MELBOURNE - In the midst of a day of basketball at Melbourne High School, as the school served as host of the 2A Central Regional tournament, tragedy struck as one of the Bearkatz players was severely injured in the third quarter of the Bearkatz' 65-53 win over Maumelle Charter.
Senior Layton Hennings went up for a block on a fast break with 5:50 to play in the third quarter, hit the floor in front of the student section and immediately began writhing in pain and holding his leg. Melbourne head coach Scott Bowlin confirmed it was a compound fracture "in the shin area."
A near silent crowd of fans, parents as well as teammates and opposing players looked on,as medical and school personnel attended to Hennings for several minutes.
The break in play was extensive enough for both teams to vacate to their locker rooms as officials waited for advanced medical attention.
"I wanted to tell them what was going on," Bowlin said.
The team returned to the floor before a transport arrived and stood around their teammate for a few seconds and then returned to the locker room.
"They wanted to see him," Bowlin said.
Medical help arrived at 8:09 p.m. with back board and a gurney and took him to White River Health System by ambulance.
At 8:17, he was wheeled out of the arena to a standing ovation. After five minutes of warm-up, the two teams resumed.
Before his team went back into the locker room, Layton instructed his teammates to keep going.
Roughly 30 minutes after the incident occurred, the two teams took to the floor again to resume play.
And play, the Bearkatz did.
With their teammate listening in the ambulance at his insistence, Bowlin said his team "probably played better" the remainder of the game.
Even in the heaviness of the remainder of that fateful third quarter was ray of hope in a tribute from Hennings' younger brother Keyan who hit two free throws with 37 seconds left to put the Katz up 53-30.
The younger sophomore Hennings hadn't played all night, but Bowlin inserted him into the game after his brother went down. After Steven hit his foul shots, he was summoned to the bench where he raised his hand signaling the No.1 . It was the only two points he scored, but might have been two of the most important of the night.
The Bearkatz never looked back.
Riley Gray led the Bearkatz with 15 points while Layton Hennings had 13 at the time of his injury.
The win secures the Katz a spot in the 2A state tournament for only the second time in the last 10 years. That tournament is on their home floor next week. The only question will be what seed they will garner. Their next test comes against Tuckerman on Friday night at 7 p.m.