Sugar-Salem’s crowd was perhaps the loudest they’ve been at this year at the end of Wednesday’s win against Snake River on senior night, but it wasn’t because they dismantled the Panthers. There was something more special at play.
Kimball Miller a senior at Sugar-Salem with downs syndrome, has worked as the team manager for the Diggers for the past four years and even had the opportunity to play in a game last season. In their final home game of the season, Diggers players and coaches wanted to get Kimball in but they weren’t sure if it was going to happen.
Freeman knew it would be a tight game and felt that might mean Miller would have to ride the pine.
“It wouldn’t have been fair to Snake and it wouldn’t have been fair to us to Kimball to put him in a situation that wasn’t conducive,” Freeman said.
Freeman told his players they would need to beat Snake by a good amount for Miller to play. As the fourth quarter came to a close, Sugar players prodded Freeman to put Kimball in. Freeman told them they’d need to pick up their defense to build a signifficant enough lead over Snake River.
Luckily, for everyone involved, Sugar shut down Snake and pulled away in the final minute of the game.
Sugar inbounded the ball and passed it up past half court then to a timeout to get Miller in. With the impromptu nature of the sub in Snake River coach, Robert Coomb didn’t realize what was going on and started to get upset thinking the Diggers were trying to run up the score. Fortunately, Sugar-Salem assistant coach Dakota went over and explained the situation.
When Coombs found out what was happening he said, ‘‘get him the ball and let him get a shot up.’
With 7.7 seconds left, that’s exactly what Sugar did and Miller drove to his right and hit a scoop shot at the buzzer. Miller’s choice of shot was special because Coach Freeman had a patented scoop shot when he played in high school.
After the shot went in, Kimball’s teammates lifted him up and carried him around the gym and the crowd went wild.
“It was just a special moment,” Freeman said. “It’s one of those things that a lot of us take for granted. All the opportunities and abilities that we have in our lives. Everyone there was pretty misty eyed and felt that emotion too. It was a great show of sportsmanship on both sides and kudos to Snake River for coming along with that and being a part of something that will forever be remembered. It was the best senior night that I’ve ever been a part of for sure.”
Sugar won the game 53-42.
Tanner Harris and Hadley Miller each scored 11 points and Pasen Michaelson scored nine points in his first game back from injury.
Sugar-Salem’s next game is likely to be emotional in a different way. They play South Fremont Friday in St. Anthony. When they met last month in Sugar City, the Diggers won 65-51.
“It’s a rivalry game plus it’s their senior night so I’m sure they’ll be (motivated),” Freeman said. “There’s always emotions that go into every game, but that rivalry game is always a game where records don’t matter, players don’t matter. It always turns into a really good game. We anticipate going into a game that’s going to be electric and loud. Those are the kind of games you want to be a part of as a player and a coach.”