ROCK SPRINGS – There was an extra level of emotion to the Rock Springs High School boys basketball home game against the Kelly Walsh Trojans on Friday.
The Tigers won, 32-26, but the victory and the game sort of became secondary to the moment that took place at the beginning.
On a night dedicated to thanking the senior class, one senior stood taller than the rest.
Senior Braxton Patterson, who has served as the team manager all four years of high school, was introduced into the starting lineup in front of a roaring crowd.
About nine seconds into the game, Patterson received the pass on the right block near the paint. Without hesitation, he took the shot and hit it to give the Tigers the two-point lead.
The home crowd went wild, giving him a standing ovation while cheers filled the gym as he exited the floor.
“It was just like a dream come true,” Patterson said. “You know, I haven’t been able to do that my whole life and just being able to do that on Senior Night was a dream come true.”
Rock Springs head coach Jeremy Main said Patterson has had a special impact on himself, the basketball program and the high school, in general.
“I’ve only had the opportunity to be around him for two years. But in those two years, he’s had such an impact on me, the kids and the program,” Main said.
“He wrote a letter to these guys last year after we played Kelly Walsh, talking about how he wished he could be out there with them – that he wished he had the legs, wished he had the body to be able to run out there with them, and for them to not take that for granted. It’s just such an emotional deal.”
Main credited Kelly Walsh head coach Randy Roden for taking the touching moment to another level and coming up with the idea of letting Patterson take the first shot.
“We were going to start him and then either foul them on the tip, and he said, ‘You know what, let’s take it one step further. Let’s give him a shot at the basket.’ It was a great effort on both sides to allow that to happen,” Main said.
“Obviously, with the environment in the gym tonight, it was emotional for everybody.”
Patterson’s basket sparked a 16-0 run for the Tigers to begin the game. The Tigers held the Trojans to only one point in the opening period.
“Obviously, ‘Patty’ and the environment ignited us early on. We got to that 16-1 lead and that’s really what propelled us and kept the distance the entire game,” Main said.
“We kind of dedicated the night to our seniors, especially to ‘Patty.’ He’s done so much for our program over the last four years, so he deserved it tonight. The guys played for him.”
Main said the difference in the game was the Tigers’ ability to make defensive plays and keep the Trojans off the boards.
“Our key tonight was play the heck out of our defense” he said. “It’s got to be something we hold our hat on. We challenged the guys in the locker room that if we play our best game defensively, then we’re going to win. If they don’t score, then we can’t lose.”
Other seniors who were recognized before the game, include Favor Okere, Jayson Caudell, Tyson Davenport and Justis Reese.
With the win, the Tigers improve to 5-9 on the season and are in the 4A Northwest with a 2-1 record.