MYRTLE POINT – This was the kind of game Makaia Gilkey would have loved – a tight contest for her Myrtle Point Bobcats that ended in a win for her team.
The team’s 47-45 victory over Waldport in the Sunset Conference opener for both teams on Tuesday night turned out to be a perfect tribute to the sophomore of Myrtle Point, who was killed in a crash car last week.
The moving evening began when the team honored Makaia’s memory while presenting gifts to her family and ended with the victorious Bobcats posing for photos with her mother and two of her three sisters.
“Our goal was to make Makaia’s family smile – to give them a reason to smile,” said Myrtle Point coach Jennifer Sproul. “We did it.”
Sproul fought off the tears before the game by handing Makaia’s family a display case with her basketball, volleyball and softball uniforms, as well as her varsity letter and the pins she would have received for all three sports. . After the game, Sproul shared a tearful hug with assistant coaches Erika LaFranchi and Kaylie Parrish before having the traditional post-game reunion with the team in the locker room, where she again became emotional.
“I have no idea how many games I have coached, played or assisted,” said Sproul. “I can guarantee that I have never been so proud.
“I am so proud of these girls.”
The Bobcats traded for the lead with the Irish throughout the close game before coming up with some big plays down the stretch to claim the victory.
“The whole game we fought,” said Sproul. “We played hard. We played as a mentally exhausted team, and we have been.
The team had spent a short time together after the tragedy.
The team’s first training after Makaia’s death did not become a training session, but a rally which Sproul said was very difficult.
“We sat down and talked about the fragility of life,” she said. “We have to remember that tomorrow is not guaranteed.
“We talked about how we treat each other as teammates. We sat and talked, cried and told stories (about Makaia).
The sophomore was a leader of the junior varsity team and the biggest cheerleader on the bench in varsity games, Sproul said.
“She was the first to jump and clap,” said the coach.
And she was an invaluable training player for the team, fighting with the Myrtle Point post players to toughen them up, showing her competitive spirit all the time.
“She was really just loud and proud and a vocal leader for us,” Sproul said. “She was so positive.”
Given Makaia’s personality, Myrtle Point manager Kayli Fandel told the huge crowd that a moment of silence would not be appropriate before the game when talking about Makaia.
“Usually we end this with a moment of silence, but Makaia was not a quiet soul,” Fandel said. “Makaia was outgoing, enthusiastic and always made her presence known, so we will cry to heaven in memory of Makaia. “
Fandel then urged fans to “cheer, scream and make noise.”
In addition to the jerseys, the boys’ basketball team presented a mug with Makaia’s uniform number 44, and the female basketball players presented the family with 23 roses, one from each member of the varsity teams and juniors, as well as hugs.
The boys and girls teams wore matching blue warm-up clothes with the words “Forever in our hearts” on the front and Makaia’s name and number on the back – made possible by BNT embroidery – and the girls wore also ribbons in Makaia’s favorite color, pink, with her number during warm-ups.
All of this set the stage for the game, which happened at the last minute.
Waldport erased a five-point lead at Myrtle Point in the dying minutes and took the two-point advantage when Allie Storts, one of Myrtle Point’s main executives, came up with a series of big plays.
First, she suffered a foul as she started a run to the hoop, sent to the foul line for a unique opportunity.
She sank the first, to the delight of the huge crowd, but missed the second, which she later said is often a late trend.
“I usually miss my second free throw,” she said.
But Storts made up for the dud by grabbing the rebound, then finding Grace Bradford open under the hoop for the starting basket.
“I just pulled in the defense and brought it to my post,” Storts said. “I knew Grace would be there.”
Storts then stole possession from Waldport and added another free throw as the Bobcats held on.
“We decided before the game that it was for Makaia,” said Sarah Nicholson, another senior manager of the team. “Losing was not an option.”
Nicholson said the team had to overcome a lot of emotions.
“It was probably the toughest game I have ever played,” she said. “I usually don’t cry before the game.”
But, she added, the team played their best competition.
“I think it was the first game where our team really came together and played as one team,” said Nicholson.
Maddi Reynolds led the Bobcats with 15 points, including two first-half four-pointers where she was fouled with a 3-pointer and added the free throw. Nicholson added 11 points and Bradford eight.
Lillyn Legrand had 15 points and Charity Smith 14 for the Irish.
Waldport was not good enough to curb the party mood of the evening.
Makaia’s mother Crystal Orr said her daughter loved basketball, really all sports, and was fiercely competitive, hating to lose.
The large crowd, the largest in recent memory for a home game at Myrtle Point, showed how much Makaia has touched others, Orr added.
“She meant a lot to the community,” she said.
The same community helped the family through last week.
“Everyone is grieving with me,” Orr said. “I couldn’t do it without the support of the community. “
Part of this support is a new annual scholarship in memory of Makaia. All proceeds from Tuesday’s game will go into the scholarship fund, with the prize awarded annually to an elderly girl. Orr and her husband, JB, will select the recipient.
While Orr was pleased with the outpouring of support on Tuesday, she was delighted with the outcome of the game.
“Waldport is tough (to beat),” she said. “Makaia would have left happy.”
“She was fun and goofy and she never got depressed,” Storts said. “I think we made her proud tonight. I know we did.