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Cameron Smith

In-game heart attack brings out heroics, bonds between rivals

Prep Rally

A girls basketball game in Nashville on Friday night was overshadowed by a coach's terrifying collapse, and the subsequent heroics that saved his life.

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According to Nashville TV station WSMV 4 and the Tennessean newspaper, among other outlets, Goodpasture (Tenn.) Christian School girls basketball coach Joey Spann, pictured at right, collapsed shortly after he and his Cougar teammates emerged from the locker room to begin the second half against rival David Lipscomb (Tenn.) High.

"I looked to the scorers table, and I saw Coach Spann standing there," Goodpasture senior player Paige Neely told WSMV. "He went tight and then fell.

"I was scared. I just looked at my mom and started crying."

The coach's collapse was caused by the onset of a sudden heart attack, which was quickly recognized by a handful of nurses and doctors who happened to be attending the game. One of those was nurse Andrea Honeycutt, who also happens to be the Department Chairperson of Goodpasture's Biology department.

Honeycutt said that everyone on the scene immediately realized Spann was at dire risk -- "Immediately, he had a thready pulse, but then that disappeared," she told WSMV -- but she and others were able to provide first aid and then jump start the coach's heart with an onsite defibrillator, keeping him alive until an ambulance could arrive to transport him to nearby Vanderbilt Medical Center.

While Spann was treated and prepped for quadruple bypass surgery on Saturday, his team remained at Lipscomb, part of a stunned crowd that halted proceedings to join in a group prayer session.

"We were just down there hugging each other and crying together and praying, and the Lipscomb coach came in, and the Lipscomb players came in, and they held our hands and prayed with us," said Neely.

"There's much more important things than basketball," said Neely. "There's much more important things than a game, if you win or lose. We went and saw him after the game, and he didn't care about the game; he said that he was proud of us."

With the remainder of the game postponed -- Goodpasture led 14-12 at the half -- the two teams met back up on Sunday to finish off the faceoff, and to help raise money for Spann's treatment. Fans of the two schools donated some $2,300 before Lipscomb rallied for a 51-37 victory.

Clearly, the final score -- and the fact that the loss ended Goodpasture's season -- was hardly the primary concern for either team.

"I cannot say enough about the class of Lipscomb that's displayed in the signs," Goodpasture assistant coach Garrett Dickerson told the Tennessean. "That's something that I was not expecting, but shows that it's been on their minds as much as it's been on ours the past 48 hours. The girls, that was one of the first things that they mentioned when we came in. They said, 'Coach Dickerson, look at some of the signs. And Coach [Lee] Phillips mentioned, 'I'd have said you were lying if you ever said that there was a "We love Goodpasture" sign in Lipscomb's gym.' I can't say enough about the class of Lipscomb and the love and support that's been shown to us over the last 48 hours.

"The reason it's such an intense rivalry is because we're a community. We're both Christian schools and we stand for the same types of things."

That commonality was never more evident than over the weekend, sparked by tragedy and re-enforced by two classy communities of student athletes and fans alike.

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