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Injured Meredith Mayes remains involved with Lady Spartans – Presented by Cue Financial Rich Keel Agency

By Ron Holt

After an outstanding junior basketball season which featured double figure averages in scoring and rebounding, Bixby’s 6-3 senior center Meredith Mayes worked hard last summer preparing for her final season in a Lady Spartan uniform.

She worked on positioning, finishing strong driving to the goal and improving as a free throw shooter. Confidence, however, was a main point of emphasis.

“My biggest thing was my confidence. I knew I could do it, but it was just getting the confidence to do it,” said Mayes, who averaged 12.0 points and 10.7 rebounds per game last season. “I love playing physical, but I knew I had to finish after contact and I worked on posting up.

“Going into my junior year knowing what my position (center) would be helped. Another thing I worked on was my free throws. In the 10,000-shot club this summer, 80 percent of my shots were free throws.

Mayes, the daughter of Shawn and Arlene Mayes, started her final season impressively, scoring 22 points in a season-opening win at Bartlesville and scoring 21 points against Oklahoma City Douglass in the first-round game of the Bixby Classic.

She scored six early points and was battling in a Bixby Classic semifinal game the following day against talented Edmond Memorial when her season sadly ended because of a torn anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee. When she planted her foot positioning for a field goal attempt, she felt a pop followed by immense pain.

“I knew what it was… when I planted, I felt the pop in my knee and then I felt the worst pain I’ve ever felt afterward. I’ve never had an injury like that.,” said Mayes, who had recently signed with Abilene Christian University. “Growing up my dad is a PT (physical therapist) so anytime someone got hurt he would see how they landed and say it was ACL.

“I was screaming for my dad. He came over, tested it and I remember him saying ‘it’s gone.’ I wish he would have been wrong but he’s really good at his job,” Mayes said. “My dad said he’d seen me do that a thousand times and 999 other times it was fine. There wasn’t any contact.”

The partisan Lady Spartan crowd was silent watching Mayes laying on the court. Her coaches, teammates and friends were stunned. To their credit, the Lady Spartans regrouped to pull out a 56-53 victory, advancing to the tourney title game against Edmond North.

Mayes’s knee was iced as she remained on the sideline watching the remainder of the game. Afterward, in an emotional scene, numerous people surrounded Mayes and prayed over her.

“There were a lot of emotions that night and that prayer gave me a lot of peace,” she said. “Even coach (Erika) Lambert from ACU was there and she prayed for me. One of our janitors took a picture of the people praying for me. I have it on my mirror … I look at it every day.

“I’ve had an outpouring of love and prayers from my church,” she said of Park Church of Christ where her dad is an elder. “Most of those people praying were from my church. There is a group of guys who are friends of my dad who support me. They call them Meredith’s Mighty Men after David’s Mighty Men. Some of the wives of those guys wanted to be involved, too.”

Mayes, who moved to Bixby in the eighth grade, has received constant support from her teammates and coaches. The most important people in her life – her older siblings, brothers Mitchell and Riley and sister Kelcy – reached out to her. Players and coaches from other teams offered support.

Abilene Christian and women’s head coach Julie Goodenough also offered support, encouragement and prayers to Mayes which strengthened her commitment to the university.

“I got hurt on a Friday night and they (ACU) were going to be playing at ORU (Oral Roberts University) on Sunday. Coach Goodenough called me and said ‘we’ll be here Saturday night and we’d love for you to come visit. I got to and loved it,” said Mayes, who plans to major in speech communication disorders  with plans to be a speech pathologist.

“I met one of the players (Addison Martin) who tore her ACL her freshman year and was redshirted last year as a freshman but is starting now. I’ve texted her a couple of times. I also met other coaches.

“My three older siblings have all gone to Harding University, which is a Christian school, too. That’s where I wanted to go because that’s all I knew. I was comfortable with the place. But ACU started pursuing me really hard and that’s what made me want to take a look at the school,” she said.

“I loved the campus. I prefer a Christian environment and Coach Goodenough leads her team really well. The energy and team chemistry were awesome … their players are so much fun.” She’ll have a familiar face in the freshman class at ACU as Bixby teammate Gracy Wernli also signed with the school. 

Despite learning that she needed ACL surgery the following day, Mayes made the decision to be with her team during the Bixby Classic finals and during the remainder of the season whenever possible. She’s always with her team.

“I wanted to be with my team. I went home that night after I was injured and decided to go to our game with Edmond North. I didn’t want to be a distraction to them, but I also didn’t want them worrying about me if I wasn’t there. I wanted them to know everything was okay,” she said.

“I checked on Gentry (Baldwin), Gracy and Alyssa (Nielsen) individually making sure they were alright because I couldn’t image watching one of them go down. They did a great job of handling everything, but I wanted to be there for them.”

Coach Thomas has kept Mayes involved. She helps at practice and during games she sits on the bench keeping team statistical information.

“I keep like all the stats. I love being involved and I’m thankful I still have a role with the team,” she said.

Bixby’s coaches appreciate her input and contributions to the team during practices and games since being sidelined by the injury.

“Meredith does whatever she can to help us,” Lady Spartan head coach Tina Thomas said. “She’s keeping track of different stats to help us. Every day in practice she is engaged. Yesterday we were shooting the ball and the kids who got through early Meredith took charge and put them through ball handling drills.

“She’s a really smart young lady and her basketball mind is beneficial. When she comes in with a drill for me, we incorporate it. She’s such a joy to be around. It’s a tough psychological road she’s been on but she’s handled it about as well as you can. She brings this air of positivity and always tries to unite everyone.

“To watch her evolve and develop as a player was just magnificent,” coach Thomas added. “I’ve never had anybody who averaged double figures in scoring and rebounding like she did for two consecutive years. That just speaks to her selfless nature because that’s what rebounding is all about.” 

Mayes began rehabilitation not long after surgery under supervision of her dad while also being involved in weightlifting work with Josh Musick, the father of Lady Spartan sophomore teammate Ama Musick. The rehabilitation has been successful and on schedule.

“He’s been very good, I wouldn’t want another PT working on me,” Mayes said of working with her dad. “I trust my dad and I know he’s amazing at his job. He’ll be honest with me if he knows I’m not doing something right. At the beginning he said if I’m going to be your PT be prepared … I may tell you when you’re doing something wrong. He said he didn’t want me quitting, but I wouldn’t do that.

“I love the process with him. It’s been a lot of work. I may get to run this week. I’ll work on testing my knee to see if I’m ready to run and after that I’ll do a slow jog. I’m also lifting weights with Josh Musick since I got my stitches out … he’s worked a lot with ACL recovery,” she added.

Mayes’ friendship with the other seniors goes back to earlier days when they played AAU basketball together starting in the third grade. Being teammates with them was an attraction for Mayes moving from Metro Christian to Bixby.

The four have been starters since they were freshmen, elevating the Lady Spartan program to back-to-back Class 6A state championship game appearances the past two seasons.

“The program has improved a lot … all of us have worked hard to get it there and coach Thomas has done a great job with us,” Mayes said. “I think team unity has progressively gotten better every year which has been fun to be a part of and I think the seniors this year did a good job reaching out to the freshmen and sophomores.

“I remember being a freshman, which was a rite of passage, and learning the seniors don’t hate you but you’re scared of them anyway. I was so scared of Kate Bradley (senior guard) but she’s so nice. Our sophomore year I don’t think many people thought we’d get very far, including us.

“When we made it to the state championship game we were in shock. Kate was out there with a bunch of sophomores. She did a great job of leading. I remember Avery King saying you guys are going to go far. Kate Bradley said the same thing. 

“That was the moment that it clicked that we could do this every year. You don’t know it until you get there. It was a grind during our junior year. We were ready and we fought so hard to get to the state championship game our junior year and to fall short hurt really bad.

“I was eager for this year. Our word for this year was resolve … that’s what coach Thomas told us. My word of the year is resiliency, that became my personal word for the year after the injury,” she noted.

Mayes is confident the Lady Spartans have the potential and talent to compete in the state championship game for the third straight season.

“I know they can,” she stated. “They’ve gone through a lot this year. It was very much a hard adjustment, but I think they’ve handled it well and I think the seniors have led well.

“If they play like they can and play to the level of their abilities I think they’ll be fine. I’ll be cheering them on.”

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