More than a game

BCLUW girls basketball team plays through tragic loss

T-R PHOTO BY THORN COMPTON

CONRAD — Monday’s game between the BCLUW and Montezuma girls basketball teams had a somber cloud hanging over the action on the court.

In the morning hours before the matchup, the Comets community found out the tragic news that Darla Ubben, mother of current BCLUW sophomore Madison and former Comets Samantha and Conner, passed away after battling cancer for more than a year.

Under those circumstances it would have been completely understandable if the team, who has worn shirts that say ‘#DarlaStrong’ during warmups this season, wanted to postpone the game, but after an assembly this morning broke the news to most of the BCLUW students, head coach David Lee said the team had a meeting and decided to take the court.

“After the assembly this morning the basketball girls stayed in the auditorium and we talked about the whole thing and we talked about Darla and what she would want us to do,” Lee said.

Darla was a fixture at BCLUW sporting events, even attending games during her fight to cheer on the Comets. Lee said what ultimately made the decision to play on Monday night was a message from Darla herself, given to Lee just three days prior after BCLUW’s game with South Hardin on Friday night.

T-R PHOTO BY THORN COMPTON • The BCLUW girls basketball team stands for the National Anthem, with the non-starters wearing warmup shirts that say “#DarlaStrong” before the Comets’ game against Montezuma on Monday night.

“Last Friday night she was here at the ballgame and she just gave me a hug and just squeezed me and squeezed me and told me ‘you know coach, I am not going to be here very long but you need to keep these girls focused and playing,'” Lee said, emotion hanging heavy in his voice. “I told the girls that this morning and they said they wanted to play for Darla tonight.”

News traveled south quickly, as the Montezuma players and coaches weren’t sure if the game would be played on Monday either. After hearing that their matchup was still on, Bravettes head coach Janel Burgess said she and the program wanted to put something together to show their support.

“Our players found out early this morning just like the rest of our program did, and a couple parents got things together so we signed a card that was from all of our programs and the cheerleaders did something,” Burgess said. “Tragedy can sometimes pull together communities when you don’t even know each other. I mean we are an hour and 20 minutes south of you guys and to still have this be a great lesson for all of us was something beautiful amongst something very hard.”

After both teams went through the handshake line once the game had finished, a game Montezuma won 46-20, the teams stayed on the court together, gathering at half court and joining hands for some encouraging words from Burgess and the rest of the Bravettes.

Lee said that gesture by Montezuma, in a time when the BCLUW needs support the most, was just the utmost sign of respect and class.

T-R PHOTY BY THORN COMPTON • BCLUW senior Brooke Aalfs, right, puts up a shot in the paint while Montezuma’s Rylee Hasley (13) attempts to block it during the Bravettes’ win over the Comets in Conrad on Monday.

“That was just, it was just absolutely class what the Montezuma girls and coaching staff did,” Lee said. “I was impressed with the Montezuma coach. They came out there and their girls hugged our girls and their coach just prayed for the situation and the family and the whole thing right there in a circle in the middle of the court.

“If high school ball can’t be that then it shouldn’t be played,” Lee continued, his voice cracking at the enormity of the moment.

Lee said he was unsure about coaching the Comets again this season, but something brought him back to the sideline in Conrad and he now thinks he is right where he needs to be.

“This is a situation that’s bigger than life almost, and if I can do something to help the family and help the kids, not even necessarily the Ubben kids but the other girls that are so close to them, that’s part of what this is all about,” Lee said. “That’s part of my job, as much as X’s and O’s, doing what needs to be done with this team, that’s a focus that I have to do too.”

As far as action on the court, the Comets struggled out of the gates, falling down 18-0 by the end of the first quarter. Not only was BCLUW handling a swirl of emotions, it was also missing its top scorer with Madison Ubben understandably missing the game. Madison led the team in scoring in three of their first four games, and she has played the important center position in the Comets’ offense.

T-R PHOTY BY THORN COMPTON

After allowing 18 points in the first quarter, BCLUW only allowed 28 the rest of the way, and Lee said given the circumstances he is proud of how his girls played.

“I thought for the most part, for playing a couple people out of position, defensively we really did what we try to do as a team pretty well, they just were bigger inside at the post than we were without Madison and they hit the three and that’s pretty tough if you are able to do both of those things,” Lee said.

Up next for the Comets are back-to-back games against Grundy Center on Friday night and North Tama on Saturday. Mixed in there is also the visitation for Darla on Friday and funeral on Saturday, so Lee said this won’t be an easy weekend to get through but the BCLUW community will get through it together.

“Now we have a couple days where we won’t have Madison, so hopefully we will be better by the end of the week,” Lee said. “We have the funeral Saturday and ball game Friday and Saturday, so we have a tough weekend coming up.”

The game on Friday is at Grundy Center, starting at 6:15 p.m., while the game against North Tama on Saturday is in Conrad, starting at 5 p.m.

T-R PHOTY BY THORN COMPTON

Darla’s visitation will be from 4-7 p.m. Friday at the First Presbyterian Church in Conrad, while the funeral will be at 10 a.m. on Saturday at BCLUW High School.

Montezuma 46, BCLUW 20

At Conrad

MONTEZUMA (5-0) — Mya Pargeon 0 0-0 0, Hanna Jones 0 3-4 3, Cassidy Watts 1 0-0 3, Shateah Wetering 5 1-1 11, Riley Gatton 5 0-0 11, Shelby Helm 0 2-2 2, Rylee Hasley 1 0-0 3, Elise Boulton 3 0-0 9, Shelby Conger 0 0-0 0, Maddy McKeag 1 0-0 3, Kylee Taylor 0 1-2 1, Alex Ely 0 0-0 0, Paige Robison 0 0-0 0, Breck Goodman 0 0-0 0. TOTALS 16 7-9 46.

BCLUW (2-3) — Kaylee Goecke 0 0-0 0, Bailey Ashton 0 0-0 0, Brooke Aalfs 2 0-0 5, Lauren Anderson 4 2-4 10, Easton Swanson 1 0-0 2, Katie Thompson 0 0-0 0, Lili Wilson 1 1-2 3. TOTALS 8 3-6 20.

MONTEZUMA 18 9 11 8 — 46

BCLUW 0 4 10 6 — 20

3-Point Goals–ZUMA 7 (Boulton 3, Hasley, Watts, McKeag, Gatton), BCLUW 1 (Aalfs). Team Fouls–ZUMA 6, BCLUW 9. Fouled Out–none.