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A Class Act
February 20, 2009 - Cindy Votruba
Earlier this month, the Madison (Wis.) high school basketball team played against rivals DeKalb (Ill.) at a game in Milwaukee. DeKalb had traveled more than two hours to play. The mother of Johntel Franklin, one of Madison’s players, had died earlier that day. She was in remission after a five-year bout with cervical cancer but started hemmoraging that morning. The Madison coach, Aaaron Womack Jr. and a few of the players had gone to the hospital to support their teammate. When Womack got to the locker room at the school, he saw the DeKalb coaching staff waiting for him. Womack told the coaches they were going to play and the head coach, Dave Rohlman, told the Madison team to take its time.
Womack decided to play that night and was warming up with six players. Another DeKalb coach, Chris Davenport, said they’d understand if the Madison players might be too emotional to play. Womack said no, his team will still play.
By the end of the game, Womack saw Franklin in the stands. Franklin wanted to play. Womack hadn’t entered the player’s name in the official book because he knew he wasn’t going to play. Madison took a time out to let the team greet the player and to let the referees know Womack would be receiving a technical for entering a player not in the book. The referee told the DeKalb coaching staff about the technical, and the staff argued, saying they didn’t want the technical. But they had to take it. Five minutes into the second half, the Madison player was entered into the game. The referees went to DeKalb and asked who would shoot the free throws. Senior captain Darius McNeal was sent to the line.
The first shot went out of bounds. Then the second shot went the same way. Womack and the rest of the Madison team realized McNeal was instructed to miss the free throws. The Madison team turned to the DeKalb bench and applauded their show of good sportsmanship. The crowd followed. Franklin went on to score 10 points in the game and Madison won 62-47.
But it wasn’t about who won or lost or how far DeKalb had to travel, it was how the game was played that Feb. 7 in Milwaukee.
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