Meghan Faust heard two sounds, neither of which she cares to hear again.
The first was the sound of an ACL tearing and the second was Emma Parmar screaming in anguish.
Faust, head coach of the Kelowna-based Okanagan Mission Huskies, knew her Grade 12 student’s season had ended before it started, the injury coming in the team’s last practice before their first game of the 2017-2018 B.C. Secondary Schools Girls Basketball Association campaign.
“I ended up on the ground screaming,” Parmar said. “I’ve never been in that much pain before. It was devastating knowing I’m in Grade 12, this is my last year and it was all over. It was heartbreaking.”
What made the moment worse was it stamped out three years’ worth of rehab. Parmar sprained her left ACL in Grade 9 and missed most of her Grade 10 and 11 seasons.
Parmar toiled strenuously to rehab the knee last summer.
“Basketball has always been a passion of mine,” she said. “I was doing really well with my rehab and I was ready—I was ready to play this year. I was super excited.”
Her torn right ACL on Nov. 29 should have been the sad ending to the story.
Then the Saints came marching in.
One of the saints was coach Faust and the other was Cassie Ferguson, a Grade 11 point guard for the NorKam Saints. The Kamloops school was invited to play in Okanagan Mission’s New Year’s Classic last weekend in Kelowna.
Parmar is still a registered member of the Huskies. She has gone to practices and games all season. If she can’t play post, she’ll post up on the sidelines and cheer.
“We had our team picture on Friday,” Faust said. “I could see the tears in her eyes. She had her uniform on. I knew it was going to be a really hard weekend for her. I’ve known her since Grade 8. She’s always been that one kid that sticks out as the hardest-working, that wanted it the most.”
Fast-forward to Game 1 of the tournament, the Saints and Huskies playing during school hours in front of a partisan Okanagan Mission crowd.
The Huskies, the fourth-ranked AA school in the province, went up big in a one-sided affair that would end 75-31, a scoreline rendered meaningless and forgettable by an act of sportsmanship by NorKam’s Ferguson.
Coach Faust remembered Parmar had her uniform with her at the team picture. With the game already in the bag and a competitive schedule ahead, it may have been the only time to give the hobbled athlete a chance to reach the scoresheet in her senior year.
“I looked down and thought, ‘OK, let’s just put her in and see what we can do,’” said Faust, who has been teaching for 11 years. “Her face was something I’ll never forget. She walked off to put her uniform on. She had the biggest grin. It was one of the most special moments of my coaching career and life.”
Parmar was having a moment of her own in the locker room.
“The smile on my face was huge and I could not get it off,” Parmar said. “I went to put on my jersey and looked at myself in the mirror for the first time. I just started crying. It was really emotional.”
With 1:58 remaining in the fourth quarter, Parmar entered the game.
She was unable to run or jump. She could barely even move. But she set up shop in the offensive zone and her teammates fed her the rock.
One shot—miss. Another attempt—no good. A third and surely final prayer—unanswered.
“I was embarrassed,” said Parmar, whose peers in the crowd could barely watch. “My stomach was in knots. I was super anxious. I just wanted it really badly.”
Ferguson’s elder sister, Emily, played with Parmar on a select club team two years ago. The Saints’ point guard knew enough about Parmar’s situation to do something about it.
“Her shots just weren’t dropping,” Ferguson said. “My teammate inbounded it to me. There were five seconds left. I just passed Emma the ball and told her to shoot.”
Once again, Parmar was unable to drain the basket. Ferguson snared the rebound and gave her opponent one last shot.
“At that point, there was only one second left on the clock,” Ferguson recalled.
The Huskies held their breath. “The shot went in, the buzzer went and everyone started crying,” Faust said.
Parmar was mobbed.
“There was not a single person in the gym who had a dry eye,” Parmar said.
“I’ll never forget that moment and that feeling. I’m so thankful and grateful to her [Cassie]. I was in shock. We’re not little anymore. It’s very competitive. For her to make it about more than the game and recognize that, for me, it was greater than that…it was just incredible.”
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