The date was February 21. The buzzer rang shrilly at 5:00 p.m. The scoreboard read a loss to the Lady Falcons of Taylor University Fort Wayne by 63 to 69. The girls looked knowingly at each other. They joined hands with the opposing team and prayed, as the clomping footsteps of spectators bounded down the bleachers. After the prayer, the girls made their way into a huddle for the last time. The Lady Falcons basketball team had finished its final game.
This is the first year that Donna Beth Craig, commonly known as DB, hasn’t played basketball since the first grade. DB, a junior at TUFW, played shooting guard for the Lady Falcons her sophomore year, after transferring from Asbury. She began playing this current season, until the announcement of TUFW’s closing. “I came to TUFW because of the basketball team,” said DB, who hopes to become a high school and then college basketball coach after graduation. She liked the idea of a smaller basketball team because it would allow her to have as much playing time as possible.
When DB heard about the closing of the school, she made the decision to stop playing basketball for the remainder of the season. She explained that a student is only allowed to play college basketball for four years, and she has already played two. “Trying to transition to another team is hard,” she said. “It takes at least a semester to get to know the team.” As a result of not playing basketball this year, DB will have two years of basketball at her next school. This will compliment the second senior year she needs in order to earn all her credits before graduation.
The question of where to go next still remains unanswered for DB. Because Taylor Upland’s women basketball team isn’t currently recruiting, Upland is not much of an option for DB. Although there is a slight chance that a position could be available, it is unlikely. Currently, the basketball coach from Ohio Christian University has shown interest in recruiting DB, but DB has yet to make a definite decision concerning where she’ll be going. The amount of playing time she can attain will ultimately be the deciding factor in where she goes next. But, for other Lady Falcons, basketball playing time isn’t an option at all.
Alyssia Hawthorne had no intention of playing college basketball until the spring semester of her senior year at Snider High School in Fort Wayne, when her coach told her that he knew a university coach who would be more than happy to have her on his team. It only took one visit to the TUFW campus, where Alyssia met Coach Cleveland, for her to decide that she did, in fact, want to play basketball for TUFW.
However, with the closing of the school came the closing of Alyssia’s college basketball experience. “I started playing basketball as a freshman in high school,” Alyssia said. “I progressed during the four years, but I didn’t feel like I was at a college level. [Now] I don’t feel like I’m ‘good enough’ to be recruited by other schools. Taylor opened up basketball to all players who normally wouldn’t be picked at other schools. Here we all had our own talents, and we got a chance to play and get better.”
Unfortunately, IPFW, where Alyssia is planning to attend in the fall, does not have a women’s basketball team with the same open door policy. IPFW’s team is a division one team, whereas TUFW’s was three divisions below. “On a division one team they play basketball year round. It’s a job–they play constantly,” said Alyssia. At IPFW she plans to focus on securing a job while finishing her education.
Although the end of the Lady Falcons and TUFW is sad, lessons learned here, friends made, and memories created will last a lifetime. “The basketball team was a family,” Alyssia says. She recalls when she came to the school during recruiting weekend, and the team went to Headwaters Park. She had assumed they would walk around the park and look at the fountain, until her coach began pushing the girls into the fountain! “We all started throwing each other in,” she said, smiling. “It was great fun.” The girls didn’t just play basketball together. “We would go to the movies,” Alyssia said. “And we had dinners once a month. The basketball team was a bunch of jokesters, playing around and teasing each other. I’m going to miss basketball and all the girls.”
The scoreboard is un-lit. The bleachers are pushed back into the wall. The gymnasium is quiet. Although, the Lady Falcons have finished the last game and are moving on to the next phase of their college lives, the memory of their team–their family–will always be remembered.
Emily Morgan is a professional writing major at Taylor University and a book reviewer for Church Libraries and Christian Book Previews.