A Senior Night to remember for Elco's Thomas
MYERSTOWN - Fate, and a torn ACL, conspired to ruin Alexis Thomas's senior basketball season before it even began.
A simple, but special, act of kindness and sportsmanship on Tuesday night gave the Elco forward back some important things she thought were gone for good.
The chance to hear her name announced with the starting lineup. The opportunity to step onto the floor with her teammates one last time. And the joy of seeing the ball go through the hoop on her home court as she said goodbye to the game she loves that didn't always love her back.
The record will show that in the final game of her career, Thomas scored a measly two points in what was a thorough 58-30 loss by the Raiders to fierce county rival Northern Lebanon.
The record will be woefully inadequate in showing what actually happened.
Despite her injury, Thomas, still on the mend, suited up and started Tuesday night's contest along with fellow 12th grader Adrianna Sonnen as part of Elco's Senior Night festivities.
A nice enough gesture, but wait, it gets better.
With the cooperation of Northern Lebanon, which needed a win to clinch the Section 3 title, Thomas was allowed to score the game's first points on an uncontested layup after the Vikings let Elco win the opening tip and left Thomas all alone under the basket to receive a pass from Sonnen.
In a return gesture of sportsmanship, Elco let Northern Lebanon score the tying bucket seconds later as Thomas left the floor for the final time and embraced her dad and Elco assistant Earl Thomas.
It may or may not have been a little dusty in the gym at that point.
"Obviously, it's been hard for her not to be able to play this year," said Elco head coach Ashli Shay. "Two years ago, her sophomore year, she missed most of the year with an ankle injury and had to have ankle surgery. Finally, last year she makes it through a whole season, and then, boom, over the summer she blows her knee out.
"She really has had a hard time, obviously, with injuries. And she loves this game so much. It's hard for her every game to watch everybody be able to come out and play, and she can't."
But Thomas has been there for her team throughout the injury miseries, and on Tuesday night her team, and Northern Lebanon's, were there for her.
"Big thanks to Kenny (head coach Battistelli) and Northern Lebanon for allowing us to do that," Shay said. "It means something to her, and is special for her and her family. We're happy to do that."
Thomas, of course, was grateful, and understandably overcome about what transpired.
"She was emotional about it," Shay confirmed. "She's been emotional all year, just because she feels so helpless. She just wants to get out and play, but unfortunately these things happen. I know she appreciates it, I know she was happy to do it."
There was only one problem - what if she missed the layup or otherwise messed up her big chance to go out on a high note? After all, she hadn't played for a while and suddenly all eyes were on her.
"She was just worried she was gonna miss the layup," Shay said with a smile. "We said, 'It doesn't matter if you miss the layup, if you miss the layup you can get your own rebound. Just don't dribble the ball off your foot out of bounds or something.' But I thought she did a good job. That's a lot of pressure."