By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
The Marshall girls basketball team brought one of the largest, loudest and most supportive groups of fans to the Breslin Center during last month's two weekends of MHSAA Basketball Finals.
But as the Redhawks faithful cheered their local team to its first Class B title, Marshall had another community rooting for the best as well.
Otsego shared the court with Marshall the week before for a Regional Final, won by the Redhawks 57-37. And Marshall’s team and coaches shared in a recent fight by the Otsego athletic family, which is supporting parent Val Davis, who is suffering from a fatal brain disorder, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. Davis has been known as one of her school's most passionate supporters through the careers of four children who have played on Bulldogs teams.
After the Regional Final, Otsego basketball player Liz Barwegen wrote the following to MHSAA Executive Director Jack Roberts:
“We have dedicated our season to one of our parents that has a brain disease. She is not doing very well. Doctors have told her she doesn’t have long. Our team began wearing bright neon green shoelaces because they were her favorite, and she likes seeing the bright color. The Marshall coach heard about this and so their team wore the bright green shoelaces also.
"That was not the only thing that the Marshall coach did that showed great sportsmanship. When there were about two minutes left in the game and Marshall had put their subs in, our coach also subbed in. However, Marshall had the ball and the time started ticking down. So the Marshall coach called a timeout just so we could get our subs in the game. I am not sure if their coach knew if the sub was Hailey (the girl with the sick mom), but Hailey was able to play the final minutes of the game for the last time in front of her mom.”
Hailey Davis was a senior this season. Barwegen, who so poignantly authored the letter, is only a sophomore.
This season’s Girls Basketball Tournament was storied to say the least, with all four champions first-time winners after two played in MHSAA championship games also for the first time. Marshall had arguably the most exhilarating final week, downing No. 4 Grand Rapids Catholic Central by 11 in a Quarterfinal, then No. 2 Bay City John Glenn on Nikki Tucker’s two free throws with 1.4 seconds to play in the Semifinal. The No. 7 Redhawks completed their first title run with a 51-42 victory over No. 3 Grand Rapids South Christian, led by coach Sal Konkle, who played on the Marshall team that finished runner-up in 1981 in the program's first trip to an MHSAA Final.
“I hated losing that game,” Barwegen wrote after her team's loss that kicked off the Redhawks' championship week, “but surely hope Marshall can go on and win the rest of the way.”
Click to read a piece from the Kalamazoo Gazette that tells more of Val Davis’ story and fight.
PHOTO: Marshall and Otsego players line up together, showing off neon green shoelaces both teams wore in honor of Otsego mother and fan Val Davis during their Class B Regional Final. (Photo by Gary Shook.)