Tue Feb 22 04:43pm EST
It took Kate Messler four years to get into a varsity basketball game, so once she got off the bench, she made sure her coach and teammates' effort was well worth their while.
According to WMUR TV out of Manchester, New Hampshire, Messler spent more than three years as a manager of the Oyster River (N.H.) High basketball team. The senior student with special needs -- Messler has the developmental disorder Trisomy 9P -- has always been considered a part of the team, but her coach and teammates wanted to help her fulfill a lifelong dream of playing in a varsity game before she graduated from high school.
Messler got her chance when the Bobcats built up a near-insurmountable 20-point halftime lead against Sanborn (N.H.) High, leading Oyster River coach Dane Nichols to announce that when the team went out for the second half, Messler would be in the lineup.
"The kids knew [from practices] that [Messler] would be in a particular squad, so bring the ball up, get her a nice pass and maybe [she could] take a shot or two."
Messler did more than just fire up a pair of shots, connecting on a deep three after a pair of misses, sending her teammates and the crowd into delirium.
"I started crying and I ran over to her," Oyster River's Hallie Miller told WMUR. "Then I remembered, 'OK, I'm still in the game.' It was the best feeling ever."
A few minutes later, Messler was pulled out of the game, with Oyster River reverting to a more traditional lineup.
Yet the manager's first run in the game had been so successful that Nichols decided to put Messler back in to close out the game, leading to an almost identical scene at the buzzer, with the senior connecting on a deep three as the buzzer sounded on Oyster River's 56-29 victory.
"I know it meant the world to her, and it meant the world to the whole team," Oyster River teammate Riley Maynard told WMUR. "I think it's important to know that anyone can do anything they set their mind to."