girl with an infectious smile, who told her she was "beautiful and had the most amazing singing voice." A complete stranger was nice enough to pay Hawkins that compliment.
That girl was Kayla Lizama-Pierson, a 2012 River Valley High graduate who was tragically killed in an automobile accident on Nov. 18, a day after her 18th birthday.
"She was a bubbly person and always had a smile on her face," Hawkins said. "She always brought people's spirits up and never had anything negative to say."
As impressive as the Falcons' 66-22 victory over Pioneer was on Friday night, the biggest ovation was given at halftime.
In a ceremony at half court, Kayla's parents, Clarence Pierson and Angie Lizama-Pierson, were informed that a scholarship foundation has been established in Kayla's honor, funded by Friday's ticket sales, raffle, snack bar and various donations throughout the community.
Friday night marked the first annual Kayla Lizama-Pierson Dedication Game, a tradition which event coordinator Alexandria Rainey hopes continues for years to come.
Rainey, a former RV basketball standout, coaches her alma mater's freshman girls team. Lizama-Pierson's funeral was the same day as a game earlier this season, and when her players somberly filed in to the locker room, they informed Rainey of the situation.
Rainey decided to establish this dedication game every season to honor the legacy of Lizama-Pierson.
She presented the family with a commemorative plaque at halftime on Friday, a moment she said was the most amazing feeling of her life.
"It was hard to not choke up and cry before they did," Rainey
said. "It meant a lot that we were able to bring this family some joy in a very hard time."
It wasn't Falcons vs. Patriots at Falcon Gymnasium — everybody was on Team Kayla.
Players, coaches, students, fans, Kayla's family, nearly the entire gym was filled with people wearing purple shirts (Kayla's favorite color). On the back of the shirt, instead of a last name, was the name "Kayla" and the No. 1.
A quote on the front of the shirt read, "At the end of the day, all we have is who we are."
Purple and white balloons were sprinkled around the gym, numerous signs adorned the walls with messages such as, "This is for U," "Rest in Paradise," "RVHS Family," and "We Love You."
Tears filled the eyes of RV players, fans and members of the Lizama-Pierson family as family friend Jordan Mahon performed an original rap song for Kayla with the lyrics, "Don't cry 'cause I know she wouldn't want me to ... her smile when I'm down could've pulled me through."
The first thing River Valley coach Tom Zaragoza thinks about when remembering Kayla is that smile.
"Once you put that picture in your head, you just start crying and you feel so bad for the family," Zaragoza said. "The amount of people here today shows just how many lives Kayla touched."
Hawkins said she held back the tears on Friday night because she knew Kayla would want everybody to be happy.
As she emerged from the locker room, Hawkins traded in her patented black headband for purple.
Before tip-off she looked up and saw a sign that simply stated, "Kayla," in purple glitter.
She closed her eyes and remembered the girl with the big smile who told her she was beautiful.
"We were playing tonight for the beautiful person that she was," Hawkins said. "She had a great soul and a great heart. She brought everyone together here.
"It's amazing to see how this city came together like this."
River Valley 66, Pioneer 22
With the memory of Kayla Lizama-Pierson as their dedication, the River Valley High girls basketball team opened its Tri-County Conference slate with an impressive win.
The Falcons routed visiting Pioneer at Falcon Gymnasium as 12 of the 14 players on the roster scored.
River Valley went on a 19-0 run that spanned the end of the second quarter until 4:43 remained in the third period as the Falcons extended their lead to 36-9.
Senior Taylor Massengale had a big game inside for River Valley (11-6, 1-0) with 15 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks. Fellow senior Sarah Brennan was also a force in the post with a game-high 16 points and nine rebounds.
Aleqse Hawkins dished out six assists and was a force on defense with eight steals. She also scored five points.
RV continues its TCC slate at Natomas on Wednesday.