Friday, February 14, 2014

A Special Shot

6.7 seconds. Not a lot of time. What can you do in 6.7 seconds? Tonight it simply humbled hearts and brightened spirits. It turned two rivals into friends for a night.

Prairie Grove Tigers and Farmington Cardinals, the battle of High Way 62, is another small town rivalry. Up and down highway 62 it’s as big as Alabama verses Auburn, Seahawks verses 49ers, the Heat verses the Pacers; especially this year with the stakes on the line.

Both Farmington boys and girls needed to win and run the table to be the number one seeds for the district tournament and to win the conference. Prairie Grove could climb the ladder to get a higher seed and break their rivals hearts. Nothing could be better for Prairie Grove than doing that on Senior Night in their home gym.

The first game of the night was nothing short of exciting. Lots of lead changes and in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter, the Farmington girls pulled away for the win. The girls took conference and the number one seed for district tournament, one down and one to go. Prairie Grove, now a little angry, was ready to make their mark on the night. Little did they know it would come in a different way than anticipated.

The Prairie Grove boys took a twelve-point lead on their rival with eleven minutes left in the game. In those final minutes tempers began to flare and the Tigers fell apart. They had lost all control of their emotions. The Tigers had the lead, but played like they were losing. Before the fourth quarter that lead dissolved into a one-point deficit. The two teams battled all the way down into the final minute. It was in that final minute that all the magic began to happen.

Prairie Grove turned the ball over two times and watched the five-point deficit fall to an eight point deficit. It was over. Farmington had prevailed over their rival. Instead of the classless chant from Farmington “Start the Bus”, the Cardinals and Tigers student section started chanting, “Put McKay in…put McKay in…put McKay in.”

Who was McKay? McKay was a senior for Prairie Grove who had never stepped onto the court to play. However, he had stayed faithful to the team as manager for all three years. McKay was diagnosed with 22 Q 11 syndrome. Simply put, it’s a genetic deletion that causes autistic like symptoms along with moderate intellectual disability for McKay.  He doesn’t learn very fast, he doesn’t focus well, and has difficulty socializing. There are a lot of things he can’t do, however, tonight it wasn’t about what he couldn’t do, but what he could do.

In the heat of defeat the Prairie Grove coach, Steve Edminston, was trying to accept a tough loss. With all the thoughts and emotions going on through his head he could not hear the fans chants to put McKay in. The time kept ticking. 38 seconds to 29 seconds. Then as play continued the Tigers committed a foul with 6.7 seconds to go.  As the teams walked to the other end of the floor for the free throw, Kyllie McCmullen, a cheer leader, went up to Coach Ed and asked if he would put McKay in. Shock came over his face. He came back to reality and remembered his humble manager. He turned to McKay and motioned him in. The crowd, both Farmington and Prairie Grove, rose to their feet. He came into the game and was a little confused of where to go. He came over to the right wing. The ball was rolled up the court and passed to the unlikely hero. A shot, and a miss. Jeremy Mueller, from Farmington, the opposing team,  came down with the board and instead of holding onto the ball to run out the clock he immediately passed the ball back to McKay. From thirty feet out….BOTTOM!

The students stormed the court, the crowd cheered as one, and a family cried in joy for their son.  I have played in the rivalry. I know what it means to both towns to win. I will never forget how love displayed after the special shot. I was sitting on the Farmington side with my parents helping them with the broadcast. The Farmington fans all started congratulating and hugging my mom and dad. There was no taunting over the losers. There was complete unison for the MVP of the night McKay.

Tonight McKay Gregson was special for another reason. Tonight he was special for bringing peace to the storm, turning hate into love, and rivals into friends. What can you do with 6.7 seconds?  Now you know.

(copyright 2014)
(Ty Gregson)