GENE AUTRY — The story begins during Thanksgiving Break. Springer Athletic Director and girls basketball coach Traci Dragg realized that the gymnasium on Springer’s campus would not be available due to ongoing renovation.
Dragg had to seek other options.
Springer had an outdoor court next to its playground because Dragg, boys coach Caleb Fulton and agriculture teacher Michael Stuckey poured the concrete last spring and painted it during the summer. (Dragg credited Oak Hall Episcopal School for its generosity.)
Though the outdoor court wasn’t regulation-size, Springer practiced on it during normal hours until Thanksgiving Break, when Dragg found an indoor gym in Gene Autry thanks to a phone call from a person who practiced in the Gene Autry gym at night.
“I wasn’t aware of this gym,” Dragg said, standing inside it watching her team practice on Tuesday afternoon. “Our agriculture teacher knows the guy who runs the museum. We called him up and he said, ‘Yeah, Caleen Rushing is in charge of the gym. Do you want to meet her over there and take a look at it?’ I’m like, ‘Please.’ He and I came over and I said ‘You’ve got to be kidding me.’ She (Caleen) and I talked. She said ‘We would love to do anything to help the kids.’
“It’s awesome. I’m so thankful.”
So the teams bussed the eight miles from the high school to the gym in Gene Autry, located adjacent to the museum.
“It’s been emotional, very emotional, since it’s my last year,” senior guard Haley Horton said. “And us not having our gym and not having any home games, that’s been pretty tough, too.
“Since we have this gym, it’s been easier to work things out instead of having that little concrete slab.”
The renovations at Springer’s high-school gym are five months past due. Because Springer didn’t have any home games, the school lost a revenue source — which is of added importance, since the Cardinals will play baseball and softball beginning in the 2017-18 school year.
“Home games build so much confidence sometimes,” Dragg said. “It’s really hard for the younger ones because they kind of need that. I hate that for the seniors,” not getting to play a home game. “I wish I could do anything to change that.”
Despite the logistics challenges, the Lady Cardinals defeated Paoli on Feb. 10 to clinch an area berth for the second time in three years.
Springer plays Southwest Covenant at 1:30 p.m. today at Verden in consolation-round action. (District B-3 host Asher defeated the Lady Cardinals on Feb. 11.)
“I hear they’ve got a good point guard and good post player,” Dragg said. “I know that’s the two areas we’re going to have to stop. I know they crash the boards really hard and that has been one of our weaknesses this year: blocking out. We’re really going to have to concentrate on that.
“And taking it to the goal, trying to get them in some foul trouble. I hear their bench is kind of weak and so if we can get any of those starters in foul trouble, maybe we can get to that point.
“It’s the same game we’ve played all year. The only difference is now we need to step it up and go to the next level. I think we’ve started in that direction.”
Despite the logistics issues.
The renovated gym has retractable bleachers. Around the gym, the renovations add a couple more classrooms, larger locker rooms, a currently-empty weight room and training room, bathrooms with greater capacity and a larger concession area.
Most importantly, Dragg said, there are six goals.
“I think it’ll make a difference for all our teams (including) junior high,” she said. “That was at the top of the list: more goals.
“It’s sure going to be a gym that everybody can be proud of. That’ll be nice to know I had a little piece of that.
“Or I’ll feel like I did,” she added, laughing.
But first things first: Southwest Covenant, which beat Verden 73-26 on Feb. 10 then lost to Calumet in the District B-2 title game a day later.
“If we come together as team,” Horton said, “we’ll do pretty well.”