SOUTHWEST HIGH SCHOOL, AFTER HOURS OF WORK — The hallway had basically emptied after Oakland-Craig’s 59-47 win over Ponca in the opening round of the girls state tournament on Thursday.
Dacey Nelson — the state’s leading scorer — had a whirlpool waiting for her. But she could talk a little bit more. What’s a few more minutes after the heartache she and her teammates had been through since that picture that adorns her Twitter profile.
It seems like a long time ago now.
When Ponca hit a tying three at the buzzer of the 2017 district final and then another to advance to state, Nelson — head in her jersey — was all over social media as a sign of the ups and downs of high school sports.
“Since my freshman year I have listened to a song before every game called ‘Glorious Unfolding,’” Nelson said. “It’s just a song that speaks to God having a plan for everything.
“When we found out we got (Ponca) in the first round that kind of spoke to me as our glorious unfolding.”
If you only knew what happened after the picture.
Nelson, playing for the All-Nebraska Attack summer team tore every ligament in her knee in July of 2017. She missed her junior season learning how to walk, then run, then jump again.
Her teammates carried on. They were 10-2 last year when backcourt mate Kennedy Benne tore her ACL. When she went down she had a 25 point average.
On Thursday, though, all was right in the world.
Nelson and Benne driving to the basket in the second half answering every Ponca punch, after Ashley Denton came off the bench to make five 3s in the first half and stake O-C to a 31-20 lead.
But when it mattered most, there was the state’s leading scorer. Driving to the basket. Making outside 3s. It was all in the work; Nelson often gets up 800-1,000 shots a day.
She scored 25 points — 14 in a decisive third quarter that kept Ponca out of reach. Benne scored 11.
All in the work.
“About 300 hours of rehab,” Nelson said of the process to get back for the season that was oversaw by physical therapist and assistant coach Chris Johnson. “He taught me how to walk, then to run, then to run and dribble, then to cut.”
Many thought Nelson had helped her team win a game on Thursday. And, sure it was that. But, Nelson, Benne and her team has won long before that. They won by surviving.
By sticking together when they didn’t have to. The ultimate lesson of high school sports.
Thursday was just a glorious unfolding.