Coach shows sportsmanship, lets injured opposing player score

For the first 39 minutes, 54 seconds of Saturday's game, Central Missouri women's basketball coach Dave Slifer's constant yammering with the referees made him the target of taunts and catcalls from the Truman State crowd.

Then Slifer found a way to win over even the most hostile opposing fans with a display of good sportsmanship.

Since it was Truman State's final home game and the home team trailed by 11 with only six seconds remaining, coach Michael Smith inserted injured senior Cassie Hunt so the crowd could applaud for her one final time. The reserve center suffered a season-ending torn ACL in early January and had just undergone surgery the previous week.

Inserting a player not listed in the scorebook typically results in a technical foul, but Slifer asked the referees to waive that rule. Then he instructed his team to allow Truman State to roll the ball down the court and leave Hunt open underneath the rim so that she could score a basket in her final game.

"When she came up to the scorer's bench, she was tearing up and she was really emotional," Slifer said by phone. "For some reason it hit me, hey, let's try and let her score. We went ahead and let her get a basket and I'm sure that's something she'll remember forever."

The generous gesture from Slifer and his team was reminiscent of previous spur-of-the-moment displays of good sportsmanship that have made headlines the past few years.

There was the high school middle-distance runner in Washington who gave her state championship gold medal to the runaway winner who had been disqualified for veering a step or two out of her lane. Or the two Central Washington softball players who carried Western Oregon senior Sara Tucholsky around the bases after she tore an ACL rounding first base on her first and last career home run.

Slifer insists allowing Hunt to score wasn't something that he planned. It just felt right when he saw the teary-eyed senior hobbling to the scorer's table.

A former second-team junior college All-American at North Central Missouri, Hunt averaged 2.5 points and 1.8 rebounds off the bench at Truman State last season. She was averaging similar numbers through 13 games this season when her college career abruptly ended as a result of the knee injury.

The most rewarding aspect of Saturday's experience for Slifer was to see how much scoring that final basket meant to Hunt, whom Slifer had first met when she and his daughter played against one-another in high school.

Hunt gave Slifer a warm hug after the game and then sent a message via facebook to his son later that night asking him to thank his dad for her once more. Smith, the Truman State coach, even walked over during the play to shake Slifer's hand and thank him for the gesture.

"She's a good kid. She deserves it," Slifer said. "I'm not saying I would do it for everyone, but it was a special case because I knew her and had some history with her. ACLs are a tough injury and it ended her career. I was glad to able to do something to support her."

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