One senior experienced ecstasy Monday night. Another writhed in agony.
Glasgow senior Elli Bartley played her final game as a Lady Scottie. She did not see the dramatic finish. Six minutes into the first round 15th District Tournament game, Bartley crumpled to the floor at the top of the 3-point line and grabbed at her right knee. The game continued.
Barren County picked up the loose ball and drove to the other end of the court. A few seconds later, officials stopped play and coach Justin Stinson and trainer John Vaughn rushed to Bartley.
“She told me when I got out there, ‘Coach, I heard a pop, tell them to win the game,’” Stinson said. “Five seconds later, she’s thinking about her teammates. I teared up on the floor and then I’ve got to come back and talk to my team.”
“As a coach, you’ve got to be strong for your kids. If they see confusion in my face, if they see panic in my face …,” he paused, “then they are going to panic as well. You’re hurting for Elli, a kid that you are so close to, but at the same time you’ve got to come over here and coach your team the rest of the game.”
Olivia Poynter, the only senior for Barren County, can likely relate to Bartley’s pain and perseverance. She missed all but three games of her junior year with a knee injury. The Trojanettes, meanwhile, a program with a rich history of winning, has been mired in its longest stretch of failure to win a district tournament game. In Poynter’s freshman year, they won 7 games. In her sophomore year – 7 again, and last year as she watched, they won 12. They lost a first-round district game each of those seasons.
So when the ball came to the sharp shooter at the top of the 3-point line — near the exact same spot where Bartley had collapsed nearly 26 game minutes earlier — her time had arrived for redemption. Poynter did not shy away from the moment, the chance to end an eight-year drought for the Trojanettes. She let the ball fly and it struck true. Barren led 41-39.
“I’m over there about to call a timeout and our senior does what she does; hits a big 3,” said Barren County coach Piper Lindsey. “She’s just a really special girl who cares. She cares about (others) and she doesn’t care about herself. It’s about the team.
“With her being the only senior … she’s done a really good job of molding (the players) together.”
Glasgow attempted a 3 that was short with about 5 seconds left in the game. Poynter got the rebound. She was fouled then hit both free throws to secure a 43-39 win for her team. It’s the Trojanettes’ first district tournament victory since 2009, when Poynter was in elementary school.
“It’s unbelievable. It’s great for the girls and for the program. It’s great for the girls to experience that,” Lindsey said.
Poynter and her teammates celebrated when the final horn sounded.
Both coaches said they were proud of their players.
Both said there are greater lessons learned from games like the one Monday night.
James Brown is digital director for Commonwealth Broadcasting. He spent 20 years covering high school sports in Kentucky and Mississippi. Follow him on Twitter @JbrownESPNKY.