Every now and then there are sporting events that “transcend sports”. An over used term, perhaps, but it is safe to say that that particular phrase can be used this week at the Missouri State High School Activities Association’s Show-Me Showdown in Columbia. Three teams will be playing to not only win a title, but to help their fans forget about what has been a very tragic week.
The southwest Missouri town of Marionville and the eastern Missouri town of Silex were rocked on Sunday by some of the 90-plus tornadoes in the state. The night before, both towns were celebrating as three of their basketball teams qualified for the final four—Marionville is sending its boys to the Class 2 semifinals, while Silex will send both their boys and girls to the Class 1 semis.
The destruction affected Marionville head coach Ted Young, whose sister and uncle were both hit by the tornado.
“We practiced yesterday and then after that a lot of us went out and helped clean up around both of their places,” Young said.
Marionville was without power until around 11:30 Monday morning. The basketball team had to move practice from the afternoon to the morning on Monday because they weren’t sure whether or not they’d have lights. Young thought they should take advantage of the daylight. He admitted that practice was a little tough for his players.
“They’re maybe, still in a little shock about the situation,” said Young.
In 2003 Marionville and nearby Pierce City were hit by a devastating tornado that did a great deal of destruction.
For the Silex girls’ basketball team, the aftermath was even more personal. Sisters Kaylinn and Alexa Rice, who are a sophomore and freshman on the team, lost almost everything, including their basketball uniform and shoes. Their house was destroyed, leaving only the basement. On Monday the team went to the area where the Rice’s house once stood and picked through the remains looking for mementos.
Despite the devastation the night before, Kaylinn, who has appeared in just five games and Alexa who has yet to play, both showed up for practice.
“That pretty sums up my kids, I think,” said Silex girls head coach Robert James.
Despite the heartbreak, the playoffs will go on regardless and that’s just fine with the teams and the people who cheer for them. While many will continue to begin the rebuilding process, they’ll still pay attention, if not attend the playoff games in Columbia.
James is glad that Silex will have two teams to help divert their attention, if just for a little while. “”Right in the middle of all this destruction, there’s something great going on here. Us going together and especially with the timing of everything, it’s definitely going to be special,” he said.
“As great as this community is, and it’s an outstanding place to be, I believe that it will be a very, very, very special, special year for us,” said Silex boys coach Shannon Jeffery. He is also an assistant on the girls’ team, while James is an assistant for the boys’ squad.
Ted Young, who led Marionville to the Class 2 state championship last year, also realizes that folks in his town may put more emphasis on his team’s trip to Columbia than they did last year. And he’s just fine with that.
“They’re going through some tough times and hopefully this will give a little relief to them”
The Marionville boys will face Advance High School at 12:10 on Thursday, the Silex boys take on Jefferson at 9:45 on Thursday night and the Silex girls play DeKalb at 6:05 Thursday night.