PEA RIDGE -- Sportsmanship came full circle when Farmington junior Makenna Vanzant presented a bouquet of roses to Pea Ridge cheerleader Kennedy Allison prior to a Tuesday, Jan. 29 girls basketball game.
The entire Farmington girls basketball team presented roses to Kennedy, who recently returned to school after collapsing in a classroom Friday, Jan. 11. School personnel including principal and former head boys basketball coach Charley Clark, head baseball coach John King, and school nurse LaRay Thetford, began CPR and used a defibrillator to get Kennedy's heart beating again.
In October of 2017, Vanzant was unexpectedly hospitalized for 16 days battling for her life against Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome. When Vanzant made a miraculous return to basketball, Pea Ridge players each gave her flowers before a Dec. 8, 2017 game during the Tony Chachere's tournament.
"It was one of the classiest things I've ever seen done in basketball," said Farmington coach Brad Johnson, explaining Pea Ridge coach Heath Neal phoned him the day before and said his girls wanted to do something to demonstrate their support for Makenna.
HUS is a condition caused by the abnormal destruction of red blood cells. The damaged red blood cells clog the filtering system in the kidneys, which can lead to life-threatening kidney failure. Makenna's diagnosis was originally very grim. Doctors questioned whether she would come out of ICU alive, yet Makenna miraculously recovered and returned to the Lady Cardinal lineup in time for the 2017 season opener.
"Coach Neal asked if it would be appropriate to do it and I said 'absolutely,'" Johnson said. "It's the ultimate good deed. For me, it was such a special moment. Basketball is an extended family. When someone hurts, we all hurt. It's a moment I'll never forget. I'll never be able to thank him enough."
The gesture of goodwill and sportsmanship brought tears to the eyes of Vanzant's mother, Monica Vanzant.
"I just cried for about two minutes," Monica Vanzant said.
Once the game got underway Farmington ran away from Pea Ridge, 74-34, leaving Neal and the Lady Blackhawks wishing for a chance at redemption believing they were better than the final score indicated.
That opportunity came Tuesday, Jan. 29 with senior Gabbi Adams banking in an improbable 3-point shot to send the game into overtime before Pea Ridge won, 63-60, ending a 12-game losing streak to Farmington that dated back to Feb. 10, 2009, Pea Ridge's last win over Farmington, 53-33, at Blackhawk Gymnasium the year before Johnson took over as head coach.
Pea Ridge also won the last overtime game between the schools, on Jan. 20, 2009 at Farmington's Myrl Massie Gymnasium, 55-52.
Farmington left the 4A-1 Conference from 2014-2018 and the schools didn't play again until the Dec. 2017 tournament game.
Wave Of Emotion
Neal acknowledged Pea Ridge has been riding a wave of emotion over Kennedy's revival, which he said overshadows what the Lady Blackhawks accomplished on the basketball court.
"Not to take away from that great miracle that God provided that girl and she's a close family friend of mine, and I think that we've rode on that last couple of weeks for sure by all means and I think our community's gathered around our teams because she's an athlete. But, I think this is a deal that we've been building for awhile and so we're just piggybacking off that and keep the momentum going."
Prior to the game Johnson said he was looking forward to actually be able to meet Kennedy and shake her hand and just tell her how inspirational her story will be, not only right now but for scores of kids from now on.
"Our heart goes out to them and obviously that's something I've talked with Coach Neal about here recently," Johnson said. "When you have something like that it can be devastating on the initial side of it, but what a blessing for that young lady's life to be saved, to have the right people in the right spots to save her life. She's back, back home. She attended the game the other night. It's just so very, very special just to know about that blessing."
Empathy For Emergency
In January of 2015, Farmington's Ella Wilson collapsed after returning to the bench in a junior high game at Shiloh Christian. She went into cardiac arrest and was revived by a defibrillator with Farmington parent, Dr. Pete Ball, dad of Farmington senior Eliza Ball, and the Shiloh Christian school nurse acting as first responders.
Wilson underwent many of the same things Kennedy experienced, such as having an internal defibrillator implanted. She returned to play volleyball and graduated in 2018.
Having familiarity with life and death situations gives Johnson empathy for Kennedy and Pea Ridge.
"You know, our hearts again, go out to her and we know she's got a recovery. It's not going to be something that's going to happen overnight, but we're thinking of her family. We're thinking of her and we're thinking of that entire program cause if anybody understands those type of things it's our kids," Johnson said. "The other thing about this whole deal is it goes back to you look at what happened with Ella (Wilson) and then what happened with Makenna (Vanzant) last year, the game of basketball is a large community. At the end of the day, we compete against each other, but when those folks hurt, we all hurt. I'm just thrilled for that community and for that young lady that things went the way they did."Sports on 02/06/2019
Print Headline: Sportsmanship Comes Full Circle When Miracle Girls Meet