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Kaylee's winning shot

7:50 PM, Feb 19, 2012   |    comments
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ARVADA - It was always meant to be. Even in kindergarten Kaylee McBeth had a love for basketball. She learned the game while playing with her older brothers and sisters in the driveway at home. Her mother, Jana and father, Rod knew how much the game meant to the kids and encouraged them to play.

By the time Kaylee reached the 8th grade, the goal of playing in high school for Faith Christian Academy was within reach.
"It was a big goal to be on varsity," says Kaylee.

That same year however, a series of events would change everything for Kaylee and her family.

One Friday night Kaylee lost her father, Rod when he passed away in his sleep. The strong and active father was later determined to have had a virus in his heart that was previously undetected. Rod was such a central figure in the family that putting his loss into words is difficult for them.

Five months after losing her father, Kaylee started feeling sluggish and was short of breath. Doctors determined she had an inoperable tumor growing within her heart. They ordered her to stop playing any sports that put her at risk of contact.

It meant that goal of playing high school basketball was gone.

"When Kaylee first heard, she started crying in the office," says Jana McBeth.

Through all the challenges, Kaylee and her family had the unwavering support of the girls she grew up playing basketball with. Her coach, Rick Long was even at the hospital when Kaylee was told she'd have to give up the game.

"It was actually there in the hospital that I just said, hey, then you're going to be our manager," says Long.

It was a role Kaylee embraced. For the next four years she served her teammates by taping ankles, filling water bottles, running the practice clock and shooting game video. Whatever the team needed, Kaylee did it without a question.

Still, for the girls Kaylee had grown up playing basketball with it was difficult seeing her on the sidelines and not on the court.

"It was difficult seeing her go through that and know that she wanted to be out on the court with us every day," says Brooklyn Long, a senior on the team.

With the final home game of the year fast approaching and Kaylee being a senior, her teammates started to ask if there was any possibility for her to play a few minutes of that last game.

The doctors said yes.

"I'm just excited to get to play and to make a shot," says Kaylee.

Wearing the uniform and stepping on the court were things Kaylee had missed out on, but after watching for four years, she wanted to make a shot and hear the crowd.

"It is just that taste of what she's been missing for four years. That she gets a chance to step on the floor, experience the crowd and it is about giving Kaylee another shot," says Coach Long.

With Faith Christian Academy sitting on a comfortable lead against Colorado Academy with six minutes remaining, it was Kaylee's moment. She entered the game to the cheers of fans from both schools. The bright smile on her face told you everything you needed to know about what this moment meant to Kaylee.

"For Kaylee that's what it was about. It was, I don't just want to go in there, I'd like to contribute and get that moment," says Coach Long.

Unselfishly, her teammates worked to get the ball into Kaylee's hands for a shot. Five times she took good shots that went off the rim and out. Each time the crowd groaned. Each time Kaylee smile grew bigger. She was doing something she had dreamed of for four years and she was on the court with a team she loved. It couldn't get better than that.

Then it did.

With just over a minute left to play in the game, one last chance for Kaylee to shoot came from an unexpected place: the other teams bench.

Colorado Academy head coach Lee Gibson, Jr. called a timeout and the words he said to his team personify the word sportsmanship.

"I said, we're going to try to put number 40 (Kaylee) on the line and see if she can make a free throw," says Coach Gibson.

With 56 seconds left in the game, the ball came to Kaylee and she was fouled. She walked to the foul line and when the ball left her hands the only thing it touched was net. The crowd erupted.

"You see Kaylee make that shot and the whole crowd roared and her friends and family and then to see the first two people who congratulated her were Colorado Academy players, what could be better," says Coach Long.

"I just got chills and it was a good moment and something that I'll always remember," says Coach Gibson.

It was a moment that defines everything that is good and right about sports. Two teams and two coaches who recognized a moment that was far more important than the game. That moment was not about team records or final scores. It was about giving someone who deserved it one final shot. The result was one final memory that no one present in the gym that day will ever forget.

"That moment was bigger than the game," says Coach Gibson.

(KUSA-TV © 2012 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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